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George V. Higgins

David Mamet’s No. 1 favorite novel for dialogue*

Gripping and entertaining, George V. Higgins delivers a compelling and uncomfortably realistic account of the way society and the law really function.

It’s been a decade since the turbulent ’60s and policeman John Richards still has to deal with a handful of leftover student radicals who continue to terrorize the Boston streets. In an effort to convict them once and for all, he liaises with ambitious lawyer Terry Gleason. Matters culminate one crisp Sunday morning when the students decide to rob the Friary, a pub in downtown Boston well-established as a site of drug-trafficking. Seven civilians are left dead in what comes to be called the Friary massacre. The trial proves nightmarish and unpredictable, not unlike the decade it took Richards and Gleason to apprehend the culprits in the first place.

In a heart-stopping rendition of cops and robbers, Outlaws proves that in the Boston demimonde nothing is as it seems.

George V. Higgins was the author of more than 20 novels, including the bestsellers The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Cogan’s Trade, 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.


*”Great dialogue—in novels, drama, on the street corner, or at the barbershop — adheres to our consciousness and shapes our understanding of the world. If you appreciate great dialogue, read some of George Higgins’ novels. He was a 1970s state and federal prosecutor before he became a Homeric chronicler-inventor of the language of the cops, crooks, and shysters of Boston.” —David Mamet, “David Mamet’s 6 Favorite Books with Amazing Dialogue,” The Week, March 4, 2018

“A hell of a story from a hell of a storyteller” Daily Mail (UK)


The Friends of George V. Higgins

“For the past thirty years the greatest novelists writing in English have been genre writers: John le Carré, George Higgins, and Patrick O’Brian.” —David Mamet, New York Times, January 17, 2000

“The Balzac of the Boston underworld. … Higgins is almost uniquely blessed with a gift for voices, each of them … as distinctive as a fingerprint.” The New Yorker

“There are few people who write as well as George and no one who writes quite like him. … As Duke Ellington once said about music, there are only two kinds—good and bad. Higgins was good.” —Robert B. Parker

“George V. Higgins was an American original and a writer of lasting importance.” —Scott Turow

“Higgins is my favorite. … No, he doesn’t learn from me, I learn from him.” —Elmore Leonard

“Aspiring writers of any genre, not just legal suspense, would be wise to read lots of George Higgins.” —John Grisham

“A writer of Balzacian appetite … the poet of Boston sleaze … confident and totally convincing. … If the unassuming Higgins doesn’t belong in the very front of contemporary novelists (say, Saul Bellow, Walker Percy, Toni Morrison, John Updike), he doesn’t lag far behind either.” —Mordecai Richler

“Completely original … technical virtuosity … an absolutely pitch perfect ear for the way real people, cops and criminals, really talk …earned a permanent place in our literary history.” —George Garrett

“Higgins belongs alongside Hammett, Chandler and Ross Macdonald.” —Philip French, The New Statesman (UK)

“No other living crime writer bucks the formulas or generates tension in quite the same way.” —Matthew Coady, The Guardian (UK)

“There can’t have been such a true ear for the spoken word since the young [John] O’Hara stalked Fifth Avenue.” —George Duthie, The Scotsman

“Posing as a tough-guy documentarian, Higgins is an experimental virtuoso.” —Walter Clemons, Newsweek

“He was vitality itself. He spoke as brilliantly and wittily as he wrote.” —John Silber (president emeritus, Boston University)

“Higgins was a bril­liantly clever, savagely bitter observer of society. His death is a severe loss.” Atlantic Monthly

“It’s a sin and a shame that George V. Higgins never won the Pulitzer Prize.” Seattle Times

“Nobody talks the talk like the late George V. Higgins. His mas­tery of the patois of the Boston criminal class is legendary.” San Jose Mercury News

More Raves for GVH

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Vintage Books, 2010

First published by Henry Holt in 1987.

Published in England by Orion (paperback, £9.99).

Orion (UK), 2012

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