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The Friends of Eddie Coyle

4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,502 Ratings  ·  444 Reviews
The classic novel from "America's best crime novelist" (Time), with a new introduction by Dennis Lehane

George V. Higgins's seminal crime novel is a down-and-dirty tale of thieves, mobsters, and cops on the mean streets of Boston. When small-time gunrunner Eddie Coyle is convicted on a felony, he's looking at three years in the pen--that is, unless he sells out one of his b
Paperback, 182 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by Picador (first published 1970)
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The Big Sleep by Raymond ChandlerThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettThe Long Goodbye by Raymond ChandlerFarewell, My Lovely by Raymond ChandlerThe Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
Best Hardboiled PI & Noir
29th out of 530 books — 661 voters
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best crime pulps
34th out of 113 books — 6 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dan Schwent
Gun runner Eddie Coyle is facing jail time for some hijacked booze. While trying to procure some guns for a friend of his for a string of bank robberies, Coyle decides to drop a dime on the man he's buying from. But will that be enough? And what will happen to Eddie once people hear he's a fink?

Elmore Leonard called this the best crime novel ever written. Dennis Lehane called it a game changer. Raylan Givens even mentioned it on an episode of Justified. I figured I should give it a read.

The Frie
James Thane
Jul 05, 2015 James Thane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
The strength of this brilliant crime novel lies in the dialog, which constitutes about eighty percent of the book. George V. Higgins had an excellent ear and captures perfectly the voices of all of the characters who populate the book. I really have no idea what a group of typical run-of-the-mill criminals would actually sound like, but this is about the most realistic sounding group of crooks--and cops--that I've ever encountered in a novel.

At the center of the book is a small-time Boston crimi
With friends like these, you certainly wouldn’t need any enemies…

Eddie Coyle is a low-level Boston mobster facing serious prison time after getting arrested for driving a truck of hijacked liquor. While awaiting his sentencing, Eddie tries to buy guns to supply to some buddies who have been robbing banks, but he’s also angling to rat out his gun dealer to the cops in order to get out of going to jail.

I’ve been hearing about this book for quite a while, and I was worried that it couldn’t live up
"The best crime novel ever written." - Elmore Leonard

"What I can't get over is that so good a first novel was written by the fuzz." - Norman Mailer

George Higgins was an assistant U.S. Attorney for Massachusets when he set out to document the new reality of hardboiled criminal life in and around Boston with the story of Eddie Coyle. Told mostly in conversation the plot loosely revolves around petty criminal Eddie Coyle facing a sentencing trial and working to maneuver himself out of it with the a
Apr 23, 2012 Mariel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I hate it when my friends become successful
Recommended to Mariel by: when's the remake coming out? I'm so cynical!
"This life's hard, but it's harder if you're stupid."

Don't trust cops. Don't trust crooked cops especially. In his defense Serpico wasn't released yet. Maybe he didn't know any better? Don't be a sap, Mariel! There's no excuse. Eddie Coyle, known to frenemies as Eddie Fingers, is too fucking stupid to walk the streets a free man. George V. Higgins's The Friends of Eddie Coyle is watching someone get stabbed in the back that should never have been turned in the first place by all of the low life'
May 09, 2015 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Decades after seeing Peter Yates's extraordinary film version of George V. Higgins's novel THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, I finally got around to reading the book, which has a reputation for greatness commensurate with the film's. I love the film deeply. Now I love the book the same way. Higgins, whose first published novel this was, has, as almost every critic has noted, a preternatural gift for startlingly real dialog. Much of the book is written in dialog. None of it is precious or self-consciou ...more
Jason Coleman
Jul 11, 2015 Jason Coleman rated it really liked it
Shelves: greatest-hits
Sometime near the end of the previous century, when I was applying to MFA programs, one of the schools required samples in various disciplines, not just prose fiction, so I cranked out a neo-noir script that their film prof ended up getting mildly excited about, although he couldn't help adding it owed something to Tarantino. He must have been referring to my two assassins who discussed things like poetry and history in between whacking people, but I hadn't meant to ape Pulp Fiction at all. I th ...more
Jan 20, 2016 Steven rated it liked it
Well, I've read this before and liked it, but re-reading it now after having also re-read a bunch of other crime/noir books published before and after this one, it seems overrated, certainly not one of the "four or five best crime novels ever written." Lehane, in is introduction to the 40th anniversary edition raves about the dialog, which is 80 percent of the book. Leaving aside the quantity of it and how that works narratively, I'd say it's great dialog if you like reading wiretap transcripts, ...more
Mar 05, 2016 Cheryl rated it really liked it
A gritty, realistic crime novel that shows there is no honor among thieves. It has great dialogue that makes you feel like you're eavesdropping on real people. This book was made into the 1973 film of the same name, starring Robert Mitchum. Worth reading.
Robert Hobkirk
Oct 28, 2015 Robert Hobkirk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
George V. Higgins published The Friends of Eddie Coyle in 1970 after writing 14 novels over 17 years, which never made it off the slush pile. They say with enough talent and enough effort a writer will finally make it, but how many great novels written by talented writers who worked hard never saw a printing press. Talent plus work is no guarantee that a writer will succeed;it happens just some times, not all the time. You never hear about the ones who don't make it.I don't know how it happened ...more
Jan 26, 2016 Richard rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, audiobook

Please Note: This review is purely reflective of my enjoyment of the audiobook and not that of the overall story. I feel bad for the low rating but I hated listening to this so felt it was the only appropriate rating I could give it.

If this was the first ever audiobook I’d listened to then I could quite comfortably say that it would put me off the idea of listening to books instead of reading them. The narrator was woeful, I can’t imagine how the producers of this were comfortable with dist
Published in 1970, The Friends of Eddie Coyle took the crime novel to a sad, unglamorous place. During the course of its story, a weary old gunrunner departs the scene and a young pup making the same mistakes neatly takes his place in the unbroken continuance of the criminal order.

George V. Higgins' Boston in the late '60s crawls with repeat offenders on various levels of a hierarchical termite-ridden totem pole: people who've served time for offending, people who are going "legit" but still hav
Dec 30, 2012 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a good one - more like 4.5 stars.

The plot revolves around a series of bank robberies where the bank manager's family is held hostage. Eddie Coyle supplies guns for the gang doing the robberies and is wavering over whether to shop either the gang or other customers of his gun supplier to the cops in order to plea bargain for a case that he is up for sentence on.

The book is unusual in that most of it is very realistic dialogue - that makes it a quick and easy read. There are also a couple
Thomas Todd
Aug 09, 2016 Thomas Todd rated it really liked it
Excellent book containing 95% dialog. Mob, guns and MOPARS. I think that was one of my favorite things in this book visualizing that $4000 Road Runner hauling machine guns and grocery sacks full of sizzling hot pistols in her trunk. Should have been read in one setting as it is a short book that moves along at a real good pace but a guy has to sleep & work sometimes.
Jeremy S.
Apr 20, 2011 Jeremy S. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Writer, eater, traveler, Antony Bourdain has called this the single greatest crime novel written in the English language. That is quite a statement and after reading this, I can definitely see why he would say that.

While I'm not 100% sure I would anoint it the greatest of all time, it is certainly in the running. When you read the book, you immediately think of all the classic gangster movies from the past 30+ years. The sharp suits, the gold chains, jump suits, cars and of course guns. This bo
Apr 23, 2011 Johnny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's obvious why this is considered such a classic. But it could have easily been overlooked. When an author makes it look this easy, so fluid, and written with so much confidence, it can often be overlooked for its deceptive simplicity. And to top it off, this was Higgins' first novel.

I read the book ten years ago before I started writing novels, so it was interesting to return to it with a writer's eye. I was amazed that the story is told almost entirely through dialogue. Not just a little bit
Jun 05, 2016 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, crime
A classic crime novel about a small time hood, Eddie Coyle, who is doing all he can to avoid jail time. The intricate web Eddie weaves is captured by the author almost purely through dialogue between the various characters. The effect is of being a fly on the wall to all sorts of exciting nefarious deeds. Highly recommend if you enjoy a good crime novel.
Nov 16, 2011 Eric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Looking at this website, or my reviews on, you’d be correct in thinking The Friends of Eddie Coyle isn’t something I’d normally read. In fact my wife is to blame responsible.

She grew up in South Boston, so we were curious about an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s (@noreseravations) Travel Channel show “No Reservations” that took place in Boston. The episode focused on the tougher, rougher side of Boston, and Bourdain talked about his obsession: The Friends of Eddie Coyle. My wife, bei
Benoit Lelievre
Feb 26, 2013 Benoit Lelievre rated it really liked it
This is considered a crime classic and rightfully so. To a certain extent, this is part of the contemporary literature canon also. I wouldn't be ashamed at all to discuss THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE at a literature convention for it shows many aspects worth talking about and it's a novel as endearing in its strengths as it is in its flaws.

While I can't say this dialogue-heavy approach worked wonders for me, it truly is a testament to how potent you can make your dialogue if you put your shoulder
Jun 15, 2015 Joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Excellent crime novel. Follows Elmore Leonard's rule of writing, which is to say, "Write it, read it, and then cross out all the parts you didn't feel like reading." (OK, that's not the exact quote, but I don't feel like looking it up.)
So what you're left with when you do that--in most cases--is the dialogue.
"Who doesn't love reading dialogue?" I asked.
"Nobody," Everyone replied.
If anything, Higgins uses this rule too much, and I actually found myself wanting to hear some prose about what c
Apr 29, 2012 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This slender novel, almost a hard-boiled prose poem, is a masterpiece in any genre. It reads like some sort of bastard uncle of Richard Stark and Elmore Leonard. As a New Englander exiled in Manhattan, I wanted to drive up to north of Boston and find some grizzled old guys and pay them to read the book aloud to me. I've not watched the movie: I'm afraid (especially after THE DEPARTED) that they won't get the language or accents right. Higgins sure does. If this book is any indication of his styl ...more
Aug 25, 2016 Drew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Supposedly the best crime novel of all time, also prominently featured in the series finale of Justified. I can't weigh in on its true greatness, and it hasn't really sunk in fully for me. But I will say that Higgins captures the rhythms of American small time thug speech as accurately as Leonard ever has, and he knows how to create an interesting plot. No frills, no pyrotechnics, not even any philosophical musings until the very last couple of paragraphs--just how I like my fiction these days.
Dennis Anthony
Jul 08, 2016 Dennis Anthony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a remarkable book that is pretty unique in the world of crime novels. Much has been made of the quality of the dialogue and I can't add anything. It's a joy to let the words just wash over your brain.

The story itself is slow in developing and, while it's interesting and even fascinating, I never felt invested in the characters. I know, I know. That was the point. Probably. Or one of the points. Anyway, when some of the principals meet their sorry endings (there's no way this inevitabili
Bro_Pair أعرف
May 03, 2015 Bro_Pair أعرف rated it it was amazing
Second-best crime novel ever written? Definitely top five, I would say. Up there with Hammett and the best of Jim Thompson. Not a moment rings false, right up until the inevitable end.

Eddie Coyle has no friends. Family life in this book is a sick joke. The characters are all hunted rats. It is a true book utterly without any redemption goobledeegook. The book reminds me of a Philip Larkin line -

"Something is pushing them
To the side of their own lives."
Rex Fuller
May 17, 2013 Rex Fuller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cannot explain why I never read a Higgins book before. This one is clearly a masterpiece. Not a page-turner but a true "capture." You very quickly fall into it and don't come out until you're finished. Done almost entirely with dialogue, an absolute minimum of action and narrative, this is an original, a first of its kind, in the same sense as On the Road and In Cold Blood.
Luis Lite
Jun 05, 2015 Luis Lite rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quería leer esta novela de Higgins desde hacía tiempo, pues me hablaron siempre muy bien de ella. Una nueva estética en la novela negra surgida en los años 70 donde la acción se traslada desde los escenarios de la costa oeste estadounidense —propios de Hammet y Chandler— a la costa este, Massachusetts, Nueva York, etc. Y esta cuidada edición de Libros del Asteroide, con un magnífico prólogo del también escritor de novela negra Dennis Lehane, me ha permitido disfrutar de un texto sorprendente y a ...more
Mar 12, 2013 Ctgt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-noir
So we have Eddie Coyle, a low level hood who is playing every end against the middle. He is supplying guns to a bank heist crew, he's awaiting trial for a liquor heist and trying to work a deal with a cop Dave Foley. As I watch this story unfold, I'm thinking to myself, how does he think he's gonna get away with fingering these guys? He never seems to have an endgame in mind he just seems to be waiting for the most opportune time to drop the dime. Of course the cop strings him along and well, le ...more
Sep 02, 2013 Frank rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, really outstanding. Consists almost entirely of dialogue. You have to get used to the slang (I imagine in the 70s this would have been near impossible to read for most Dutch readers; I suspect we're a little more used to underworld slang nowadays, partly because of books like this and the films they influenced, probably). And you have to work out who's who and what they are doing. E.g. in one particular scene where two men meet up in the street, it takes a few pages before you work ou ...more
Eren Cain
Jun 06, 2012 Eren Cain rated it it was amazing
I got this book after seeing an interview with Elmore Leonard where he said that this was the novel that showed him what was possible in the realm of crime fiction. I finished it in a day, and came away completely inspired.

First of all, Lehane's introduction is fantastic - so I def recommend getting it - however, I recently found and posted an amazingly gonzo vintage cover of this book on my tumblr -

Now, while a lot of people talk about telling a story mostly with di
Megan Baxter
May 19, 2014 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a solid crime novel, in which suspicion is normal, and nothing is glamourous. It takes place mostly, but not entirely, in dialogue, which is amazingly well written.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
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Classic Trash: Friends of Eddie Coyle: Finished (Spoilers) 10 5 Mar 14, 2016 06:24PM  
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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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“This life’s hard, but it’s harder if you’re stupid.” 10560 likes
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