Re: RARA-AVIS: Theme of the Month: Work

From: John Williams (
Date: 18 Apr 2001

A couple of thoughts

It strikes me that George V. Higgins has written maybe better than anyone on work in the context of crime fiction. Certainly The Friends Of Eddie Coyle rammed home the extent to which crime really is a career, albeit a dangerous one and not even a particularly well paid one. In Higgins' books, whether concerning criminals, lawyers, politicians or all three, everything starts with the work. In Chandler's phrase these are people who commit crimes for a reason. Even in a less than entirely successful novel like The Agent, Higgins gives a wonderfully authoritative portrait of the sports agent's job.

Another writer who shouldn't be forgotten in this context is Higgins' great disciple Elmore Leonard. Is there a better description of two guys just doing their job than the bomb disposal fellers ingoring the gangster sat on the booby trapped toilet at the beginning of Freaky Deaky (the last great Leonard IMHO)?

In general it seems to me it's a great help when a writer has a real experience of work to draw from - as with Higgins' lawyer books or Pelecanos' Firing Offence & Shoedog or Robert Sims Reid neglected cop novel Big Sky Blues or Anthony Bourdain's chef noir Bone In The Throat - and conversely, perhaps one of the weaknesses of much private eye fiction is that writers are continually struggling trying to write convincingly about a more or less imaginary profession.


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