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George V. Higgins (13 November 19396 November 1999) was a United Statesmarker author, lawyer, newspaper columnist, and college professor. He is best known for his bestselling crime novels. His full name was George Vincent Higgins, but his books were all published as by George V. Higgins.

Life and career

Higgins was born in Brockton, Massachusettsmarker, grew up in the nearby town of Rockland, Massachusettsmarker, and attended Boston Collegemarker. He later received a MA degree from Stanford Universitymarker in 1965, and a law degree from Boston College in 1967. He was married twice, first to Elizabeth Mulkerin Higgins (divorced 1979); second to Loretta Cubberley Higgins.

Higgins worked as an assistant attorney general for the Commonwealth, and a deputy United States Attorney and a journalist and newspaper columnist before becoming a novelist. He wrote for the Associated Press, the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald American, and the Wall Street Journal. He spent seven years in anti-organized-crime government positions, including Assistant U.S. Attorney for Massachusettsmarker. He entered the private practice of law in 1973, and was active for ten years. During those years he represented famous figures of the left: Eldridge Cleaver but also the right: G. Gordon Liddy. He was a professor at Boston College and Boston Universitymarker.

He died of a heart attack one week before his 60th birthday.


Higgins was a stylist, particularly noted for his realistic dialogue, as in works like The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

This dialogue-laden approach did not appeal to everyone. Roderick MacLeish said in Washington Post Book World that "the plot of a Higgins novel – suspense, humor and tragedy – is a blurrily perceived skeleton within the monsoon of dialogue." (quoted in Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, vol. 51, 213).

On the other hand, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote that The Friends of Eddie Coyle was "one of the best of its genre I have read since Hemingway's The Killers."

George V. Higgins was proud of his skill in rendering dialogue with great accuracy; he liked to point out that accurate dialogue was not a verbatim transcription of things said but an imaginativerecreation in compressed form. Higgins was also an expert in lending atmosphere to a series of harsh or barren facts, and in inducing his readers to figure out certain things artfully implied in the text but never stated.

Higgins once wrote wryly: "The success of The Friends of Eddie Coyle was termed 'overnight' in some quarters; that was one hell of a damned long night, lasting seventeen years..." During those 17 years, Higgins had written 14 previous novels; he eventually destroyed them.

Roderick MacLeish in the Times Literary Supplement wrote: "Like Joyce, Higgins uses language in torrents, beautifully crafted, ultimately intending to create a panoramic impression." (also quoted in Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, vol. 51, 213.) "He was an exceptional, perhaps the exceptional, postwar American political novelist," said Lord Grey Gowrie, chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain. (quoted in the USC Higgins collection article, see the external links section)

Many of Higgins's works focus on the criminal element and the cops that pursue them, in and around Boston. The four Jerry Kennedy books form a connected series, but characters important in some of his books often are mentioned in other books, usually in passing but significant references. This is true of Trust, Outlaws, Bomber's Law and the Kennedy books, and perhaps others.

In many cases, much of the text of a Higgins book consists of dialogue, often discursive and apparently rambling, from which the plot can be teased out by the reader.

In 1990, Higgins published "On Writing," a book of hard-bitten advice for aspiring writers. The book was notable for its long excerpts of writers Higgins admired, including Gay Talese, William Manchester and Irwin Shaw, and also for its unusually blunt judgments ("If you do not seek to publish what you have written, then you are not a writer and you never will be.")

The book's final paragraph might serve as an epitaph for George V. Higgins:"The secret remains that there is no secret. The way to determine whether you have talent is to rummage through your files and see if you have written anything; if you have, and quite a lot, then the chances are you have the talent to write more. If you haven't written anything, you do not have the talent because you don't want to write. Those who do can't help themselves. We do it for the hell of it, and those who raise a lot of hell, and then get very lucky, well, we make a living, too. There are worse ways to travel through this vale of tears than by doing the things you love, and making a living at it."

Published works


  • The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972)
  • The Digger's Game (1973)
  • Cogan's Trade (1974)
  • A City on a Hill (1975)
  • The Judgment of Deke Hunter (1976)
  • Dreamland (1977)
  • A Year or So with Edgar (1979)
  • Kennedy for the Defense (1980) (Jerry Kennedy series)
  • The Rat on Fire (1981)
  • The Patriot Game (1982)
  • A Choice of Enemies (1984)
  • Old Earl Died Pulling Traps: A Story (1984)
  • Penance for Jerry Kennedy (1985) (Jerry Kennedy series)
  • Imposters (1986)
  • Outlaws (1987)
  • The Sins of the Fathers (1988)
  • Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years (1988)
  • Trust (1989)
  • Victories (1990)
  • The Mandeville Talent (1991)
  • Defending Billy Ryan (1992) (Jerry Kennedy series)
  • Bomber's Law (1993)
  • Swan Boats at Four (1995)
  • Sandra Nichols Found Dead (1996) (Jerry Kennedy series)
  • A Change of Gravity (1997)
  • The Agent (1999)
  • At End of Day (2000)


  • The Easiest Thing in the World: The Unpublished Fiction of George V. Higgins (2004)

Non fiction


  • The Friends of Richard Nixon (1975)
  • Style Versus Substance, a book about Boston Mayor Kevin White and his relations with the press (1984)


  • The Progress of the Seasons (1989)


  • On Writing (1990)

External links

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