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At End of Day Paperback – May 14, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

George V. Higgins, who died as At End of Day was going to press, reinvented the language of the crime novel with his ability to breathe life into the dialogue of the small-time hoodlum. At the end of all of Higgins's fictional days--from his first novel, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, to this practically posthumous work--lie 1,001 nights in which FBI agents and crime bosses become consonant-dropping, vowel-skewing, grammar-ignoring Scheherazades whose stories are recounted with the deadly accurate tone that became the author's trademark.

At End of Day tells the story of the downfall of Boston mobster Arthur McKeach; more precisely, it tells the story of those who tell the story of McKeach's undoing. In Higgins's world--though he could write a mean murder scene--crime is less an immediate event than a moment to which his characters return to weave complicated, often conflicting narratives. At the novel's center lies a problematic alliance between McKeach and his top henchman, Nick Cistaro, and FBI agents Darren Stoat and Jack Farrier: the mobsters provide information to the FBI about their Mafia rivals in return for protection. To say that the partnership serves to humanize both sides, or to claim that the yoke of creative necessity harnesses men who are ironically similar, is to pander to the obvious. Far better to relax into the intoxicating rhythms of the characters' language, as when McKeach attempts to educate a horrified Stoat in the underworld code of behavior:

His expression was calm, his tone the patient monotone, varied by occasional emphasis, that an earnest instructor would use addressing interested novices. 'But then the big guys get involved in private fights, one of them floats in onna tide? Reason don't matter--if he's big then his guys're involved, they don't have no choice. It's then a matter of honor. And besides, if the guys who aren't dead, if they expect to keep what they've got, well then, they'd better get involved too. Show some respect for their guy who is dead, and retaliate, right? Because otherwise the guys who did him'll come around and do them, take over his whole territory. So--never mind why he is dead, he is dead--revenge is their duty to him, and themselves, to show they're still men.'

McKeach lives, and others die, by this code; his unwavering control is the axis around which At End of Day revolves. Higgins fans both old and new will find themselves captivated by McKeach's authority and Higgins's hypnotic prose. --Kelly Flynn --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

At the time of his death last November, acclaimed crime novelist Higgins had published 29 books, beginning with The Friends of Eddie Coyle in 1972. His 30th and last offers another of his beautifully rendered wanderings through the underworld of south Boston. Much of the story drills into the domain of two gangsters, Nick Cistaro and Arthur McKeath, and their unusual relationship with the city's top FBI men, tough veteran Jack Farrier and bumbling sycophant Darren Stoat. Both sides meet regularly for a civilized dinner, slipping each other just enough information so they can succeed at their respective pursuits. The genius of the narration, however, lies in the (at first) seemingly aimless side roadsAcharacter sketches, back stories, long dialogue digressionsAthat Higgins takes just when it looks like a central plot is forming. There's the crippled Vietnam vet who's scheming to cheat pharmacies out of painkillers usually reserved for bone cancer sufferers; the antiques dealer who treats his loan sharks dismissivelyAuntil they break his teeth; the cop's son entering the police academy who's not ready to give up his sideline as a mob gofer; the FBI agent whose wife's inept stock-market plays are driving them into bankruptcy. By novel's end, Higgins pulls enough of the plotcords together to fashion an intricate, tantalizing t knot. All of his signature touches are present, yet the book has a grittier feel than much of his recent work (The Agent; Swan Boats at Four). The themes are broader, the behavior coarser and the coziness between cops and crooks oilier. And it's all wrapped in a dark brand of humor that a guy like Eddie Coyle would appreciate. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books; Reprint edition (May 14, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156011905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156011907
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #541,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Frank J. O'Connor on September 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
would be an appropriate subtitle for this roman a clef wherein Whitey, Steve "the Rifleman" Flemmi, notorious FBI agent John Connally and their circle get the classic Higgins treatment. Once again the soliloquies are the star attraction, full of Higginsian rifts and rants, ribald, vulgar, always shrewd and sometimes wise, but always lush of language, on the thousand and one shocks that make getting through the day such an difficult and unrewarding task. While its true all the characters talk in the same patois (even the woman talk out of the side of their mouths) you grant Higgins the indulgence so absorbing are these blue collar monologues. Updike speaking through the mouth of Rabbit is the closest comparison I can think of.
Sadly, this was Higgins valediction, so it is appropriate that it is such a Boston story; for nobody delineated the world of hoodlum Beantown these last thirty years like George V. Higgins. Like all the best, he created a world, and for all the sordidness and cynicism animating it, it was not without its charms: in his wonderful novels the pen does prove mightier than the sawed-off shotgun.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Doug Vaughn HALL OF FAME on September 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The books of George V. Higgins are, I suspect, an acquired taste. They are considered by many readers to be too difficult because there is no straight forward narration and because so much of the books are made up of dialogue - or more often, long monologues. The plot emerges slowly from what the characters say. A reader who is in a hurry to be engaged in the story is likely to be disappointed. But for those who have grown to love Higgins's ear for vernacular and the peculiarities of ordinary speech, all of his books are treasures that can be savored slowly for the richness of the language alone.
At End of Day is the story of an unholy alliance between two members of the Boston mob and a select group of FBI agents whose careers have been made successful through information these mobsters have provided about their Mafia counterparts. The FBI, in turn, has protected these men from prosecution which has allowed them to even commit murder with impunity (though this is "against the rules"). This tale is all the more interesting because it is based on a true story.
It is a shame that this is the last Higgins book we will have. He died as it was going to press. On the positive side, he wrote so many books during his career that fans of his style should have no trouble finding something to satisfy that acquired taste.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By jack nye on January 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
The sad death of George V Higgins means this will be his last book. It is certainly one to remember. Readers new to Higgins will at first find his style somewhat "difficult": his novels centre on the criminals, law enforcement agents and politicians (they are usually amusingly similar) of Boston, but instead of the usual descriptive narrative, the plot unfolds through the conversations of people often only tangentially concerned with its developement. Once one gets used to this digressive way of telling a story one quickly becomes engrossed in the story he is relating: in this case, the disturbingly close relationship between Boston's chief FBI agents and two leaders of organised crime in the city (apparantly based on a real case). I have to confess to being slightly disappointed with some of Higgins' most recent works (although they are still better than most "crime" fiction), but this last novel is brilliant; I know it is a cliche, but I could not put it down. One is genuinely engaged by the diverse and acutely drawn characters, though Higgins cleverly constantly reminds us that behind their apparant good-nature and charm, most of them are really either cold-blooded loan sharks who have no compunction in using extreme violence to maintain their way of life, or law enforcement officials (and their families) with a somewhat ambivalent attitude to the law they are supposed to be enforcing! As with most of Higgins' novels, I immediately went back and re-read it, and of course saw things I had missed first time: you certainly get good value out of his books. I would class this as one of his best, and it is very sad to think that there will not be any more.Read more ›
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous reviewer on August 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I read "At End of Day" in honor of Higgins's passing. In a (perhaps not so) strange coincidence, it deals with exactly the same topic (shady symbiotic alliance between FBI agents and two Boston organized crime figures) as the recent and highly touted non-fiction book "Black Mass" (apologies for forgetting the authors). While not GVH's best novel (even among the recent ones, I prefer "The Agent"), I found it much more enjoyable than the disappointing "Black Mass". One slight cavil, possibly attributable to various rush factors: AEoD is not as well-edited as other GVH books, with a variety of typos and misspellings. Maybe not for Higgins newcomers, but recommended to fans of his Boston crime work, and anyone who's read "Black Mass" ought to check it out for a different approach.
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