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La Jugada d'en Digger (1973)

de George V. Higgins

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'Flawless of its kind - never a false word, phrase, rhythm, gesture.' - The New Republic Jerry 'Digger' Doherty is an ex-con and proprietor of a workingman's Boston bar, who supplements his income with the occasional 'odd job', like stealing live checks or picking up hot goods. His brother's a priest, his wife's a nag, and he has a deadly appetite for martinis and gambling. On a trip to Vegas, the Digger finds himself in the sights of a loan shark known as 'The Greek'. Luckily - if you call it luck - the Digger has been let in on a little job that can turn his gambling debt into a profit, if only he can pull it off without getting himself killed.… (més)
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Synopsis/blurb ....

The Digger, a Boston Irish bar owner, takes a curious package trip to Las Vegas at the invitation of the Regent's Sportsman's Club Inc. He wakes up with a savage hangover and a large debt to a person or persons unknown - which is worrying. He discovers he is in debt to the Greek - which is terrifying.

The Greek's interest rates are brutal and his debt-recovery techniques uncomfortably old-fashioned.

A fast, violent novel, The Digger's Game adds another chapter to George V. Higgins' unfolding portrait of modern America which began with The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

'(Higgins) has been blessed with an unerring ear - his style is bouncy, rich in nuance and humour, and his dialogue is informed by intelligence and wit . . . There is never a Higgins scene that isn't seamlessly fashioned or a character who rings false.'
Mordecai Richler, GQ Magazine
-------
My take ....

I do like 70s US crime fiction. There's something about it that just cries out to me ..... READ ME! I think I often get too caught up trying to keep on top of all the latest hot offerings and ignore the nagging inner voice, which is my own fault. (Note to self .... read more older books!)

70s Boston, Vegas, gambling, debt, deadlines, interest rates, family issues, criminal sorts, enforcers, chancers, money lenders, a priest for a brother, falling outs, other crimes, law enforcement, hostile takeovers, and a probably reckoning in the not too distant future.

I'm a month out from reading this and a lot of the finer details are vanishing into the ether, but from what I can recall.....

Great characters, dialogue, conversations, interactions. Most of the characters are kind of blue collar, working class sorts, a bit shady, a bit dodgy, happy to pick up a few extra bucks doing a job, no questions asked. There's a hard edge to them. The men run their households, control the wives and the money. The women raise the kids and don't complain too much about the drinking and the gambling and the whoring around.

I love how Higgins relays his tales, mostly through conversation. I like how you get to discover the story, as much through what he doesn't say and show as through what he displays. The ending in particular leaves the reader at a point where his imagination joins up the dots.

Strong, solid entertainment. Overall verdict - I liked it, but probably a little bit less than others of his.

4 from 5

After a long absence, ten years or so, in the past couple I've been revisiting Higgins work - The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Cogan's Trade and The Rat on Fire were all enjoyed in 2019.

Read - May, 2021
Published - 1973
Page count - 224
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback

https://col2910.blogspot.com/2021/06/george-v-higgins-diggers-game-1973.html ( )
  col2910 | Jun 15, 2021 |
A terrific novel by any standard. Everyone remarks on Higgins's dialogue, which is not "realistic" but stylized; these people deliver monologues the way in which characters in musicals burst into song. I assume that the talk of real dirtbags isn't as interesting or funny. For me, the draw of Higgins's novels is the way in which they dramatize the kinds of things that go on in offices and at work all the time: the plot here abut the Greek, Torrey, and Schabb could be replicated (minus the guns and mob junkets) in a thousand offices on Monday morning. This one also has three absolutely terrific set pieces: the Digger's wife giving him a hard time for how he eats and spends money, when the Digger asks his brother (a priest!) for eighteen-thousand dollars, and the one later on in which the Greek gets upset at the new ofice digs. Yes, there's some crime, but very little. This isn't a caper, but a great portrait of an unlikable loudmouth who gets himself in trouble. You'll read it, I don't know. Two, three days. Three days. (That's my weak imitation of Higgins.) ( )
  Stubb | Aug 28, 2018 |
Higgins second novel (not counting the 14 or so unpublished ones he threw away) after THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE is also a fantastic, dialogue-driven story of a small-time hood, Digger Doherty, trying to earn enough money to pay back an $18,000 gambling debt incurred during an unwise trip to Las Vegas. Digger is only part of the story, however. There's also the shady operation that sets up the gambling trips, run by a shady mafioso, "The Greek", and a disbarred but clever lawyer. The interrelated stories play themselves out over the course of the book. It looks very similar at first to the story of the hard luck Eddie Coyle, but Higgins has more up his sleeve and the ending is not routine at all. Throughout the story, the frequently profane dialogue will have you laughing or perhaps trying not to throw up. I have only read three of Higgins' book so far, but they are all winners. Don't miss this one. ( )
  datrappert | Jan 4, 2015 |
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'Flawless of its kind - never a false word, phrase, rhythm, gesture.' - The New Republic Jerry 'Digger' Doherty is an ex-con and proprietor of a workingman's Boston bar, who supplements his income with the occasional 'odd job', like stealing live checks or picking up hot goods. His brother's a priest, his wife's a nag, and he has a deadly appetite for martinis and gambling. On a trip to Vegas, the Digger finds himself in the sights of a loan shark known as 'The Greek'. Luckily - if you call it luck - the Digger has been let in on a little job that can turn his gambling debt into a profit, if only he can pull it off without getting himself killed.

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