Friday, July 16, 2010
Review of Cogan’s Trade by George V. Higgins (1974, Robinson)
Cogan’s Trade is a relatively simple story consisting of just nineteen extended scenes. Each scene is largely conversational, with little in the way of action. Interestingly, Higgins simply drops the reader into conversations and then lets them try to work out what is happening – a bit like taking a seat on a bus and overhearing a conversation taking place between nearby passengers and trying to work out what is being discussed, the context, how threads intertwine, who they might be talking about, etc. It’s an interesting approach and for the most part works well. The only downside is that the dialogue often has little to do with the plot – it’s just everyday chat that works to give a portrait of the small number of characters. As a result, the style tends to work at the expense of the plot. I love dialogue driven stories, but it has to serve the plot. Personally I would have preferred some of the conversations to be trimmed back to the mostly relevant bits and a doubling of the number of scenes. Overall, an interesting and enjoyable read with first rate dialogue, but the plot falls a little short for my tastes.