James Wolcott wrote today that he thought the 1973 movie The Friends of Eddie Coyleexceeds expectations.” In poking around to see if I could find it to watch online (no success), I discovered that the movie is based on a 1972 novel of the same name by George V. Higgins.

Higgins wrote more than two dozen novels (and several non-fiction books) between 1972 and his death in 1999. In 1985 The Friends of Eddie Coyle was selected as one of the twenty best American novels since World War II by the British Booksellers Association.

With The Digger’s Game (1973) and Cogan’s Trade (1974), about a professional killer, Higgins’s first novel was part of a loose trilogy about the criminal underworld. In The Friends of Eddie Coyle the protagonist is a smalltime hoodlum and hustler who tries to avoid giving evidence against his friends. He runs guns to a team of bank robbers while selling information to the cops. Eddie’s betrayals ultimately lead to his death. Higgins’ literary trademark was already fully developed: the action was mostly transmitted through dialogue.