“It’s a great life,” Scalisi said, “if you don’t weaken, it’s a great life.”
George V. Higgins, page 108, Picador 40th Anniversary Edition
Eddie 'Fingers' Coyle is a small-time criminal who exists on the fringes of the organized underworld in Boston. He is just getting by, carving out a living by assisting others in their nefarious activities. There is nothing glamorous about his life. He has a network of shady, self-interested business associates, not friends. He lives in a dark world where disputes are settled without trials and with extreme violence. The most imminent problem for Eddie, however, is his upcoming sentencing hearing. He doesn’t want to betray his associates by talking to the police. At the same time he is getting older and he doesn’t want to go back to jail.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a firecracker of a novel. What distinguishes it is the raw and entertaining dialogue. The dialogue dominates the storytelling. The novel is more akin to a screenplay. It is a brisk read with little description and it moves like a freight train from start to finish.
The strength of the dialogue, however, is not just a matter of narrative style. The dialogue conveys insider knowledge about offenders, the police who investigate them and use them as informants and the lawyers who defend and prosecute them.