Monday, July 25, 2011

Tabloid City by Pete Hamill

This is the second time this year that I've done this. You know, the one where I think an author is one I should like, so I acquire practically their whole catalog, never actually read it, then request a review copy of their latest release because I've somehow deluded myself into thinking I'm a huge fan of the author's work. Luckily, I must know what I might like because despite the fact that I own several of Pete Hamill's books and hear great things about them, I'd never actually read one until Tabloid City, and now I'm glad to have more of Hamill's work already waiting on my shelves. I could be wrong, but from what I've read about his books Tabloid City seems like it might be slightly off Hamill's beaten path. Most of his titles seem to have a historical aspect, but Tabloid City is very current but for some of its characters' nostalgia for the New York City of their youths.

Tabloid City is a day in New York City, and what a day it is. It starts just after midnight with Sam Briscoe, editor of the last slowly dying afternoon tabloid in New York City, contemplating the next day's headlines. He's a newspaperman from way back who longs for the days when the papers weren't being encroached upon by an army of websites. He pines for the days of smoky newsrooms filled with activity, for headlines that people were eager to read instead of the same old bad news. But Sam is just one of many characters that populate the pages of Tabloid City. Its pages are filled with characters ranging from a wealthy socialite and philanthropist to a Muslim extremist to a war veteran bent on revenge to a police officer whose own son has gone wrong all of whose paths will cross in the shadow of murder all in Hamill's one day in New York City.

Tabloid City is not told in chapters but in minutes. The story is not written in first person style, nonetheless every few pages, marked by the new time, the perspective changes to a different character, covering dozens of characters. This style is perfect for the story Hamill is trying to tell. It, plus its present tense storytelling, conveys the urgency, the quickness with which momentous changes occur in a city that pulses with life at all hours. It captures a cross-section of the city's denizens and their complicated, often distant, relationships. Hamill is a champion at bringing his city to life. Many of the things that make New York unique find their way into the pages, and the gritty daily grind of the city that never sleeps is palpable through the eyes of longtime residents who have grown weary of their anonymous struggle against its changing face. Hamill paints a picture of New York struggling in recession and of people who are relentlessly nostalgic for lives that they used to live in a New York that was, if not simpler, than at least more real.

Tabloid City is about New York, a city where changes are always only minutes away, but a city that longs for its own past. It's also about humanity. The characters here are anything but lovable. They are angry, they are mysterious, they are hurting, needing, lost, vengeful, but, above all, real. Each is hurtling along toward their destiny in an unforgiving place, a place they can't help but love. Tabloid City does have somewhat of a thrilling end, but the journey is the better part.

(Thanks to Anna at Hachette for sending me a copy for review.)


  1. I have the same assessment of Pete Hamill. Over the years I let everyone borrow all of the books by him I owned, and I still have never read his work. I picked this one up at the library last week and am quite looking forward to it. I'm glad to hear I'm in for a treat!

  2. Oh, I'm excited to see this is about New York. I can't wait to read it.

  3. I have a couple authors like that where I have collected their books bug never read any lol! I have this and one other by this author. I started reading this but it was during a long reading slump and I didnt get very far. I'm so glad to hear how good it is and that it really reflects New York!