Friday April 23rd, 2010

A Crime Classic That Holds Up

eddie-coyleTroy Patterson praises a novel about “a rusty little cog in the machine of New England crime”:

The first thing to know about George V. Higgins’ The Friends of Eddie Coyle is that it directly entered the crime-fiction canon upon its 1970 publication. The second thing to know is that it holds up as both a writer’s-writer thriller and as popular pulp, with Dennis Lehane introducing Picador’s new 40th-anniversary reissue of the novel by heralding it as “the game-changing crime novel of the last fifty years”—a moderate claim compared with that of Elmore Leonard, who hails it as the best crime novel, period.

I’ve had the movie version, starring Robert Mitchum, at home for a while from Netflix, and this has inspired me to finally watch it this weekend. Patterson calls it “an exemplar of the art of adaptation. Journeyman screenwriter Paul Monash faithfully mimeographed much of the novel’s dialogue while also streamlining the story for maximum speed and rebuilding the plot in a way that retains its tensions and increases its clarity.” (For some clips, check out A. O. Scott’s take.)