There is no doubt remaining in my mind, having just read this new age dissertation concerning the joys and tragedies of the American Underbelly in action, that The Friends of Eddie Coyle (TFOEC) is an EXTRAORDINARY READING EXPERIENCE. The late, great Elmore Leonard even went so far as to call it, “The Greatest Crime Novel of all time” – but who am I to argue with Elmore Leonard? Well as the famous song goes, “I am, who I am, who I am” so I guess I have the right to argue with just about anyone.
Anyway, the story and action is so real that it jumps right out at you virtually from the opening sentence. The characters and their use of English language are both so vivid and perfectly pitched that I thought my kindle had magically morphed into a state of the art 3D Smart Television. (Give the folks at Amazon a few years and it probably will!!!). The book is not funny. It is never meant to be. Unless, of course, you know a cop or a bank robber with the same mannerisms or voice inflections that matches the book’s characters. Then it becomes a riot. TFOEC is quite short and flies along at breakneck speed. I had passed the half way mark without even trying which further reinforces the quality of the writing and associated story telling. There is a plot, but it takes a (relative) while – and a back seat to the action - for the reader to figure out the good guys from the bad ones. But the joy is in the reading and the determining. And once you have done that, you will realise in your hands lies a character / dialogue driven masterpiece of 20th century crime literature that could have been constructed by Michelangelo had he picked up a scroll and ink instead of a paintbrush. TFOEC takes the event of reading and morphs it into a joyous experience. For that is the emotion you feel the most each time you sit down to absorb this literary jewel.
TFOEC is unique. It is priceless. But is it “the greatest crime novel ever written”? Well, that is debatable. I would say no but it easily falls into the GREAT category.
But if you ask me the same question in a few years when I have read it at least once, I might give you a different answer.