When people say that they love '70's movies, one of the movies they love must surely be Peter Yates' ultimate '70's crime story "The Friends of Eddie Coyle", a story of Boston bank robbers, gun dealers, Federal agents and low level mobsters and the poor schmuck caught in between them all, just out in a loving new Criterion Collection dvd edition.
Featuring a performance by Robert Mitchum that feels like the boiled down essence of his life-long pursuit of heavy-lidded, cool-handed tough guys, and an impeccable supporting cast with ace character guys like Peter Boyle and Alex Rocco and Richard Jordan in virtually every part, along with a funky score by Dave Grusin that plays like the white man's Superfly, it is a movie to make you fall in love with movies all over again.
At the time it came out, I was actually more familiar with the book it was based on and the author who wrote it than Yates or anyone else involved with the film. George V. Higgins was the real deal, an assistant United States attorney who worked on organized crime cases, and turned his experience and talent and ear for great dialogue into a career as a crime novelist.
Eddie Coyle was his first and most famous book, but I also remember Digger's Game and Cogan's Trade and The Judgment of Deke Hunter as effective stories that felt bracingly authentic. His world was Boston and its suburbs and his characters were part of the crime scene there that bubbled along as a fact of every day life which I remember being vaguely conscious of when I lived there in the mid to late '70's myself.
Higgin's died suddenly of a heart attack before he got to turn 60, but he wrote a book about writing later in life.
Here's a memorable quote from it that rings as true as Eddie Coyle's busted up fingers:
"The secret remains that there is no secret. The way to determine whether you have talent is to rummage through your files and see if you have written anything; if you have, and quite a lot, then the chances are you have the talent to write more. If you haven't written anything, you do not have the talent because you don't want to write. Those who do can't help themselves. We do it for the hell of it, and those who raise a lot of hell, and then get very lucky, well, we make a living, too. There are worse ways to travel through this vale of tears than by doing the things you love, and making a living at it."
That last sentence feels harder to do today than ever, but what is the point otherwise?