The agent /
George V. Higgins.
1st ed.
New York : Harcourt Brace, c1998.
341 p. ; 24 cm.
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More Details
New York : Harcourt Brace, c1998.
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A Look Inside
First Chapter

Chapter One

IN THE FLEET CENTER on Causeway Street in Boston, far below the owners' skybox where Alexander Drouhin--early sixties, trim, wavy silver hair, blue blazer, white turtleneck--sat perfectly erect across the table from Joe Corwin, the bull gang in blue uniforms was pulling up the parquet floor, exposing the hockey ice beneath. Corwin--late fifties, jowly, paunchy, weary-looking, some gray hair remaining, blue denim shirtsleeves, red knitted tie pulled down--lounged in his chair. The Celtics had lost to the Phoenix Suns that afternoon, 114-96. "Caught the first'n last quarter on TV," Drouhin said. "I thought they were pathetic."

    The scoreboard and clocks above center court were being tested, video images and numerals flashing across the screens and throwing white, rose, blue, and green lights on the vacant gray seats of the arena. Now and then organ music--"Tah-tah-tah, tah , tah-tah-tah- tah "--and snatches of recorded rock and roll echoed through the building.

    Corwin nodded, grimacing. "Watched a little myself. Set on in my office. No one playing defense. Remember Russell, Cowens, those days? Other teams come into town, buncha run-and-gunners, they got absolutely stuffed . Celtics shut 'em down. Hadda turn it off."

    "Well, the bright side is," Drouhin said, "at least this year they'll draft high enough to get someone, can help them. They've got the beginnings, that Walker kid, and the Williams kid has got the stuff. Assuming he doesn't report again next year looking like Namu the whale."

    "I take it you don't represent him," Corwin said dryly.

    "Can't fool you, can they, Joe?" Drouhin said. "But you know what really oughta worry them? How long'll the people wait? Reason I turned in the first wasn't to see if they'd decided to start playing again. It was to see how many were here. Only a quick guess, of course, but an educated guess--building may be new, but knowing capacities's part of my stock in trade. I'd say eleven thousand--max. I suppose as usual they announced fourteen or so, but what they had was no more'n two-thirds of the house. And when I tuned in again, I'd say half of them're gone. I realize they still sell tickets, but that's because they've got that base--the folks who still remember all the glory days when you couldn't get a ticket without mortgaging the ranch.

    "Let them drift away, get out of the habit, stop buying season tickets `fore you get the team rebuilt, you're gonna have to start all over. That could take some time. How you gonna meet the payroll while that takes its course?"

    "We're not in that position, Alex," Corwin said. "That's why you came down to see me, try to peddle that lineah bullshit, you're way off the reservation. You watch our game with me tonight and look around the stands. Guarantee you, any seat you see that isn't filled, either the guy that bought the ticket for it got the flu and couldn't come, or else he had a few beers `fore he came, one or two more here, hadda go and take a leak. We damned near fill the building every time we take the ice."

    "You're not in that position yet," Drouhin said, his voice low, "but it's damn sure where you're headed . How long since you guys've won the Cup?"

    Corwin scowled. "Quite a while," he said, grudgingly.

    "Twenty-five years, to be precise," Drouhin said. "You're even not going to the playoffs this year, are you." It wasn't a question.

    Corwin glowered at him but said nothing.

    "Know offhand the last time that happened?" Drouhin said.

    "I oughta," Corwin said. "Can't open the papers the morning, some fresh bastard doesn't remind me."

    Drouhin nodded. "About thirty years ago. The Original Six. Best two played for the Stanley Cup. Bruins finished dead-last. Now how many qualify, out of twenty -six? Sixteen. And the Bruins're close to dead-last in the East. You know what the Rangers're going to do to you tonight and so does everyone else in the building."

    "Get to the point," Corwin said. "Who're you trying to sell me?"

    "Jean Methodiste," Drouhin said.

    Corwin laughed. " Jean Methodiste ," he said. "You gotta be kidding. Why the hell would I want Methodiste? He's a proven malcontent, disruptive influence. With the press he's got a big mouth."

    " And he's a five-time All-Star, three Vezina trophies," Drouhin said. "What he gives you's something that you really need, right now: credibility. Sign him and you renew it with the fans. They're starting to catch onto you guys, Joe--beginning to suspect you're cheaping 'em out on payroll, while you're whackin' 'em six bucks a beer.

    "`Look,' you say to the Globe and the Herald , `we know we need to improve. This guy isn't the total answer, no--nobody is. Our defense is just okay, and we really need help on offense. But keep in mind what injuries've done. Our first line broke down when Buck Clayton and McFeeney both went down. They'll be back next year, but in the meantime we've got kids playing on the first and second lines who we expected'd be still learning , on the third and fourth lines this year. But still, they're coming along. Next year they'll be gamers. And we've got some fine young talent maturing down in Providence. But in the meantime what we've got to do's find someone who can keep the other guys from scoring, the enemy out of our net. Hold the fort for us. Methodiste can do that. He's a proven quantity. Best career goals-against average of any goalie still active.'"

    "Which's also the problem with him, of course," Corwin said. "He's also the oldest goalie still active. What is he now, thirty-six?"

    Drouhin nodded. "Second-oldest," he said. "He's thirty-three. Thirty-four this May."

    "So he's got a year left," Corwin said.

    "I'd say three, maybe four," Drouhin said. "Keep in mind, all the faults you mention, guy's still always kept himself in shape. He cleans out his locker the end of the season, he weighs out at 184. He comes back, next training camp, they put him on the scale, it says 186. All summer long he's wearing pads, got juniors on Rollerblades firing pucks at him. Same as game conditions? No, not saying that, but it does keep the reflexes sharp."

    "Okay, maybe two," Corwin said. "Second one as a backup. There's a couple good rookies, the draft, and this kid we've got down in Providence--erratic, but young. Talent up the yin-yang. Big investment in this kid. `Bout time it paid off. Who knows what he does, he's twenty-two next year? Maybe turns the corner at last."

    "Oh, I think there's no question he will," Drouhin said. "Fact, I think he already has. Darrell's attitude's completely different now from what it was even three months ago."

    Corwin worked his tongue around the inside of his lower lip.

    "Darrell Troop," he said.

    "Right," Drouhin said. "That's who you're talking about, right? Read about him in the papers. `Promising young goalie out of Junior A, Lancaster, can't seem to keep his focus.' Soldier Lucas must've told you his habits've been much better since the first of the year."

    Corwin frowned. "Well, Coach Lucas said the kid's stopped doing everything in his power, every single night, to make Labatt's the best-selling beer in Providence, that's what you mean," He stopped and cleared his throat. "I thought Darrell had that guy up in Detroit for his agent--what's-his-name."

    "Bob Francis," Drouhin said. "Good old what's-his-name. Bob's such a nice, pleasant guy, too. Can't understand why no one ever seems to remember his name. He does represent Darrell. But the end of December you sent Roger Babcock down for giving Coach Lucas some lip, and Rog, as you know , didn't like it. Well, while he was down there, he got to know Darrell pretty well. Took the kid under his wing, you could say. Roger's Fellowship of Christian Athletes, you may know. Had a lot to do with getting Darrell switched to ginger ale."

    "And also something to say to him about who his agent should be, I take it?" Corwin said.

    Drouhin shrugged. "My clients're my best salesmen, Joe," he said. "Darrell's contract with you runs through his second year up here. Darrell's contract with Bob Francis expires this year, and he told Rog he hasn't been entirely satisfied with Bob. So, one thing and another--"

    Down on the floor the bull gang had finished removing the parquet and started installing the white wood and clear Lucite dashers around the rink. The Zamboni ice machine with the Bruins "spoked-B" logos on the sides emerged from under the grandstand and began to lay down a fresh surface on the ice, steam rising behind the black rubber squeegee at the rear. Organ music blared into the empty arena, " Boom -boom-boom-boom. Boom , boom-boom-boom." Corwin and Drouhin ignored it.

    "--he came to see you," Corwin said.

    "No," Drouhin said, "not quite. Darrell asked me to come down and see him , and I did." He paused. "I believe when his agreement with Bob expires in May, he intends to sign with me."

    "Which will mean that you'll be negotiating for him when he enters free agency," Corwin said.

    "Most likely," Drouhin said.

    Corwin nodded. "Uh huh ," he said. "You know, the thing I always wonder after I get through negotiating with you is where you put the hat."

    "'The hat,'" Drouhin said blankly. "I seldom wear a hat."

    "That's what I mean," Corwin said. "I've never seen you wear one in , never seen you wear one out , but always after you've been in there's this humongous pile of rabbit shit on top my desk. So you must've had a big fat bunny with you that I never noticed, in the hat you didn't wear. Pulled it out while we were talking, had it shit on top my desk. Then put it away again. And as many times I've seen the results, I've never seen it happen. I still don't know how you do it."

    "Thank you," Drouhin said.

    "So what're we really talking about here?" Corwin said.

    "Well," Drouhin said, "in addition to being a great acquisition for you rest of this year, PR point of view, next year Jean'd not only be your starter but a great mentor for Darrell, teach him the tricks of the trade." He paused.

    "Jean very much wants to do this," he said. "His hope is that when his playing days're over he'll be able to move into coaching. Many goalies've done it, as you know--you had Gerry Cheevers right here, not that long ago. And Jean feels that if he can start teaching younger players now, well, it'll enhance his chances of doing it later on, in the not-too-distant future.

    "And from what he knows of Darrell, well, Jean Claude thinks he's the kind of kid he'd like to work with. So he wants to be where the kid's going to be." He paused a beat. "And the kid wants to be where Jean is." He let his face show he was not allowing himself to smile.

    Corwin pursed his lips.

    "So what we'd have in mind for Jean," Drouhin said, "understanding his total package value to this team would be far more than just his playing skills, which are considerable, would be a two-year contract, with an option for a third year. One point five mill the first, one point three mill the second and the third, or a one-mill buyout on the third."

    "Too high, Alex, way too high," Corwin said. "I'll have to think about it, talk to the head man. But tell you what I'm thinking now, what I'm going to say to him. It'd be one-one for the first, eight hundred the second, third, or a half-a-mill buyout the third."

    " Joe ," Drouhin said, "be realistic . Keep in mind your big investment, that what Jean wants is also what Darrell--"

    His cell phone rang. " Shit ." he said.

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1998-10-26:
A riveting look at the world of big-time sports provides veteran storyteller Higgins (A Change of Gravity) another opportunity to show off his skills at writing the most addictive dialogue since John O'Hara. Alexander Drouhin is a 62-year-old Boston lawyer at the top of the heap of sports agents. Business brings in millions a year, and Alex‘juggling athletes, team owners, general managers and the press‘lives a princely life. Alex has two ex-wives, two distant daughters, an almost live-in boyfriend (undiscovered yet by the tabs) and near-insatiable greed. A third of the way into the book‘after he neatly extracts a budding NFL star from a possibly messy scandal‘Alex is found dead in his palatial country estate. Massachusetts State Police Lieutenant Frank Clay, a recent widower, must unravel the puzzle. Through Higgins's trademark dialogues (or monologues), and without many visual clues, the reader gleans vivid depictions of his prolix characters, with glimpses of the horrors of modern celebrityhood, pro gambling and pro sex in a suburb of Boston. There are plenty of cops-and-lawyers stories and wicked, offhand humor. Drouhin's boyfriend never appears, but if that's a flaw, it's minor. (Is it possible the maestro can't do an antique dealer's voice?) The talk may go on a bit, but it is to be hoped that Higgins never makes a long story short. Author tour. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 1998-08:
This book is essential not only for the many fans of Higgins (A Change of Gravity, Holt, 1997), but for any kid who dreams of a sports career. The agent, Alex Drouhin, protects his clients from everyone who would prey on them, from reporters to folks who would steal their underwear and sell it to sports memorabilia collectors. When Drouhin is murdered, his partners, servants, and clients are all suspects. The story is told in an unusual way‘several characters reveal plots and subplots in extended monologs, at the same time providing a wealth of information about the life of a professional athlete. Recommended for popular fiction collections.‘Marylaine Block, St. Ambrose Univ. Lib., Davenport, IA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This item was reviewed in:
Booklist, August 1998
Library Journal, August 1998
Kirkus Reviews, October 1998
Publishers Weekly, October 1998
Boston Globe, January 1999
San Francisco Chronicle, January 1999
Washington Post, January 1999
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Publisher Fact Sheet
In a new novel, the author of A Change of Gravity & The Friends of Eddie Coyle examines the world of sports agents.
Main Description
One of fiction's keenest observers rips open the world of pro-sports agenting in this brisk tale of murder and mystery. Alexander Drouhin built one of the nation's premier sports agencies through gritty negotiation and savvy marketing, but when he is found murdered-shot at close range-suspects, including his former clients and employees, abound.
Main Description
One of fictions keenest observers rips open the world of pro-sports agenting in this brisk tale of murder and mystery. Alexander Drouhin built one of the nations premier sports agencies through gritty negotiation and savvy marketing, but when he is found murdered-shot at close range-suspects, including his former clients and employees, abound.

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