Thursday, February 8, 2018

E-Book: "Cogan's Trade" by George V. Higgins

E-Book: Cogan's Trade by George V. Higgins, 1974. I read a 2012 movie tie-in entitled Killing Them Softly after the Brad Pitt movie.

I read Higgins's The Friends of Eddie Coyle after the great Charlie Stella mentioned in several online interviews about how significant Friends was on his own writing life. Cogan's Trade is set in the same criminal underworld of 1970s Boston.

Frank and Russell are unwashed (literally, they smell bad) ex-cons meeting with Jack Amato. Amato has a robbery lined up but needs a couple guys to do the work. Jackie and Russell take the job and rob an illegal card game protected by the mob. The three of them figure they can get away with the robbery because the man who runs the game, Trattman, robbed his own game once before.

That Trattman got away with the first robbery means he'll surely get the blame for the second robbery and then Amato and company will get away clean. Frank and Russell rob the joint and Jackie Cogan is called in. Cogan has worked under the infamous, hitman and fixer Dillon. For this call Cogan is hired by an unnamed lawyer who, in turn, works for an unnamed mob boss.

Cogan starts asking around. Almost the entire book is guys talking. Talking about the robbery. Talking about life in the Navy. Life in the Army. Life in prison. Talking about hot women. Talking about sex or the lack of. Talking about other crooks. Talking about using older convicts in prison for sex. Brothers discussing family life before giving Trattman a vicious and casual beating.

All the crooks need money. They need money for wives. They need money for children. They need money for mistresses and cars and attorneys and new roofs. They all need money and they are all willing to do things for money. After all, no one wants to go back to prison, but they can hack it if they do. And, if they are in prison at least they won't get nagged by wives and girlfriends - sometimes by both.

Read it.

1. Cogan pushes the lawyer for the hit on Trattman and the robbers. Cogan is right with his underworld logic, "You gotta kill Trattman, or you're fucked because every card game will be at risk." But, Cogan is also getting another $5,000 payday per murder.
2. The film version with Pitt very closely follows the novel. Some of the film dialogue is word-for-word with the novel. That makes sense seeing as how Higgins seems to have been the dialogue dude when it comes to crooks, cons, and hangers on. Even the murders and robbery exactly follow Higgins's text.
3. I checked the inflation calculator on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and it says $5,000 in December, 1973 is worth $26,680 today. Cogan earned $80,000 for three murders.

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