A hard-hitting, tour-de force tale of the mob and the man who makes sure their rules are the only rules, by the American master of crime George V. Higgins.
Jackie Cogan is an enforcer for the New England mob. When a high-stakes card game is heisted by unknown hoodlums, Cogan is called in to "handle" the problem. Moving expertly and ruthlessly among a variety of criminal hacks, hangers-on, and bigger-time crooks--a classic cast of misfits animated by Higgins's hilarious, cracklingly authentic dialogue--Cogan gets to the root of the problem and, with five consecutive shots from a Smith & Wesson thirty-eight Police Special, restores order to his corner of the Boston underworld.
Combining his remarkable wit and a singular ability to show criminal life as it is lived, George V. Higgins builds an incredible story of crime to an unforgettable climax.
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November 01, 2011
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Excerpt from Cogan's Trade by George V. Higgins
AMATO IN A GRAY SUIT with a muted red stripe, textured pink shirt with his initials on the left French cuff, a maroon and gold tie, sat at the kidney-shaped, walnut veneer desk and stared. "I got to give it to you," he said, "you're a great-looking couple of guys. Come in here about four hours late, you look like shit and you stink. The fuck, you looklike you just got out of jailor something."
"His fault," the first one said. "He was late. I stood around there and I waited for him."
Both of them wore black boots with red suede inserts. The first one wore an army-green poncho, a frayed gray sweater and faded blue jeans. He had long hair, dirty-blond, and mutton-chop sideburns. The second one wore an army-green poncho, a gray sweatshirt and dirty white jeans. He had long black hair that reached his shoulders. He had the beginnings of a black beard.
"I hadda get my dogs in," the second one said. "I got fourteen dogs, there. Takes me a while. I can't, I can't just go. off some place, leave them dogs out."
"You're all covered with hair, too," Amato said. "You been backing them dogs up to you, I guess."
"Comes from beating off, Squirrel," the second one said. "I come out, I haven't got your advantages, nice business waiting for me, all that. good shit. I got to hustle."
" 'Johnny' around here," Amato said, "you can call me 'Johnny' here. Most of the help calls me 'Mister,' but you can call me 'Johnny.' That'll be all right."
"I'll work on that, Squirrel, I really will," the second one said. "You got to make allowances for me, you know? I, like I just got out of fuckin' jail. My head's all fucked up. I got to read just to society, is what I got to do."
"You couldn't've got somebody else," Amato said to the first one. "This item looks like shit and he don't have no manners. I got to put up with shit like this?"
"I could've," the first one said, "but you asked me, you know, get somebody that was all right. Russell, here, he's maybe kind of a wise ass, but he's all right if you can stand him."
"Sure," Russell said, "and a guy like you, he wants something done, hasn't got the stones, do it himself, I think he oughta try pretty hard, too."
"I really don't like this prick," Amato said to the first one. "He's too fuckin' fresh for my blood. How about going out and getting me a nice tough nigger? I don't think I can stand this cocksucker long enough to tell him what I want."
"Russell, for Christ sake," the first one said, "willya shut the fuck up and stop jerking the guy's chain? He's tryin' to do us a favor."
"I didn't know that," Russell said. "I thought he wanted us to do him a favor. That the straight shit, Squirrel? You tryin', do nle a favor?"
"Get the fuck out of here," Amato said.
"Hey," Russell said, "that's no fuckin' way, talk to a guy. The fuck you sell driving lessons to people, you go around talking to a guy like that?"
"This thing I got in mind," Amato said, "the two guys I get to do it're gonna cut up about thirty, I figure. Thirty K. Shitbirds like him, Frankie, shitbirds like him I can buy for eighty cellts a dozen, they throw in another free. Get me somebody else, Frankie. I'm not gonna put up with this kinda shit."
"Remember them habes we had?" Frankie said.
"Habes," Amato said, "what habes? We had about nine hundred habes. Every time I turn around that monkey's pulling out something else I got to sign. What habes?"
"They, the ones they bring us down for," Frankie said. "The federal ones."
"On the line-up thing," Amato said, "yeah. The time that big coon come after me."
"Long Tall Sally," Frankie said.
"I dunno what his name was," Amato said. "We didn't have no nice conversation or anything. He was just trying to get my pants off and I was just trying to stop him from getting my pants off, is all. 'Jes hold still there a minute, white boy, I'm gonna shove all my good time right up your sugah ass.' Fuckin' guy. He had white lipstick on."
"The next night he wasn't there," Frankie said.
"The next night I wasn't there," Amato said. "If I had've been that fuckin' nigger wouldn't've, boy. I got Billy Dunn a wood chisel for that fucker, he was gonna grab him in the yard if I was there. Fuckin' dumb screws, can't always depend on them guys showin' up when you need them like that, guy's liable to learn a new way, he's not careful."
"You were in Norfolk," Frankie said.
"I was in Norfolk," Amato said. "Sit there all day listening to some kid make a fuckin' asshole outa my goddamned lawyer, all I can think about's what Billy's gonna do to that coon, I get back there, and then it turns out, I'm going to Norfolk. Only thing I see that night, there's this nun in a gray thing, there, wants to know, do I wanna learn the fuckin' guitar."
"I know her," Russell said. "She's allover the place. She was up to Concord once. I said to her, I said: 'Sister, I wanted to play the guitar, I would've grabbed a fuckin' guitar.' After that she left me alone. Lot of the guys liked her, though."
"That night the nigger was in the hospital," Frankie said.
"Good," Amato said. "I hope he fuckin' died."
"Nope," Frankie said, "but I seen him. He was missing about three feet of skin off his fuckin' head."