The Friends of Eddie Coyle
by George V Higgins
I’d heard about this book while watching Anthony Bourdain in New York, and remember him saying it was a favourite of his. I also remember the wise words of Don George and Tony Wheeler at the Melbourne Writers Festival in saying that they like to read novels set in the cities and places they’re visiting while they’re on the road; while we didn’t visit Boston during our recent trip, we were visiting New York, and I figured if the book was good enough to be read in New York by Bourdain, it was good enough for me, too!
I absolutely loved this one – it was a pretty quick and easy read, a real, honest-to-goodness crime novel. It was written mostly in dialogue, which I found surprisingly engaging, reading it as the characters were “speaking” it, with all their nuances and slang and oddities in speech laid right out there. It’s a real, gritty, un-romanticised look into the life of low-level crime. Eddie Coyle is a middle-aged criminal on the tail end of his career; essentially, he needs to work out which of his “friends” to sell out to the cops in exchange for leniency in court. The characters are great, it’s perfectly written, you just need to read this one for yourself – pick up a copy here, in the mean time, here’s how we start off with Eddie and his “friends”…
“Jackie Brown at twenty-six, with no expression on his face, said that he could get some guns. ‘I can get your pieces probably by tomorrow night. I can get you, probably, six pieces. Tomorrow night. In a week or so, maybe ten days, another dozen. I got a guy coming in with at least ten of them, but I already talk to another guy about four of them and he’s, you know, expecting them. He’s got something to do. So, six tomorrow night. Another dozen in a week.’
The stocky man sat across from Jackie Brown and allowed his coffee to grow cold. ‘I don’t know as I like that,’ he said. ‘I don’t know as I like buying stuff from the same lot as somebody else. Like, I don’t know what he’s going to do with it, you know? If it was to cause trouble to my people on account of somebody else having some from the same lot, well, it could cause trouble for me, too.’
‘I understand,’ Jackie Brown said. People who got out early from work went by in the November afternoon, hurrying. The crippled man hawked Records, annoying people by crying at them from his skate-wheeled dolly.
‘You don’t understand the way I understand,’ the stocky man said. ‘I got certain responsibilities.’
‘Look,’ Jackie Brown said, ‘I tell you I understand. Did you get my name or didn’t you?’
‘I got your name,’ the stocky man said.
‘Well all right,’ Jackie Brown said.
‘All right nothing,’ the stocky man said. ‘I wished I had a nickel for every name I got that was all right, I wish I did.'”