Sunday 22 September 2019



Eddie "Fingers" Coyle got his nickname when some men he knew put his hand in a drawer in a friendly fashion - Eddie could choose which hand - and kicked it shut: Eddie had sold a gun that was traced. Now Eddie is back in business, and taking more care.

However the police are not the only organisation that has their eye on him and Dillon, the knowledgeable barman, gets a message that spells life - or the other thing - for Eddie Coyle.

George V. Higgins' bestselling first novel was made into a film starring Robert Mitchum.

I think this is my third time reading this particular Higgins book. Goodreads tells me I read it in 2011 which is accurate, pretty sure I read it late 80s/early 90s when I started getting into crime fiction and particularly US crime fiction and again now. Tell you what, it gets better each time. 

Boston, 70s, the street, low-level hustlers, gun sellers, Black Panthers, cops, stick-up artists, bars, and more.

Pace, character, setting, dialogue, plot, outcome - all present in spades.

There's a real cadence and rhythm to the narrative, most of which is propelled forward mostly through conversation. It's a real down and dirty novel where most of the characters are up to no good and everyone is playing an angle and looking out for themselves. There's some liberal use of racist language - the n word gets bandied around more than once or twice, which may make some readers uncomfortable. I can't justify it, but would say the book was written nearly 50 years ago and you have to sense that Higgins captured the essence and attitudes of working class hustlers and grifters in Boston at the time.

Interesting characters and an interesting plot. Eddie Coyle is known to the police and he's known to the boys. He has a charge hanging over him for smuggling contraband further North. He doesn't want to do jail time. He buys and sells guns and he has information. Not hard to imagine where this one is going and how it all ends.

There's a film of the book featuring Robert Mitchum which I'd really like to catch up with at some point.

4.5 from 5

George V. Higgins wrote about 25 novels in his career, before his death in 1999. I've not read that many, more fool me.

Read - August, 2019 (re-read)
Published - 1970
Page count - 196
Source - owned copy
Format - omnibus paperback


  1. Not surprised this rates so high with you, Col. It's a potent story with some good characters. I do recommend the film if you get the chance. I'd be interested in what you think of it vs the film.

    1. Thanks Margot. I wasn't aware that you were familiar with this one, but I'm glad you are. Looking forward to getting to the film - plans are afoot....

  2. A great, great book, Col. I’ve read it several times and studied the way he used dialogue.

    1. I agree, Elgin. Still I've been told by my wife - three times is enough!

  3. The movie is decidedly worth catching, if you get the chance. I haven't read the book -- nor indeed enough Higgins in general: I think I've read precisely one of his novels and so long ago is that all I can remember is that I enjoyed it.

    1. I read a couple more from him on holiday, Elgin and it was a reminder to try and keep him on my radar. I'll definitely be seeking out the film.

  4. I got this ten years ago at the book sale and I haven't read it yet. And it is a short book, I have no excuse. Thanks for reminding me, I hope it helps.

    1. I'll be keen to hear what you think of it.