A lot can happen in 24 hours anywhere. Certainly it can in the city of New York where strangers and friends can intersect in many different ways. Life can begin and end, both metaphorically and literally, in this complex interlocking tale created by Pete Hamill.
There are several major players in this 278 page novel. One is Sam Briscoe, age 71, editor in chief of the tabloid newspaper New York World. It is midnight as the book opens and Briscoe’s focus is on the still to be finished edition. Newspapers are a dying industry as he knows well, but he adheres to the old standards and delivers a quality product. Other folks can worry about what to put on the paper’s website as he simply does not care. He worries about the newspaper itself while surrounded primarily by youngsters who have no idea of the past and what they are missing from the literary world.
Wealthy socialite and old friend Cynthia Harding knows full well what the world is missing these days. She also knows libraries are an integral part of the future. She has always loved books and reading and has done her part at a personal level as well as by raising funds to support the New York Public Library System. Much like Sam’s newspaper, the library system as well as the concept of libraries in general, might be a dying institution thanks to the rise of the internet and home computers. Her latest effort in support of the local libraries was a dinner party fundraiser held this night and it did well all things considered. Sam Briscoe was supposed to be there but he didn’t make it because of work.
The rise of the internet has not only murdered libraries and newspapers; it has given rise to terrorism on a global scale. Malik Shadid, an American born child with no ties to the Middle East, heard the call of Islamic Jihad in his teen years and responded. He abandoned his police officer father and his mother who works for that slave owner (as he sees her) Cynthia Harding, and hit the streets hanging out with other teens who also heard the call. While some have fallen away as the years have passed, he remains true to what he believes is the real Muslim faith. A faith that promises to purge the world of the non-believers. One of those unbelievers is his girlfriend, Glorious Burress, hiding in some abandoned building and very pregnant with their child. She is too young to know better but he will teach her the faith and the truth of the world.
The clock marches on and these people and many others will play a major role in the events to come during the next 24 hours. At its heart, Tabloid City contains a double murder and an attempt to solve it while also preventing another terrorist attack on the city of New York. The shock waves of those events will touch people directly and indirectly involved in many unexpected ways.
At the same time Tabloid City is about change, the price of progress, and supreme loneliness. In a time where technology is changing every aspect of our lives in so many ways and often with unintended consequences, many of these characters feel supremely alone and abandoned. Each one feels isolated in his or her narrow world regardless of how much social contact they have with others around them. Beyond occasionally sharing the same gender as another, these characters come from all walks in life with vastly different ages and life experiences resulting in vastly different ways of seeing the surrounding world. Links of commonality are tenuous at best. Some are alone because of deaths. Others, though surrounded by other people at work and socializing, feel totally and unescapably alone.
The river of loneness is wide and deep in Tabloid City and runs through every character no matter his or her circumstances. Many characters see their time ending, physically and metaphorically, and lament the passing of their youth. In so doing, Pete Hamill salutes those great literary newspaper writers and novelists of the past while also creating a story that tells the tale of loneliness and terrorism in the here and now.
He leaves it up to readers to wonder who will take the place of past literary greats. His compelling novel never answers that question in this time of bloggers, citizen journalists, twenty-four hour news cycles, etc. Instead, he poses the question for readers in many different ways over this 278 page novel while engaging in an intense character study set in the city he has written about many times before. For a short period of a night, following day and into that night, you know these people in every detail and can only watch as they blindly careen into and occasionally miss each other in this homage to a great literary time and a warning of a far more uncertain future.
Material supplied by the folks at the WOMEN OF MYSTERY blog http://www.womenofmystery.net/ Back in early May they offered five copies to anyone who entered by making a comment on the blog. I was one of five whose entry was selected. No expectation of a review or any inducement of any type was offered, given, or accepted regarding this objective review.