George V. Higgins was born in Brockton in 1939, raised in Rockland, the son of two school teachers. He graduated from Rockland High, Boston College, got a Masters' at Stanford and his law degree at B.C. Law.
When The Friends of Eddie Coyle was published in 1972, critics hailed Higgins an “overnight success.” His response was it was a “damn long night,” and he reportedly destroyed 14 manuscripts that had been rejected by publishers previously. When Eddie Coyle hit, he’d
already been a successful attorney in the Attorney General’s Office in
Massachusetts and the Massachusetts office of the U.S. Attorney, where
he prosecuted several underworld murders. He’d worked as a
reporter for Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin and Associated Press.
Higgins continued to practice law even after the success of his novels,
defending clients as diverse as Eldridge Cleaver and G. Gordon Liddy, and
went on to published over 30 works of fiction, non-fiction and short stories,
as well as essays and columns for a litany of publications in Boston and beyond.
Higgins died in his home in Milton in 1999.
During his life and career, and since his passing, Higgins’ pioneering use of dialogue in storytelling and his nuanced depiction of Boston’s hardscrabble characters has been cited as an influence of writers like Elmore Leonard, David Mamet, Quentin Tarantino, and Dennis Lehane. The Friends of Eddie Coyle, and the 1973 film, is widely considered to be the pinnacle of Boston crime stories, the “godfather” of The Departed, Mystic River, The Town, and Gone Baby Gone.
Elmore Leonard ranks it higher than that, calling The Friends of Eddie Coyle, “The best crime novel ever written--makes The Maltese Falcon read like Nancy Drew.”