Eddie Coyle works for Jimmy Scalisis, supplying him with guns for a couple of bank jobs. A cop named Foley is leaning on Eddie for information, and Eddie needs to sell someone out to avoid going back to prison. Nobody knows who’s a friend and who’s a snitch in this richly plotted book that reads like one long caper.
George V. Higgins wrote some of the best dialogue in the history of American crime fiction. His conversations contain a mesmerizing rhythm and a seasoned style peppered with colloquialisms. Often the dialogue will bob and weave like a boxer trying to wear down his opponent, and then Higgins lands his punch, and the purpose of the conversation becomes clear.
Several chapters in The Friends of Eddie Coyle consist of a single conversation between two people, and the conversations are so well written that the novel moves forward like a single car chase, multiple elements moving against one another to arrive at the same conclusion. Higgins builds tension first in one area and then in the next until, ultimately, the situations he crafted unravel along with the lives of the characters at their center.
There’s no better place to learn how to write dialogue than the work of George V. Higgins, and The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a great place to start.
Goerge V. Higgins worked as a lawyer, journalist, and teacher, and wrote twenty-nine books. The Friends of Eddie Coyle, his debut novel, was made into a brilliant film starring Robert Mitchum.