Review: Tabloid City, by Pete Hamill

Tabloid City
by Pete Hamill
288 pgs
Little, Brown & Co.
May 5, 2011 . $26.99
In his new novel, Tabloid City, author Pete Hamill explores the interconnectivity of the big city on a molecular level, switching from one point of view to the next, combining the details into a veritable detective’s pad of suspects, dates, times, witnesses and motives.

Almost ten years after the tragedy of 9/11 Hamill dictates an unsolicited terrorist plot against a tiny spot on the map called Manhattan, not far from ground zero, all in the background of a technology war (not dissimilar in mode from distribution changes happening just this past month at the New York Times).

In case the setting didn’t make Hamill’s place of residence obvious, the proof is in the details. Take, for example, the doo-wop group that Sam Briscoe (the closest thing we have to a protagonist in all of this) encounters on the 6 train – they’re as real as the train. Or take Briscoe’s reflection on the MegaMillions ad.

These things are not the watchful eyes of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s T.J. Eckleberg—they are and were there.

It is these very real markers on Hamill’s road map that make the story so relatable and so real. As the cover suggests, we could have passed any one of these characters on the street and been none the wiser. And while the format is at first a little jarring and somewhat distancing, it is also disarming, denying the reader a need to necessarily side with one character or the other, one motive or another. The reader is, instead, enlisted as a silent member of the jury in a case settled out of court.

The end result is a full story, without flourish, without prejudice, a 3-D picture—no hearsay or lies on the stand necessary. That reality leaves little to fabrication or imagination and once the tale is told, you couldn’t really ask for more.


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