Pete Hamill, who recently passed away, was a legendary New York City newspaper man and columnist, so he’s on solid ground in this novel. Tabloid City covers the hectic final publication day of the fictional New York World newspaper, beginning with a late night breaking news story requiring special coverage. “Murder at a good address” as the book puts it, always sells papers.
The murder in question is especially difficult for Editor in Chief Sam Briscoe since one of the victims is a woman he’s been in love with for decades, a wealthy philanthropist. The other victim, her personal assistant, is the wife of an NYPD officer who immediately has a suspect in mind for the murders: his own estranged son, lost to radical Islam. As Briscoe mourns his lost love, his star reporter tracks down the story worrying about what comes next and a disgruntled former reporter turned blogger tries to embarrass the paper on its way out.
There are around a dozen other characters whose perspective gets shared in Hamill’s shifting narrative, though some of their story arcs barely intersect with the main plot. An aging artist losing his sight lives out his last days in the Chelsea Hotel and tries to make amends to a former model turned housemaid. A homeless amputee veteran struggles to get around the city, concealing a potentially deadly secret. A rich financier says farewell to his girlfriend before fleeing the justice system and some angry Bulgarian gangsters.
While many of the characters and plotlines converge in a climactic finale, others do not and their presence in the novel at all remains something of a mystery. Hamill’s prose is smooth and readable and his characterizations quick and memorable, but a greater focus on the main characters of this novel would’ve been hugely beneficial.