Cogan's Trade
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Cogan's Trade

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  825 ratings  ·  129 reviews
A hard-hitting, tour-de force tale of the mob and the man who makes sure their rules are the only rules, by the American master of crime George V. Higgins.

Jackie Cogan is an enforcer for the New England mob. When a high-stakes card game is heisted by unknown hoodlums, Cogan is called in to “handle” the problem. Moving expertly and ruthlessly among a variety of criminal ha...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Vintage (first published 1974)
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Ben Loory
higgins is kind of amazing, the dialog is incredible, this book could go on for 10,000 more pages and i'd probably never put it down. it's not quite as good as his The Friends of Eddie Coyle, i think maybe because it's more soliloquies than exchanges (or maybe because the story is pretty much (exactly?) the same). i don't know, but the guy's got his own way of doing things and he's always electrifying to read.

"He made two mistakes," Cogan said. "The second mistake was making the first mistake, l...more
Rob Kitchin
Cogan’s Trade is a relatively simple story consisting of just nineteen extended scenes. Each scene is largely conversational, with little in the way of action. Interestingly, Higgins simply drops the reader into conversations and then lets them try to work out what is happening – a bit like taking a seat on a bus and overhearing a conversation taking place between nearby passengers and trying to work out what is being discussed, the context, how threads intertwine, who they might be talking abou...more
David Langford
"There's all kinds of reasons for things," Cogan said. "Guys get whacked for doing things, guys get whacked for not doing things, it don't matter. The only thing that matters is if you're the guy that's gonna get whacked. That's the only fuckin' thing."
-- Jackie Cogan

And that right there sums up this book. This criminal world surfaces through the characters that inhabit it and how they perceive the violent events that surround them. The entire plot hovers at the edge of the story, revealed piec...more
Lisa
This is definitely a vintage crime novel. It’s got an old-fashioned feel to it from the very first chapter. No cell phones, no computers, no fancy hardware, just guys with guns figuring out what other guys are gonna do. In general, I like those kinds of stories and there is a lot to like about Killing Them Softly by George V. Higgins (originally titled Cogan’s Trade). I picked this up in the airport bookstore and figured it would be a good way to pass the time on the plane. (I admit it. I had 3...more
Darrel
Terrific vintage crime novel by genre-master George V. Higgins. Perhaps not as quite as good as his classic 'The Friends Of Eddie Coyle' but every bit as vivid and believable. Each of the characters here are written so sharply and distinctly that it makes it easy for a reader to get a mind's eye picture of the action/scenes taking place. CT is a short, quick read consisting of very lively conversational dialogue between no more than two to three characters at the most in each chapter. Rich, auth...more
Robin
I liked this book and am a huge fan of George V Higgins – Friends of Eddie Coyle is one of the all-time great crime novels. Ended up giving this three stars despite it's many good points – great dialogue, the bleak but believable outlook of these desperate characters, the pared-down style. It was the dialogue that, despite it verisimilitude to everyday speech, ironically struck a bum note. Higgins has the characters speak in long, perfectly idiomatic speech, so long they're like Shakespearean so...more
William
When you run a business and problems pop up, you have to retain specialists to deal with them. Say you operate a restaurant and your dishwasher breaks down; you have to bring in a plumber to fix it. Your business uses computers to keep track of inventory and your server goes down? Chances are you are going to have to hire an IT expert.

So it is with organized crime: when an enterprise goes off the tracks, somebody has to fix it – particularly when the way it goes awry scares away the customers th...more
Josh
At first I wasn't too sure what to make of it. Heavily reliant on dialogue. Not much of a plot. At certain points you'd think it would make a great short story by getting rid of some characters and unnecessary events. Yet, there is something about the way these characters are set up that sucks you in. Higgins does give a pretty original voice to each character and it does not pull any punches with "crime talk." Think of The Wire-speak but in the 1970s in Boston. It was also interesting that the...more
Max Magbee
When a Mob-run poker game is robbed, enforcer Jackie Cogan is called in to "take care" of those responsible.

What's interesting about George V. Higgins' writing is that he tells his narrative through his character's dialogue, almost as if the reader were piecing a story together by listening to surveillance tapes. In fact, the dialogue comprises probably about ninety percent of the book, with the other ten percent allotted for the briefest of character, setting and action description. But what di...more
Sycobabel
The story is simple, the narrative is radical, and the dialogue is on another planet. Higgins is up there with Tarantino as one of the all-time masters of character dialogue. I would love to see this as a play. It would absolutely murder on the stage. The book is populated with criminals and hanger-on's and it would be easy for them to slip into cliche, but each guy has such a unique and singular voice. These guys like to talk and they talk a lot. It's almost like eavesdropping in a bar and over...more
[Redacted]
George Higgins wrote books in which the entirety of the plot seemed to take place through dialog. Cogan's Trade is another example. All dialog all the time. Great walls of it on each page. This works for Higgins as for few others. Higgins was, along with Elmore Leonard, one of the greats at writing crisp, streetwise dialog.

When this works, it really works well (see The Friends of Eddie Coyle) In Cogan's trade it works, but not as well. I liked the book well enough but not as much as Eddie Coyle...more
Allan MacDonell
I only became motivated to read Boston underbelly writer George V. Higgins because a reviewer of the Brad Pitt movie Killing Them Softly couldn’t in good conscience fully recommend the film. But the critic dropped the Elmore Leonard name while lavishing good-faith praise on Higgins, the author of Cogan’s Trade, the book upon which the movie is based. Cogan’s Trade—the first of six or seven Higgins novels I hope to read—is a brutal pleasure, and the half dozen or so killings and beatings are the...more
Sam Quixote
Johnny Amato has a plan: he's going to hire a couple guys to knock over a mob poker game run by Markie Trattman. Trattman went to prison for 5 years after knocking over a different mob poker game and Amato figures that if his guys go in and do it, Trattman will get the blame again and Amato will be home free with the cash. But when the robbery goes as planned, the mob calls in its most ruthless enforcer - Jackie Cogan - who is determined to find the culprits and send a message to anyone thinking...more
Anna
At first, I didn't think I wanted to like this book: from the get-go, you find that the book consists of dialogue between two characters (three characters at most) in each chapter. Though this book was published first, this set-up had reminded me of Pulp Fiction when John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson would have conversations before a big gun blow out. Between each chapter, the reader is to assume that an event has occurred where characters have found something out. Of course, this is a crime n...more
Kenneth P.


In addition to being a spoiler, this review may contain graphic material.

What amazed me initially about this book, set in the 1970's, is how little actually takes place in the story itself. A high stakes card game gets ripped off for fifty grand. It will result in three guys getting whacked. That's about it. O yeah, one guy needs to be "talked" to. There is much speculation and endless discussion about talking to this guy. Eventually two brothers who are funny, colorful, violent and incredibly s...more
Paul Wilner
Nov 24, 2007 Paul Wilner rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: small time thieves


I Just re-read this (as I see others have) because of the new film adaptation, "Killing Them Softly,'' with Brad Pitt and the crew and I think it stands up fine. Very good, dialogue-driven, tough but realistic Botston crime scene narrative. Higgins at his best can make Elmore Leonard, for instance, seem more like Ronald Firbank (okay, that analogy may be a stretch but you get the point).

I think he's under-celebrated; some of his later work got self-indulgent. Not so good at marketing himself, I...more
Manel Ortiz
Higgins podría ser un excelente autor teatral ya que, al menos en este libro, se basa sobre todo en los diálogos, tanto para ir construyendo los personajes como para desarrollar la acción de los mismos. Con esa base, la adaptación cinematográfica estaba cantada. Creo haber leído en algún sitio que Tarantino se declaraba admirador de la prosa de Higgins y no me extraña, ya que es un mundo en el que los personajes de Tarantino encajarían a la perfección. Pero en este caso no ha sido Tarantino el q...more
Amy
I admit that I often discover books from films, and this was one of them. The film in question? Killing Them Softly. I was excited to read this book because the film is set in New Orleans, but the book is actually set in good ol' Boston. Inevitably, I read the entire book with a Boston accent--I mean, how can you not? It's a crime novel about the Boston underworld. And this is old school, so forget the technology. Just tough guys and guns. The characters' dialogues are hilarious and gritty, whic...more
Tom
The last time I read one of Higgins' books was about 25 years ago and reading this reminded of why it's been 25 years. His novels are extremely dialogue heavy to the extent that any progression in the narrative comes at a very slow pace. The dialogue is great, very gritty and hard-boiled but compared to similar types of author the pace of the story is pedestrian, more happens in a chapter in an Elmore Leonard book than a whole Higgins novel.
The scenario here is typical pulp fiction fare and I do...more
Jim
All dialogue, all the time. I enjoyed every minute of it, every stitch in the born loser lives of these small-time hoods. Here's a writer who achieves authenticity in constant dialogue without resorting to phonetics, which given the action takes place in Boston is a real relief, but his ear for rhythm of real life speech is impressive. Even though it's serious business on the line, mostly these guys talk about their wives and work. He sets up jokes and plot suprises very well. I miss it already...more
Aaron
Originally published in 1974, this quick read could have been a fine thriller if not for the author’s “crackling dialog,” i.e. his attempt at transcribing heavy Boston accents. Like all stylistic dialog, this made the book very difficult to follow. I saw the recent movie; otherwise, I would have been totally lost and put the book aside. The movie was surprisingly good and one of the rare time a movie exceeds it's source material. Also, this book is nothing but talk, talk, and more talk; there ar...more
Sean McGovern
This book was not what I expected - and was the richer for it. In two parts, "Cogan's Trade" tells the same story, twice. True, there focal crime changes - from a robbery to a murder, but in both instances you have dialog driven scenes usually between only two characters - employer and employee. In both cases, the employer won't be getting their hands dirty, and the employee requests help from someone who might be the wrong person for the job.

The dialog (which, I've learned since reading, Higgin...more
Don
As with most of Higgins' books, this is almost entirely in dialogue; in fact, much of it consists of monologues. Higgins' stock in trade is the ordinary trials and tribulations of low-level members of Boston's organized crime circles in the early '70s. He's as interested in painting the picture as he is in moving a particular plot along. If you are particularly plot-driven you may find this and other Higgins books something less than fully satisfying. The plots are relatively bare-bones and simp...more
Aramys
Higgins, joder. Las novelas de este tío son tranquilas, como un río que baja sereno, tranquilo, pero que de vez en cuando tiene algún rápido, alguna zona de rocas, así son estas novelas, dialogo, dialogo, dialogo, y de vez en cuando se aceleran las cosas y alguien muere con muchos, muchos balazos. Los diálogos rozan la perfección, están todas las palabras en su sitio, están muy bien engrasados. Higgins hace novelas diferentes, en las que hay que entrar, con un estilo propio muy bueno. mencion es...more
Ystyn Francis
I turned to the audiobook for this one because it was a really difficult read. The novel is predominantly made up of ex-cons telling each other tales of their criminal exploits while they prepare to heist a poker game. The dialogue is really authentic - jittery and thick with varied Bostonian accents - which is what made the story hard to follow but, in a book where very little happens, a vast underworld is portrayed through these simple and effective yarns. I can't wait for the film next year w...more
Pat
Really naturalistic dialog. Obtrusively so.

If the one pole of exposition is a husband and wife reciting "as you know, our relationship to one another is..." this one is pages and pages of tangential, slangy conversations between people with long histories.

So you end up with stuff like the first chapter, where three people are talking over one another, with constant reference to a fourth guy named Squirrel, who as you find out about two chapters later is the first guy. Except the narrator always...more
Donkic
Jackie Cogan, che da il titolo al libro, a prima vista non è niente di speciale. Sembra solo l'ennesimo criminale in un mondo di criminali. L'unica differenza è che Cogan sa quello che va fatto e lo fa. Senza pietà, senza perdere tempo in vizi e passioni. E' uno stakanovista della malavita, freddo e implacabile. In una storia piena di mezze tacche del crimine che fanno dentro e fuori dal carcere, pesci piccoli che cercano di fregare pesci ancora più piccoli e gente che ruba i cani per lavoro, Co...more
Brent
It's no Friends of Eddie Coyle but still a very good follow-up and a very interesting exercise for a writer so early in his oeuvre: a story told almost entirely in dialogue, with very little actual action, yet it establishes a very complete sense of what is happening and has happened. Higgins' dialogue is so sharp, explicit and believable that you find yourself lapsing into a Boston accent by the time you finish one of his books.
Jan
If you liked the Departed, The Town...You will adore Cogan's Trade. Written in the 1970s and totally un-p.c., I read this book because the upcoming movie Killing Them Softly is based on the story. The book is pure dialogue. All men, all criminals, all talk; with a Boston accent. Not sure I understood it all, but sure was riveted from start to finish. Can't wait to see what Brad Pitt does w the character Jackie Cogan.
Justin Sorbara-Hosker
If possible, perhaps even more dialogue-heavy than Friends of Eddie Coyle. Feels entirely authentic, like being a fly on the wall behind an assortment of shady and unsavory characters. Be very interesting to see how the film adaptation plays out.

Not quite as enjoyable as FOEC, but still a total pleasure to read - dark, & laugh out loud funny in spots. Totally pleased Black Lizard is putting these back in print.
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George Vincent Higgins was a United States author, lawyer, newspaper columnist, and college professor. He is best known for his bestselling crime novels.
More about George V. Higgins...
The Friends of Eddie Coyle The Digger's Game The Rat On Fire Kennedy for the Defense (Jerry Kennedy, #1) At End of Day

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