A conversation with the legendary New York newspaperman, whose latest book, Tabloid City, came out last week
Deirdre Hamill/Quest Imagery
Pete Hamill was a block and a half from the World Trade Center when Osama Bin Laden launched his attack on September 11, 2001. Starting that morning, and for the next several weeks, this legendary newspaperman brought the world close to the atrocities and their aftermath.
As President Obama travels to New York to pay his respect to the victims of 9/11, I wanted to talk to Hamill because he understands New York and those days of almost ten years ago as well as anyone. The city fills his acclaimed novels, Snow in August and Forever. His memoir, A Drinking Life, is now a classic New York story. And Hamill's latest book, Tabloid City, published this week, is a thriller about a jihadist plot in Manhattan.
This is also a week in which New York's two tabloid newspapers are expressing (in the way tabloids do) the catharsis that many Americans are feeling. Hours after Navy Seals killed Bin Laden in Pakistan on Sunday night, the Daily News blared, "Rot in Hell." The Post ran with "U.S. Nails the Bastard!" and "Hero Shot 9/11 Monster Above Eye." Pete Hamill knows this style of journalism as well—he was editor of both publications. He began his career, though, as a general assignment reporter, working the nighttime beat at the Post in 1960. And as a journalist, it seems as though Pete Hamill has chronicled almost every major news event of the last 50 years. That includes being an eyewitness to some of our darkest moments—such as when he was walking next to Sen. Robert Kennedy as Sirhan Sirhan gunned the Senator down in 1968, and the autumn morning when he was choking from the dust and smoke from the Twin Towers.