NY Daily News: Pete Hamill sees a world almost gone by in 'Tabloid City'

May 1st, 2011

BY Sherryl Connelly

Sunday, May 1st 2011, 4:00 AM
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It’s twilight in New York, or at least Sam Briscoe’s New York. Briscoe, who must alternately be described as a hard-charging or grizzled tabloid newspaper editor — because that’s the way these things are done — is closing what will be the final edition of his beloved New York World, though his publisher has yet to reveal that grim fact.

Yes, his World is ending but Sam doesn’t know it.

Meanwhile, in Patchin Place, that lovely dead-end street of such esteemed literary heritage in the West Village, a dinner party is taking place. The evening will come to a tragic end that will radiate through out “Tabloid City.”

In a storied career that included stints as editor of the Daily News and the Post, Pete Hamill has long been embraced as New York’s Own and likely one of its finest. “Tabloid City” stands as both an authentic thriller as well as a farewell to the city that was Hamill’s New York.

Even as he insidiously builds the tension of a homegrown Islamic terrorist planning his final act, Hamill namechecks some of the great journalists of yesterday, then embodies them in characters like Helen Loomis, the achingly lonely rewrite woman who can tell any story on deadline, or Bobby Fonseca, the kid starting out who ardently believes in delivering the word.

Throughout, Hamill conjures many recognizable New York types then takes the giant step of connecting them. This is the veteran journalist at his best. Where others see only the grid that delineates New York by social status, Hamill eyes the intersections where all cross paths.

Cynthia Harding has taken up the mantle of Brooke Astor, the late doyenne of the New York Public Library. She has summoned monied men to her home to gently relieve them of charitable funds. Harding, an honorable woman and Briscoe’s lover, will be knifed to death at evening’s end along with her secretary Mary Lou Astin.

It’s Astin’s husband, a cop with the NYPD anti-terrorism force, who will draw the line between the murders and his son Malik, who disappeared into radical Islam years before. Over the next 24 hours, one of the monsters of finance who savaged the economy tries to make his getaway just as a female comic book artist, a triumph of a self-made woman, puts the finishing touches on a portrait of the homeless to be auctioned off that night at a gala. One of the homeless, a veteran who left his lower body in Iraq, rolls through the city streets with a MAC- 10 machine pistol on his lap.

There are others: The aging artist in the Chelsea Hotel, the suddenly destitute mother who reaches out to him after a past where he both loved and painted her in Mexico, the vicious online gossip journalist who lives to perpetrate malice.