Pete Hamill’s Tabloid City, read by Peter Ganim and Ellen Archer, is a taut 24 hours in the life of New York City, complete with all the elements that continue to make the Big Apple fodder for generations of writers. Through Hamill’s pen and Ganim and Archer’s characterizations, the city and its stories are propelled forward by a cast ranging from society’s elite to those so close to the edge that they are quickly losing balance. Ganim and Archer are each given a number of disparate characters to bring to life, and they both do so with pathos and artistry.
Peter Ganim voices Sam Briscoe, world-weary editor of the New York World, an afternoon tabloid whose glory days are past. Ganim’s gruffness conveys Briscoe straddling his desire to stay part of the game yet his brutal honesty that his best years and the best years of his style of news-gathering have come and gone. Ellen Archer brings a similar crusty sentimentality to Helen Loomis, once the working girl, now an older woman, who could drink with the best of them and who could write cigarette clenched between her teeth about tawdry criminal exploits better than anyone else in the business.
Tabloid City is not a trip down memory lane, however. Hamill’s story introduces serious, present-day concerns among newcomers and classic New Yorkers. Archer portrays Sandra Gordon, a Jamaican woman who, as a child, was plucked from poverty by society do-gooder Cynthia Harding. Now educated and cultured, Gordon lives in the heady world of success and money yet falls for a fellow with a criminal’s soul. Ganim brings to life one of Hamill’s many brilliant literary turns in Tabloid City another facet of the violently brutal world of terrorism. Mary Lou, Ali Watson, and their son Malik Shahid are a family undone by the hideousness of terrorism. One can hear in Ganim’s reading of Ali, a member of the NYPD Anti-Terrorism Force, the professionalism of New York’s Finest shrouded in his own personal grief.
From an embittered, wounded vet to a hotshot Internet gossip, to an immigrant woman trying to help support her family to an elderly artist who has failed eyesight but not a clouded heart, Tabloid City springs to life with a slice of what is probably considered an average day in New York City. Through Hamill’s expert storytelling, Ganim and Archer’s talents create a riveting ‘audio noir’ experience. If the book is Pete Hamill’s tip of the hat to both old-style print journalism and the new world of instantaneous Internet information, the audiobook is Peter Ganim and Ellen Archer’s similar gesture to those who love reading books and those whose joy is listening to them. Carole Chouinard