The new Brad Pitt film “Killing Them Softly,” which just opened, is based on Cogan’s Trade, George V. Higgins’s third novel, published in 1974. Anthony Lane just reviewed the film in The New Yorker, and his review (quoted above) is half concerned with the film, and half about the significance of Higgins as an author. Lane thinks Higgins is often overlooked when filmmakers (and readers) are looking for source material on gritty realism, authentic dialogue, and treatments of low-life in general amongst small-time hoods, thugs, politicos, and other mostly shady creatures.
We have known this all along, of course, because the Irvin Department houses Higgins’s papers, including all the drafts of Cogan’s Trade, his other novels, short fiction, journalism, law practice records, newspaper columns, and much, much more. In fact, it is our largest and most comprehensive author collection, as Higgins saved everything from his several careers, and it is all here and available for research. More information on Higgins and the collection can be found here.
Higgins was a significant influence on Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker, Dennis Lehane, and many others. His name is consistantly referenced up as one of the writers who best “gets” Boston on paper. The Friends of Eddie Coyle, his first novel, was made into an excellent film in 1973 starring Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle. It’s currently available on Netflix and on DVD.
Here’s to more popular interest in Higgins’s work!