Finders Keepers

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

On Thursday, February 26, 1981, Joey Coyle, impoverished and without steady employment, is down on his luck. Work has been scarce. He does not have money to buy the methamphetamine (speed) he has come to depend upon. He recruits two friends to drive him to his pusher to see if he can get an immediate fix with the promise of payment later in the day when a check for some part-time work is expected. The pusher is out, but as Joey and his friends head for home, they notice two yellow tubs in the roadway.

Joey, thinking one of the tubs would make a good toolbox for him, gets out of the car and discovers two bags of money totaling $1.2 million in one of the tubs. He and his companions grab the money and run. Author Mark Bowden relates how Joey spends the next seven days recruiting a Mob figure to launder the money, giving much of it away, overindulging in the drugs his system craves, and becoming increasingly paranoid.

The net finally closes around Joey. He is apprehended as he is about to leave the country. The book’s final chapter tells of his trial and his eventual acquittal. Joey has become something of a folk hero in South Philadelphia. A film, Money for Nothing (1993), is made of his story, but a deeply troubled Joey hangs himself three weeks before its release.