Monday, May 27, 2013

Cogan's Trade [1974]

George V. Higgins continues to enjoy cult following among low-end gangster literature aficionados, and Cogan’s Trade, his third book, perhaps remains his best known work alongside his debut novel The Friends of Eddie Coyle. This tough, grimy and formally daring book that portrayed an authentic and no-nonsense picture of the Boston low-life also served as the source material for Andrew Dominik’s excellent film Killing Them Softly. The story begins with an audacious hold-up of an underground poker joint planned by a smart criminal and executed by two delinquent young guys, with the hope that Markie Trattman, who runs the place, would be held responsible for the act. However, unbeknownst to them, the mob hires Jackie Cogan for locating those responsible, and Cogan, despite his seemingly casual nature, is darn good at his job. It doesn’t take long for him to find out that Markie, despite the beating he gets for an offence he never committed, was essentially the fall-guy, and the ones who actually did it. After that it’s only a matter of time before those responsible find themselves at the wrong end of Cogan’s gun. Higgins however didn’t take the conventional route of chronicling the story; rather, he used an atypical approach wherein the book was given an episodic feel and each chapter, based on casual conversations filled with non-sequiturs between various characters, took the story forward – an approach that Dominik more or less preserved in the film adaptation. The style, consequently, was interesting on account of its managing to give a real feel of those populating it, what with their slangs, accents, ways of speaking and their blue-collar lives in general. However, as the novel progressed, what initially seemed refreshing started appearing tad repetitive and tedious on account of overuse. Nonetheless, Cogan’s charismatic character, and his winding conversations with, among others, a washed-out hitman, formed the highlights of this book filled in most parts with wry humour, dark ironies and casual violence.

Author: George H. Higgins
Genre: Crime Drama/Urban Drama/Gangster
Language: English
Country: US