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Cogan's Trade

3.61  ·  Rating Details ·  1,307 Ratings  ·  171 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 h
Paperback, 224 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published 1974)
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Ben Loory
Dec 29, 2012 Ben Loory rated it really liked it
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
Oct 28, 2012 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
David Langford
Feb 05, 2012 David Langford rated it really liked it
"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
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
Nov 02, 2012 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 01, 2012 sycobabel rated it it was amazing
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
Sam Reaves
This novel is almost entirely dialogue, which is typical of a Higgins book; that's what we read him for. Nobody had a better ear for the way tough guys talk, except possibly for Elmore Leonard, but where Leonard's dialogue was spare and laconic, polished with infinite care, Higgins's is positively logorrheic: he just sets these low-lifes talking (and boy, can they talk) and lets the story emerge.
In this one, two losers just out of prison prove they are losers by heisting a protected card game;
Dec 08, 2012 Darrel rated it really liked it
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
Dec 11, 2012 William rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 24, 2012 Robin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ed [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
Justin Sorbara-Hosker
Oct 13, 2011 Justin Sorbara-Hosker rated it really liked it
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.
Philip Girvan
Feb 04, 2017 Philip Girvan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book is driven by the dialogue of the criminal protagonists and their foils. Quickly paced and hard to put down. Higgins has a really good ear and is a captivating storyteller. I'll be seeking out more of his books.
Kenneth P.
Dec 10, 2013 Kenneth P. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: boston

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
Allan MacDonell
Mar 17, 2013 Allan MacDonell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 25, 2012 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: four-stars
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
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
Paul Wilner
Nov 24, 2007 Paul Wilner rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jan 07, 2013 Tom rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 26, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it
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
Aaron VanAlstine
Jun 06, 2013 Aaron VanAlstine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Apr 22, 2010 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sean McGovern
Sep 24, 2012 Sean McGovern rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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
Mar 13, 2012 Don rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ystyn Francis
Jul 02, 2011 Ystyn Francis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
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
Mar 23, 2016 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
George Higgins published this book in 1974. I saw the movie based on this book with Brad Pitt, Killing Me Softly. The movie was good, the book not so much.

The story was fine but Higgins wrote it in a dialect, how he saw people speaking. I have never been with people who spoke this way; repeating words and phrases, sometimes exactly and sometimes abbreviated and it was difficult to read through. I have been around Bostonians and never heard this dialect and it really grated on my nerves. I came
Dec 01, 2012 Jan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 07, 2012 Brent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Paul Boger
Aug 24, 2012 Paul Boger rated it really liked it
Difficult to put down. Not as good as The Friends of Eddie Coyle, but close. There are a few holes in the plot, but the characters and dialogue more than compensate, if you are a fan of realistic crime fiction. Small-timers trying to go big, and paying the price, in Boston.
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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.
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