Tuesday, 8 October 2019
GEORGE V. HIGGINS - COGAN'S TRADE (1974)
Cogan is an important figure on the underworld. He's the man who arranges for people to be killed. Usually he just sets up the deal, but sometimes he has to do the handiwork himself - it's all a question of making sure people stay in line and don't start getting ideas above their station.
When two young gunmen hold up a private card game, acting on the order of Johnny "Squirrel" Amato, it is obvious that all three have had ideas above their station. And suddenly Cogan becomes a very busy man indeed.
"He is a novelist of extraordinary intelligence and originality."
Julian Symons, Sunday Times
Cogan's Trade was the second Higgins book I enjoyed in quick succession after taking an omnibus three-fer on holiday with me. I last read the man back in 2013, before vanquishing his work to the neglected nether regions of the TBR pile. Hopefully in future, I will keep him on the radar and get back to his body of work a bit more regularly.
Similar to The Friends of Eddie Coyle in respect of a Boston 1970s setting and a cast of criminal characters, a few of which I met previously.
A card game gets taken down for the second time - bad news for the guy running it - and the consequences that ensue.
What fascinates me is the everyday ordinariness about Cogan and how he presents. He's a criminal, a killer and there's a situation that has arisen in his world that needs attention. There's no knee jerk reaction to events though. Options, scenarios, outcomes, strategies are all discussed and considered with an unnamed higher up in the food chain. It could be a CEO and a production or marketing manager discussing a new product and the ways to introduce the line to the public. It's chilling really. There's no anger, no rage, no emotion, just control and calm and cool. It really is a different world that Higgins depicts.
Pitch perfect pace, cadence, rhythm - call it what you will. Interesting characters, with varying motivations and circumstances dictating their actions, great conversations and dialogue in various clandestine meetings and hook ups. Flicking though the book, I'm fairly sure there are quotation marks and dialogue on every page, which isn't a vibe I get from most of my other reading.
I loved the setting and the time frame of the novel. I do like re-visiting less complicated times, when lives weren't all reliant on technology and computers, and mobile phones and the like. It's kind of scary looking back and remembering that I grew up in that world.
Overall - lots to recommend and savour.
4.5 from 5
Read - September, 2019
Published - 1974
Page count - 218
Source - owned copies (two-of) - both cool covers and editions.
Format - omnibus paperback