Books: The Man with the Golden Ear

George V. Higgins thrives on the precept that talk is plot

One fine day in 1972, an assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts drove to the city dump in Rockland, Mass., took 14 bulky typescripts out of his car and heaved them as far as he could into the trash. "I waited till the bulldozer came by and buried them," said George V. Higgins recently, recalling the scene with satisfaction. "And then I left."

So far, Higgins' first 14 novels have not risen from Rockland's slime to shame their creator. Most of them, he says, had shamed him already, by collecting thumbprints and rejection letters from virtually all the reputable...

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