My Month of Crime Fiction: The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins Friends of Eddie Coyle (1970) by George V. Higgins

If the guys in this novel are Eddie Coyle's "friends," I don't want to know what his enemies are like.

In this terse, stark novel, Higgins reveals a tightly-interconnected world of gang members, gun runners, hitmen, and thieves. While Eddie, Scalisi, and Dillon are all using one another to set up jobs, they're simultaneously informing on one another to the cops. Eddie, though, has the most to gain by talking- if he can convince the DA that he's been helpful in capturing other criminals, he can get a light sentence for his own crimes. Ultimately, though, Eddie has much worse coming to him.
Now I don't know if Higgins's novels inspired Quentin Tarantino's films, but it sure seems like it. For instance, near the end of the book, two of the characters discuss how to make a great grilled cheese sandwich for two pages. Two pages. I mean, this whole book, a million kinds of guns are changing hands and people are getting shot and banks robbed and these two cops are sitting discussing grilled cheese sandwiches. Now if that isn't classic Tarantino I don't know what is.

And despite all the police work and the complicated set of relationships among the gun runners and the gun buyers, everything is ultimately brought down by one woman. After all, when your boyfriend bad-mouths you to his friends and then refuses to apologize for it, why wouldn't you rat him out to the cops and tell them he's behind the rash of bank robberies? Bet Scalisi never saw that coming.

Anyway, The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a quick, entertaining read, especially if you're a fan of The Sopranos. Except here it's Irish guys, mostly. And Boston, and the 1960s.

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