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At End of Day Hardcover – May 10, 2000

4.1 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt (May 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151003580
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151003587
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #964,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the story - with almost all the details right - of the Whitey Bulger and Steve (The Rifleman) Flemmi saga. Bulger's trial is now underway in Boston's Federal Court and George V. Higgins, one of our greatest writers, had the whole story right and the guts to tell it shortly before he died, too young, in 1999.

No one, not John P. Marquand or Robert Parker or Edmund O'Connor ever caught the unique speech, both pattern and content, that is Boston's and New England's alone like George V. Higgins does here and in the 29 other books he wrote. Some readers complain it's tough going, having to make sense of dialogue that replaces description. I'm from here, so maybe that makes it easier for me, but to savor his words, words said the way I still hear them, less now to be sure as we homogenize our speech, about people I knew or feel I could have known, set in places I live and work in daily, is pure joy. In his words I hear my history being told one more time. For an outsider, it might be tough going, but I promise you it's worth every minute spent reading what he wrote, both for the content (spot on) and the style (like I said, nobody does Boston better.)

But the play's the thing, and here Higgins had either incredible foresight or great sources or more likely, both, because I have friends reading it as they watch the trial feed on Twitter and the evening news (no cameras in Federal courts) and they are simply amazed that anyone, let alone an author dead for 15 years, could have known the whole sordid story and written it down long before they tracked Whitey down. There's no point detailing the plot - it's all on the news.
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