George V. Higgins, 59, a former Massachusetts prosecutor and defense lawyer-turned-novelist whose books included the bestseller "The Friends of Eddie Coyle," was found dead Nov. 6 at his home in Milton, Mass.

A police spokesman said that Mr. Higgins appeared to have died of natural causes.

Mr. Higgins published about 25 books. "Eddie Coyle," the saga of a Boston hoodlum, was published in 1972. It was made into a movie directed by Peter Yates and starring Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle.

His fictional characters were inspired by the underworld figures he rubbed elbows with while prosecuting organized crime cases, and he was praised for using authentic Boston speech and settings in "Eddie Coyle."

Mr. Higgins, who was born in Brockton, Mass., was a 1961 graduate of Boston College. He then worked as a reporter for the Providence (R.I.) Journal and for the Associated Press in western Massachusetts before graduating from Boston College law school in 1967.

Later that year, he became a legal assistant in the organized crime section in the office of the Massachusetts attorney general. He later rose to state assistant attorney general.

From 1970 to 1973, he was an assistant U.S. attorney, then a special assistant to the U.S. attorney. In 1973, he began private law practice in Boston. "The Friends of Eddie Coyle," his first book, was published in 1972.

In addition to writing and practicing law, he taught in law enforcement programs at Northeastern University and served on the faculty of Boston College law school.

By 1970, he had written as many as 14 novels, all of them unpublished, said a friend, Jon Klarfeld, a Boston University professor.

Father Francis W. Sweeney, Mr. Higgins's former literature professor at Boston College, said he urged the aspiring writer to keep at it.

"I said, `George, don't give up. You have it, and there will be a time when we hold your first book in our hands,' " Sweeney said.

"Eddie Coyle" was an instant bestseller. Mr. Higgins also won recognition for several subsequent books, including "The Digger's Game," "Cogan's Trade" and "A City on a Hill." Later works fell short of those early successes. His last novel, "The Agent," was published this year.

In addition to novels, he had written books on the Nixon White House, former Boston mayor Kevin White, Boston baseball history and writing. Over the years, he had been a columnist for the Boston Herald American, the Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal. He had contributed stories and essays to Playboy, the Atlantic, the New Republic and Newsweek.

His marriage to the former Elizabeth Mulkerin ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 20 years, the former Loretta Lucas Cubberley, of Milton; and two children from his first marriage.