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The Digger's Game

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  324 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
A riveting George V. Higgins masterpiece about Jerry Doherty and his trip to Vegas that puts him eighteen grand in the hole.
Jerry "Digger" Doherty is an ex-con and proprietor of a workingman's Boston bar, who supplements his income with the occasional "odd job," like stealing live checks or picking up hot goods. His brother's a priest, his wife's a nag, and  he has a dead
Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published January 28th 1973)
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Rex Fuller
Jun 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's just astounding what Higgins can do with dialogue, making up somewhere around 97% or more of the words in this one. Even so, it does not feel like a stage play. You truly feel the selfish, uncaring, desperate, and dirty world of small-time crooks who aim for one thing and more often than not generate a miserable something else. Guilt is universal, punishment is random, and it doesn't matter if your experience comes to an end because the pleasure of it is permanent.
Gary Baughn
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: guilty-pleasures
Another great Higgins exploration of midlevel gangsters in Boston. It begins with a conversation that can't be beat, and then continues with one well-dialogued situation after another. Now I know why they call them "Wise-Guys," because they all think they are smarter than whomever they are working with, when in reality they are all dumber, because they all think they have the situation figured out, and they haven't, because some part of the situation is not under their control, including what th ...more
Ben Loory
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
all the dialogue of his other books, but somehow none of the tension.
Apr 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Higgins is great. He's written what amounts to a dozen scenes with primarily dialogue, and he gets character, plot, action, the whole thing. "Sweating like I did a mile and six furlongs". Higgins has great knowledge of the way things work in the world, first of the legal and other-than-legal business mechanics, and presents these (sometimes extremely complicated) mechanics so well from the level of the characters and where they are, so that it's never expositional but an aspect of the way the ch ...more
Aug 19, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This staccato Southie noir has lashings of the distilled tough-guy talk for which Higgins is justifiably famous, but the narrative just never really takes off. On a family trip to London when I was a teen, I bought a discount omnibus comprising The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Cogan's Trade and The Rat on Fire to read on the plane trip home. I chose it because Norman Mailer, with whom I was besotted, was quoted on the cover as saying (about Eddie Coyle), " What I can't get over is that so good a firs ...more
Joseph Hirsch
Apr 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elmore Leonard tends to get the lion's share of the credit when people talk about crime writers who have a way with dialogue, but, in truth, George . V. Higgins is the king. Don't get me wrong. Leonard's writing features some impressive volleys, but Higgins takes dialogue to a whole new level, making conversation the very narrative engine of his works. He's a complete original, too idiosyncratic really to even give birth to imitators, since it's pointless to try to copy him.

"The Digger's Game" f
Dec 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm predisposed to like seedy, beat-down, dialogue-heavy crime thrillers about small-time lowlifes, so Higgins is right up my alley, but he's no rote genre hack. The book is structured as a series of conversations between two or three people, with a minimum of exposition and a maximum of attention to detail to what characters' speech patterns reveal about them as people. No character is sympathetic, with the partial exception of a priest who is the main character's older brother, but each charac ...more
Aug 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think Cogan's Trade is the best of the first 3.

I was working in Boston in the late '70s in the Kenmore Square area. It would be hard for anyone not familiar with the territory then to figure out what is going on as the characters drive all over the place.

I find the dialog fascinating and familiar but it might be alien to younger readers.

Still a nice respite from SF and Fantasy.
Phil Overeem
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Almost as great as The Friends of Eddie Coyle--that's a tall order. The Digger's Game is still essential, and if you'd like a short course in writing dialogue without needing much narration, grab it.
Allan MacDonell
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heroes are in short supply in the novels of George V. Higgins where all characters are craven antagonists. The sneer-talking players in The Digger’s Game scrape for advantage over one another in the grubby 1970s Boston underworld, a scabrous playground where the highest human aspiration is to become a successful mooch. In the business of grown men plotting to obtain something in exchange for nothing—-nothing beyond an exercise of brute force or crude cunning—-a person is occasionally hurt, kille ...more
Sam Johnson
Sep 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A terrific novel by any standard. Everyone remarks on Higgins's dialogue, which is not "realistic" but stylized; these people deliver monologues the way in which characters in musicals burst into song. I assume that the talk of real dirtbags isn't as interesting or funny. For me, the draw of Higgins's novels is the way in which they dramatize the kinds of things that go on in offices and at work all the time: the plot here abut the Greek, Torrey, and Schabb could be replicated (minus the guns an ...more
Sep 30, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Digger was one of the more interesting Higgins characters I've read about (the others being Eddie Coyle and Cogan.) Now that I'm getting further into reading Higgins, I've noticed certain characters recur in varied degree of focus or importance. Digger is a hard working man, a cautious man, and a caring husband. In the end, the author leaves an open ended he about to be caught and therefore imprisoned (or murdered?) or is he about to get on a plane and be free. I opt for the later. ...more
Marty St. George
Nov 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Higgins is a truly underrated writer, especially with respect to dialogue. If you read one of his books and then read the dialogue in most other crime novels, you will quickly realize that Higgins' ear is a league ahead of most others'.

That being the case, this book, although a very enjoyable read, suffers from a relatively weak core concept, which unfortunately shares too many similaries with "The Friends of Eddie Coyle." If you are a Higgins fan the book is worth the read, but for the diletta
I very much enjoyed the interaction between The Digger and his brother Paul, because it rang incredibly true to me. As an Italian-American, I felt that Higgins' was very accurate in his depiction of an Italian-American meeting that had food involved, as well as traditional show of respect shown by an underling to an important, elderly man.

Overall though, I didn't find this book very satisfying. I found The Friends of Eddie Coyle to have much more resolution (and it was a quicker read as well).
Justin Sorbara-Hosker
The third GVH novel I've read, and again, the most believable criminal dialogue I've ever read (& I've read a lot of it). Amazing how little actually happens in this book - 95% of it is men talking, bad men, talking in bars, cars, recounting events both harrowing and hilarious. When actual exposition does occur, it's almost surprising - & those scenes are done well too, its almost as if it didn't interest him nearly as much to write it. Perhaps a little funnier than Eddie Coyle and Cogan ...more
Paul Boger
One of those rare times that I think a book was too short. You get Higgins' patented Boston low-life situations and dialogue, some genuinely funny scenes, but the whole thing feels rushed, rather than compact. The Digger is a fascinating character, but he barely gets "moving" before the story ends. Not in the same league as either "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" or "Cogan's Trade," but a really good airplane read.
Aug 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Higgins is arguably the best dialogue writer in America - here, though, he depends too heavily on that gift. The storyline's a mess. In the earlier books - notably The Friends of Eddie Coyle - he could handle both.
With Higgins you more or less know exactly what you're in for from the get-go: heists, contracts, dumb crooks and scumbags from the Boston underworld, long-winded and digressive soliloquies
in bars and cars. Still, if you're out for dialogue, you could do a lot worse.
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second Higgins novel I've read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not really a "novel' so much as a collection of conversations, but I love these characters and the way they talk and could listen to their yarns all day long.
Sep 04, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
could not get through the first chapter. May give it another try some other time.
Paul Wilner
Nov 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great ear for dialogue, great writer whose life ended tragically - even that, typical of Higgins, managed to stay below the radar.
Chris Rhatigan
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Higgins is the best crime writer in history. The Digger's Game is classic Higgins: Bostonian thugs talking a lot of shit. Brutal and highly entertaining.
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Next to Eddie Coyle, the best of the Higgins I've read. Hilarious and hard-boiled.
Richard Epstein
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always thought Higgins was seriously underestimated. I've been reading through his books, and nothing yet has changed my mind.
rated it really liked it
Mar 09, 2016
Constantin Mihai
rated it it was amazing
Feb 05, 2018
Brad Heden
rated it really liked it
Oct 25, 2013
Paul Wilson
rated it really liked it
Dec 05, 2012
rated it it was ok
Jul 10, 2016
Jason A.
rated it really liked it
Feb 15, 2014
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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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