Review: Tabloid City by Pete Hamill
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: May 5th, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Source: Personal Copy
One 24 hour period in New York City is made of more stories and scandals than a tabloid newspaper can hold. That is certainly the case for those working at the famed New York World. Sam Briscoe is the 71 year old Editor-in-Chief who must keep his team, including self described 'rewrite man' Helen Loomis and budding young reporter Matt Logan, on top of the the city's tabloid news while still delivering a quality product as competition from online sources grows. The big scoop of the night is the murder of socialite Cynthia Harding and her assistant in a Manhattan brownstone. Adding to the drama is a corrupt hedge fund manager on the run and an Islamic extremist plotting another terrorist attack on the city. As the night progresses, Hamill introduces a cast of characters who must find a way to deal with the rapid life changes being thrown their way while simultaneously showing the interconnectedness of such a huge metropolis.
Young Helen Loomis was only one of many great reporters he'd known who were drawn to the rowdy newspaper trade because of the aching solitude in their own lives. Their own pain was dwarfed by the more drastic pain of strangers. As bad as your own life might be, there were all kinds of people out there in the city who were in much worse shape.Even though there are many characters in the novel, some more superfluous than others, one universal trait amongst them is nostalgia for the past. Sam and Helen long for the newspaper rooms of a pre-internet age where pen, paper, a lead, and a cigarette were all that was needed. In a time where libraries are closing constantly, their biggest financial supporter Cynthia yearns for an era where one must open the pages of a book in order to access knowledge instead of clicking a button. Hamill definitely laments the loss of the written word, which comes as no surprise given his journalistic background. One drawback for me was the number of characters introduced throughout the story. Certain people's stories seemed unnecessary in a way that I found distracting. Of the more developed characters, I felt Hamill's talent for creating deep and moving characters flourish.
As for the writing style, Tabloid City uses a succinct staccato rhythm throughout and mirrors newspaper snippets. The entire novel had a distinct gritty and hard boiled feel, and I found myself picturing the story in graphic novel form. Hamill is excellent at setting the stage on which his players will perform. However, I will say that I wasn't as drawn into the story as I had hoped to be. I absolutely adored Hamill's previous novel Forever, and part of me was hoping for the epic and engrossing style. This is not to say that what Tabloid City brings to the table is any less well written. Hamill comments on issues such as immigration, financial scams, and terrorism in a post-9/11 country. He knows the environment and atmosphere that he wants to create and does it in a very skilled and polished way. Overall, this novel delves into many of the issues facing modern day Americans. I just wish Tabloid City had grabbed me more, but I do recommend it.