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Tabloid City by Pete Hamill

Tabloid City

by Pete Hamill

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Set in New York City, Tabloid City by Pete Hamill follows a myriad of characters, at least 16, for one 24 hour period. Each new section in the novel lists the time, character, and location. Sam Briscoe, the 71-year-old editor in chief of the New York World is the central voice of the novel. The voices of each character are followed as the action all culminates in one location.

Characters include: Sam Briscoe, editor of the New York World; Josh Thompson, a disgruntled, disabled war veteran; Helen Loomis, a long time "rewrite man"; Cynthia Harding, a socialite and longtime lover of Sam; Lew Forrest, an elderly successful artist; Myles Compton, a hedgefund manager on the run; Freddie Wheeler, a vindictive gossip blogger; Sandra Gordon, Cynthia's adopted daughter, Myles lover, and vice president of an ad agency; Ali Watson, a police detective on the anti-terrorist task force; Bobby Fonseca, a young journalist; Malik Shahid, fanatic, Muslim fundamentalist, son of Ali Watson; Beverly Starr, a comic book artist; and Consuelo Mendoza, an illegal immigrant from Mexico.

Tabloid City is ostensibly a murder mystery, but despite what the synopsis says, the murders don't actually occur until around page 100, in a novel of only 278 pages. Before this the large cast of characters are introduced. In the end all the action culminating at one location with the murderous threat of the want-to-be jihadist, felt contrived. Making this the main focus of the plot didn't work for me.

Several of the characters have no real purpose in the plot other than to tell their story. They may have connections to other characters or to each other, but their presence in the novel makes no difference. The character of Beverly Starr could have easily been left out. Lew Forrest knew other characters, including Consuelo Mendoza, but both of them made no difference in the final plot. It's almost as if Hamill wanted to write a book with some short story character sketches. Perhaps the over abundance of characters was also meant to mimic the crowded streets, reflect a "there are eight million stories in the Naked City" attitude, but in this case it didn't work.

What does work in Tabloid City is Hamill's descriptions of a newsroom. It stands out and shines above the rest of the novel. It's a tribute to what is becoming a dying occupation. You know that Hamill is intimately acquainted with a newsroom, the hustle and flow, the action and excitement. The Sam Briscoe character was the highlight of the novel. Tabloid City would have been a better novel had Hamill left out the contrived plot focusing on the murderous young extremist and tightened the focus to make the novel about the last day before the printed paper closed in favor of an online version. Perhaps something reminiscent of O'Nan's Last Night at the Lobster.

Additionally, there is no doubt that Hamill is a very good writer. He knows New York City and his familiarity with the city shines through his prose. He expertly captures not only the location, but the energy of the city. His fans know and expect this. His use of dashes to set off dialogue rather than using quotation marks helps establish a frantic, staccato pace that mimics the bustle of the city.

Hamill also displays his wide range of knowledge of artists, writers, and musicians. While I was able to follow his very noticeable naming of artists and writers, having taken quite a few art history classes and being generally well read, and his knowledge is impressive, I'm unsure that most readers are going to be acquainted with all the names he drops. Perhaps that won't matter, but then it begs the question: If it doesn't matter, why mention so many names?

Tabloid City does a great job mourning the death of print journalism, the loss of a lover, how time changes everything, and it even has a glimmer of hope, but the lackluster murder/mystery is no mystery. If possible I'd give Tabloid City a 3.5, so we'll round up and call it highly recommended, especially for fans of Hamill. http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/

Disclosure: I received this novel through the Goodreads First Reads program.
( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
A delightful little book, particularly for those who have been on the inside of the news business -- and especially for those who witnessed the death of a newspaper from the inside. Hamill gets newspapers right, and his New York City reeks of authenticity. ( )
  VashonJim | Sep 5, 2015 |
Pete Hamill's Tabloid City is like book turned into a poetic mural about New York City. I loved the way that he weaved together so many different stories into such a great treasure.

He starts off with the city room of the New York World and the Editor in Chief, 71 year old Editor in chief, Sam Briscoe looking for the "wood" (the big story of the issue). I loved the references to the newsrooms of the past and the feeling of nostalgia. There was sort of a gritty romance with the city. With the Internet news, you don't get to know the people writing the stories.
Helen Loomis like Sam, is another reluctant bridge to the past, aching for a smoke and using her column, nicknamed "Vics and Dicks" to give people a few laughs for the day about dumb criminals.

There are many more characters, a victim of serving in Iraq, now in a wheelchair, a black converted to a terrorist group and his father heartsick and working against it. A sad but real love story between Sam Briscoe and very intelligent and generous woman and so many unforgetable stories make up this complex painting.

I really loved this book, everything fit together the gritty and the beautiful, the sad and regretful, and it was all pure poetry to me.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to get a feeling for the complex city of New York and also enjoy great and I mean great writing.

Come on, read it, if you don’t like it, you can blame me! ( )
  Carolee888 | Aug 11, 2012 |
Pretty good.
  shazjhb | Jun 24, 2012 |
I really liked the way Hamill weaved several stories together so that they all related to each other, but each was a compelling story in itself. Strong characters and the right mixture of emotion and practical reality. I can recommend Tabloid City to anyone looking for a good read. ( )
  sproe | May 25, 2012 |
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...You shall search them all.
Someday by heart you'll learn each famous sight
And watch the curtain rise in hell's despite;
You'll find the garden in the third act dead,
Finger your knees---and wish yourself in bed
With tabloid crime-sheets perched in easy sight.
Hart Crane, "The Tunnel,"
from The Bridge
I have no one to speak to, no one to consult, no one to support me, and I feel depressed and lonely. I do not know what to do...

-------Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab,
the "underwear bomber"
in memory of
Jose "Chegui" Torres

Champion. Writer. Singer.
Dancer. Laugher. Brother.

para siempre, 'mano
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Here comes Briscoe, seventy-one years old, five foot eleven, 182 pounds.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316020753, Hardcover)

In a stately West Village town house, a wealthy socialite and her secretary are murdered. In the 24 hours that follow, a flurry of activity surrounds their shocking deaths:

The head of one of the city's last tabloids stops the presses. A cop investigates the killing. A reporter chases the story. A disgraced hedge fund manager flees the country. An Iraq War vet seeks revenge. And an angry young extremist plots a major catastrophe.

The City is many things: a proving ground, a decadent carnival, or a palimpsest of memories--a historic metropolis eclipsed by modern times. As much a thriller as it is a gripping portrait of the city of today, Tabloid City is a new fiction classic from the writer who has captured New York perfectly for decades.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:23 -0400)

When a wealthy socialite and her secretary are found murdered in a stately West Village townhouse, a flurry of seemingly unrelated people spring into action. A reporter chases the story while a tabloid executive holds the presses, a ruined financer attempts to leave the country, a war veteran plots revenge, and a terrorist plans an attack.… (more)

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