With The Friends of Eddie Coyle, his debut crime novel, George V. Higgins offers up a singularly stunning work of gritty mean-street realism. As a former Massachusetts Assistant U.S. Attorney, his grasp and conveyance of the criminal underworld and its petty denizens - Eddie and friends, of course - is complete. His style rings crystal clear and true, especially in his intuitive understanding of how these men - and some women - speak to one another. Language is a weapon to be carefully discharged with precision after locating one's target, product, or desired outcome, and language is never to be used in an obvious or specific manner - plausible deniability is at the forefront of the speakers' minds. It's all feints and parries and subtexts and diversion. These guys never say what they mean; it is what they don't say that they mean. Fascinating.