Review: Tabloid City by Pete Hamill

Title: Tabloid City
Author: Pete Hamill
Pages: 288
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.


  1. I am not sure this one is for me as I just finished a hard-boiled read, and was not all that crazy about it. It seems like this one would be similar to the one I read in it's style and execution. This was a very interesting and thoughtful review, and I enjoyed reading your perspective on it!

  2. I really like Pete Hamill's books - Snow in August and Forever are among my favorites so I was curious about this one. He is a die hard NY-er and nostalgic himself so I could see him writing this book - sorry its not as good as Forever.

  3. I was a journalism major so of course, you've piqued my interest with this one. My main beef with journalism though was the writing. I hated that rat tat tat rhythm that seemed so disjointed to me. I was always getting a "talking to" by my journalism teachers about it because I had such a hard time conforming to it.

  4. Zibilee - Yeah, I was a little disappointed in the hard-boiled style. It wasn't what I expected and didn't draw me in.

    Booksnyc - I think this one was just a little too outside his scope. I loved the way he used his journalistic style in the part memoir/part history book Downtown: My Manhattan, but it didn't work in this one.

    Ti - The rhythm you mention is one of the main reasons I had a hard time connecting with the story. It felt too "facts only" and didn't go much deeper.

  5. I haven't red a book by Pete Hamill in a long time but loved the last one I read "Snow in August". Several things about this book interest me in addition to the characters particularly the newsroom/jpournalism aspect of the book and the New York City setting. But I might read one of his other books since it sounds like this is one of Hamill's less popular novels.
    Thank you for a terrific review

  6. I heard an interview with Pete Hamill on The Book Report. Sounds like an interesting book. You can hear the interview on


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