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Literature / The Friends of Eddie Coyle

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The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a 1970 novel by Boston author George V. Higgins.

Eddie Coyle has a problem. He's going to prison, and needs the help of a cop to vouch for him so that his sentence is reduced. Only thing is, his way out is to become a snitch. He knows a few low-to-mid level hoods, but will it be enough to buy him his freedom?

The book was adapted into a 1973 movie of the same name, directed by Peter Yates and starring Robert Mitchum, Peter Boyle, and Alex Rocco.


The Friends of Eddie Coyle provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: Dillon, who is the guy you'd least suspect would lead Eddie to his death. And kill him personally.
  • All for Nothing: Eddie finally snitches on the bank robbers, only to be told by police they were caught the day before.
  • Bank Robbery: Several on the part of Scalisi, and the surprising thing is they (mostly) go off without a hitch. Except the last one.
  • Compensating for Something: Dave's awful, wonderful 1972 Plymouth Road Runner with a 383 Hemi V8. In lime green.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Sadly, Eddie is easily duped and killed by the story's real bad guy, Dillon, who was best buds all along with Dave Foley, the cop that was Eddie's last, best hope. This is made worse by the fact that Eddie delayed giving Foley the information that could have saved his own life.
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  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: Subverted mostly, in that most of the gangster characters are either doomed, broke, headed to prison — or all three.
  • Death by Irony: The ultimate fate of Eddie Coyle, who attempts to be a snitch, fails horribly, and is killed by the actual snitch — his "best friend", who he unwisely trusted despite being widely seen as a snitch by nearly everyone else.
  • Downer Ending: Hoo-yeah! Despite what we think, Eddie is easily duped by his good friend into coming along to a hockey game, where shortly thereafter he's killed. It's made all the worse by the fact that this same "friend" is the actual guy who ratted out the guys whom the other guys paid to kill Eddie. Catch that?
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Ironically subverted in that Eddie has no true friends.
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  • Final Speech/Planning for the Future Before the End: Before he is killed (unbeknownst to him), Eddie Coyle himself gets one about Bruins player Bobby Orr, saying, "Number four, Bobby Orr — what a future he has." Unfortunately, Eddie doesn't have much of a future himself.
  • Friendly Enemy: Dillon, who is Eddie's drinking buddy and regular bartender, ends up using Eddie to eliminate Scalisi, then murders Eddie.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Eddie continues trusting those around him, despite the fact that after Scalisi goes down, everyone is sure that Eddie was the snitch. And that means one thing...
  • Hot Guy, Ugly Wife: Mean, but perhaps true.
  • Karma Houdini: To intensify the Downer Ending, Dillon gets away with betraying and murdering Eddie.
  • Left Hanging: Gun dealer Jackie Brown is arrested after Eddie tips the cops on Brown's upcoming machine gun sale. He swears Revenge, but is never heard from again.
  • Loser Protagonist: Sadly, that just about sums ol' Eddie up.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Despite pretending to live by a code of honor, Eddie is set up as a fall guy by Dillon, who makes Eddie look like a snitch to get him whacked. The irony is that Eddie tried to be a snitch, but failed miserably.
  • Outlaw Couple: The wannabe hippie couple who want to buy guns from Jackie Brown.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Slightly subverted. While the script is full of memorable lines, scenes and characters do tend to meander (enjoyably).
  • Speech-Centric Work: Like most George V. Higgins works.
  • Twist Ending: It's bad enough that Eddie is killed, until we find out that the reason it happened was Dillon and Foley were friends all along.


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