Friday, January 20, 2012

Lawyers and ***holes: Carofiglio and Higgins

A typical passage in George V. Higgins' Cogan's Trade runs thus:
"I swore when I got out I was gonna make every minute count, the rest of my life. ... And am I doing it? No. Of course I’m not. I’m just as big an asshole now as I was before.
That's one character, Amato. But assholes run through the novel like the motto theme through a Romantic symphony:
"`Some time, I hope,' Russell said, “you got over being an asshole.”

“`I’m not sure,' Frankie said."
And that sort of self-doubt and introspection, though expressed in earthy terms, is what readers must mean when they praise Higgins for making even violent lowlife characters human.
I remarked in yesterday's post that Higgins has a surprisingly large bibliography for an author so strongly associated with a single novel (The Friends of Eddie Coyle.) An alert commenter pointed out that a movie version of Cogan's Trade is due out this year, starring Brad Pitt.

Here's a quick rundown of Higgins' novels that may prove useful to readers unfamiliar with his work beyond The Friends of Eddie Coyle.
Higgins is not the only lawyer-turned-crime writer whose work I'm reading these days. Gianrico Carofiglio's Temporary Perfections offers a typical Carofiglio observation that may help explain why he no longer practices law.

Carofiglio's protagonist, Guido Guerrieri, is called on to defend a young man who tries to kill himself by turning on a gas oven in a sealed room, is rescued by carabinieri (Italy's military/civil police), and unexpectedly finds himself in legal trouble:
"They found the young man unconscious on the floor but, miraculously, still in and of this world. In other words, they saved his life. But, after checking with the magistrate on duty at the time, they also arrested him. On charges of mass murder."
The gentle dissection of the absurdity of the Italian law in question that follows is, in its mix of bemusement, matter-of-fact analysis, and quiet crusading, typical of the Guerrieri books. I once asked if Guerrieri might be the world's sanest crime fiction protagonist. That was just another way of saying he might be the most likable and endearingly human.
© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

An asshole who knows he's an asshole is far better than just an asshole.

January 20, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Spoken with insight worthy of the sages.

Yes, that self-knowledge is what makes those assholes endearing characters, touchingly human. That was one of Higgins' real achievements.

January 20, 2012  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Guido Brunetti is sane. Martin Beck fits that description, too. So is Elinborg in Indridason's books.

January 22, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And I'll mention again Stuart M. Kaminsky's Abe Lieberman.

January 22, 2012  

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