TABLOID CITY – Pete Hamill

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “tabloid” as

A newspaper of small format giving the news in condensed form, usually with illustrated, often sensational material.


  1. In summary form; condensed.
  2. Lurid or sensational.
TABLOID CITY has an unusual and addictive format.  The reader is lured into going  just one more entry, just one more entry………. until, too soon, the book is finished.  That the story isn’t finished  explains why the book should not be.
TABLOID CITY is divided into three section, Night, Day, Night, covering less than twenty-four hours in the lives of a large cast of characters in New York City.  Sam Briscoe, Helen Loomis, Bobby Fonseca, and Matt Logan are employed by the New York World, a tabloid, and the only paper which publishes in the afternoon.  Their lives unfold during the night, the secret time when the unexpected, the unimportant, and the unforgettable combine to create the mystique that is the city that never sleeps.

The story is filled with vignettes that connect to the people at the newspaper and, in some cases, to each other in patterns that are as intricate as a spider’s web.  All of the characters are sympathetic, some are people the reader would like to get to know better.

There is death in the story.  People die, some innocent, some not.  And it is also the story of the death of the newspaper, not just the New York World, but the death of the newspapers of the world.  Paper and ink have given way to websites and to truncated articles on sites like Yahoo, making them the tabloids of the twenty-first century.  There are pictures to be found on-line that no newspaper would dare to have re-produced on its pages.  The  recession can be blamed for some of the advertising lost to newspapers but much more was lost when the world embraced on-line retail.   Hamill uses the words of The Parting Glass, a song by the Clancy Brothers to sum up the end :

But since it falls unto my lot                                                                                                          That I should go and you should not                                                                                               I’ll gently rise and softly call                                                                                                      Good night and joy be with you all… 

As with all Irish love songs, it is a song filled with melancholy and pathos because, in the words of dramatist Richard Sheridan, Ireland is the land of happy wars and sad love songs, a comment that can be applied to newspapers as well.

Sharing a single part from the book could give away the whole because the book is one seamless story.  Don’t wait until summer for the perfect read.

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One Response to TABLOID CITY – Pete Hamill

  1. Pingback: AUTHORS E – H (A Long List) | MURDER by TYPE

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