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Killing Them Softly (aka Cogan’s Trade)

movie tie-in edition

By George V. Higgins

Now a major motion picture Starring Brad Pitt

Jackie Cogan is an enforcer for the mob. When a high-stakes card game is heisted by unknown hoodlums, Cogan is called in to “handle” the problem. Moving expertly and ruthlessly among a variety of criminal hacks, hangers-on, and bigger-time crooks—a classic cast of misfits animated by Higgins’s hilarious, cracklingly authentic dialogue—Cogan gets to the root of the problem and, with five consecutive shots from a Smith & Wesson thirty-eight Police Special, restores order to his corner of the underworld.

The movie version is directed by Andrew Dominik, who adapted George V. Higgins‘s bestselling novel Cogan’s Trade (1974), and stars Brad Pitt, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Vincent Curatola, Max Casella, and Sam Shepard.

George V. Higgins was the author of more than 20 novels, including the bestsellers The Friends of Eddie CoyleCogan’s TradeThe Rat on Fire, and The Digger’s Game. He was a reporter for the Providence Journal and the Associated Press before obtaining a law degree from Boston College Law School in 1967. He was an assistant attorney general and then an assistant United States attorney in Boston from 1969 to 1973. He later taught creative writing at Boston University. He died in 1999.


“Why haven’t more movies stolen from George V. Higgins? He died in 1999, but his work remains a trove, begging to be raided for linguistic loot.” —Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

“George V. Higgins is the master stylist of the current generation of serious thriller writers. Cogan’s Trade is a brilliant exposition of Higgins’s Boston underworld as the flip side of all respectable lives of desperation. As a thriller it is that taut story whose drama is heightened by our own understanding of how it has to end.” Washington Post Book World

“A masterly description of a lonely, brutal, and insecure world … and like all fine thrillers, it has a metaphoric quality as well. … It should make a reflective reader grateful.” Wall Street Journal

“Another gripping plunge into Boston’s underworld. This is real crime, with its chanciness, its rawness, its carelessly dirty talk tape-recorder true.” The Times (London)

“The ultimate in hard-boiled gutter fiction.” Boston Globe

“About as perfect as anything an American writer has done in years. It’s absolutely flawless. … All his books attain a high order of craftsmanship.”—John Gregory Dunne

“If John Le Carré captures the world of spies, George V. Higgins grabs the lifestyle of the American underworld by the throat. In Cogan’s Trade he superbly re-creates the world of minor gangsters.” Daily Mirror (UK)

“A superb novel. . . His work will be read when the work of competing writers has been forgotten.” Chicago Daily News

“This is real crime with the chanciness, its rawness, its carelessly dirty talk tape-recorder true.” —H.R.F. Keating, The Times (London)

“A superb novel that happens to be about criminals. … George V. Higgins is a complete novelist. The publication of his third novel will elicit reviews designating him the best crime novelist now writing. But this begs the question of Higgins’s real stature. … His ability to command the reader’s confidence defines his achievement. He knows what he is writing about … He makes us believe in his work.” Chicago Daily News

More Raves for GVH

Killing Them Softly (aka Cogan’s Trade)
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Vintage Crime / Black Lizard, 2011

First published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1974.

Now a major motion picture.

(Watch the trailer. View on Netflix (as of March 2020)

Vintage/Black Lizard, 2011

In Britain, Orion reissued Cogan and six other Higgins titles, in electronic and/or paperback format(s). Foreign publishers around the world have reissued Cogan: Chinese (simplified: Shanghai Translation; complex: Big Apple); French (Lafon), German (Verlag Antje Kunstmann), Hungarian (Cartaphilus), Italian (Einaudi), Japanese (Hayakawa), Korean (Screenseller), Polish (C&T), Russian (Azbooka), Serbian (Laguna), Spanish (Asteroide), and Bulgarian (Locus). Audible.com issued a newly recorded unabridged audio version of Cogan and relicensed 8 other Higgins titles on its backlist (available on iTunes, Audible/Amazon, etc.).

The movie of The Friends of Eddie Coyle was reissued on DVD by Criterion in 2009. Read/hear appreciations on WBUR and the Boston Globe.

Foreign rights in George V. Higgins’s books are managed by the Marsh Agency in London (or contact LaFarge).

Visit the George V. Higgins archive at USC.

Books by George V. Higgins
The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972)^
The Digger’s Game (1973)†*^
Cogan’s Trade (1974)†*^
A City on a Hill (1975)
The Friends of Richard Nixon (1975)
The Judgment of Deke Hunter (1976)
Dreamland (1977)
A Year or So with Edgar (1979)
Kennedy for the Defense (1980)†^
The Rat on Fire (1981)†*^
The Patriot Game (1982)†*^
A Choice of Enemies (1984)
Penance for Jerry Kennedy (1985)†^
Imposters (1986)
Outlaws (1987)†*^
The Sins of the Fathers (1988)
Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years (1988)
The Progress of the Seasons (1989)^
Trust (1989)†^
On Writing (1990)
Victories (1990)
The Mandeville Talent (1991)
Defending Billy Ryan (1992)†^
Bomber’s Law (1993)†^
Swan Boats at Four (1995)
Sandra Nichols Found Dead (1996)^
A Change of Gravity (1997)^
The Agent (1998)
At End of Day (2000)†*^
The Easiest Thing in the World: The Uncollected Fiction of George V. Higgins (ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli) (2004)

†Vintage (US), 2011/12
*Orion (UK), 2012