cover image Victories


George V. Higgins. Henry Holt & Company, $19.45 (298pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-1219-4

The characters in Higgins's 22nd book ( The Friends of Eddie Coyle was the first) are as talkative as he is prolific. Baseball star Henry Briggs had retired in the mid-1960s to his farm in Occident, Vt., where, with strings pulled by politico Ed Cobb, he keeps busy as game warden. Briggs is both conscientious and compassionate, occasionally letting poor families bag illegal game for food. Mostly, he suffers the complaints of his wife, Lillian, and keeps up with the taciturn locals, none of whom has secrets from the others. But 1968 is an important election year and Cobb persuades Briggs to challenge Bob Wainwright, the Republican Congressman, for the seat he's held for 28 years. Briggs's decision to run, its reception around Occident and Wainwright's response provide the bulk of the tale, advanced almost entirely via conversation. Its satisfying resolution is less important than the getting there; that Higgins builds a compelling story from such material is proof of his talents. Pitch-perfect dialogue and credible characters (especially Russ Wixton, a sportswriter turned political columnist) who act from complex, generations-old motives give this story a lasting power. (Dec.)