Re: RARA-AVIS: George V. Higgins

pabergin (
Mon, 8 Nov 1999 12:10:16 -0500

Saddened to hear of the death of Geo. V. Higgins. He created three hard boiled masterpieces -- THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, THE DIGGER'S GAME and COGAN'S TRADE -- but then seemed to just stop trying. Hard to say if he got lazy or started to believe his own reviews, but his use of authentic-sounding New England criminal patois degenerated fairly quickly into a self-indulgence that bordered on self-parody. Even as early as THE RAT ON FIRE (1980 or 81, I think) one can see the decline. That book contained several scenes featuring Black politicos/businessmen speaking in voices that are virtually undistinguishable from those of the Italian/Irish mobsters they're dealing with. It was probably easier and quicker to write it that way, but authentic -- or convincing -- it ain't.

Higgins was one of those guys I always hoped would regain the panache that marked his early work, so I'd check up on him from time to time. The last time was 3 or so years ago when I picked up THE SINS OF THE FATHER. The book was totally unreadable. His ear for criminal and/or New England working class argot was gone completely, replaced by a sort of private language that bore no resemblance whatever to spoken English. It was gibberish, really, and it was hard to avoid feeling embarrassed for the guy for having allowed the book to be printed.

Still, he did some great work early on. There's no denying that. PB

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