“Someone’s got it in for me, they’re planting stories in the press.” Bob Dylan (Idiot Wind)
Pete Hamill’s Tabloid City chronicles the experiences of old-time newspaper man Sam Briscoe, and his struggles to keep his paper The New York World viable in the modern era of overly-saturated electronic and cable media.
The story is told in datelines, rather than chapters. Written in three parts, “Night”, “Day”, and “Night”, it basically takes place over a period of a day and a half – not accounting for flashbacks and the storytelling required to fill in certain gaps related to the characters’ lives and relationships. This obviously choppy approach, which attempts to parallel the journalistic style and mimic the pace of New York city and newsroom life, both hits and misses. At the beginning, it is difficult to sense any flow to the story or understand how the characters relate or why they’re important. Once this is established, the story begins to flow properly.
Most of the characters are detached and wanting for love and/or acceptance. They find the drive to keep moving through external means. Sam, who describes himself as married to the newspaper; Malik Watson, a Muslim zealot; Cynthia, a wealthy business woman and socialite; etc.
Tabloid City will be a pleaser for some. It is fast paced, laced with intrigue, set in Manhattan, and – after a bit of a confusing start, the middle of the novel onward is quite enjoyable. At this point, the reader can read in short bursts or extended periods of time without losing track of the story, or interest in it for that matter.
The ending falls a bit short. It’s hard to figure exactly what purpose some of the characters serve; and, while the ending of the novel is tragic and had the potential to satisfy most readers it does not do so. It is a bit disappointing that some of the characters who were very prominent early on did not play a more significant, fitting role in bringing the story to a close.
Recommended, although for a select audience.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. Dave Moyer is the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.