September 20, 2020

Pete Hamill, Quintessential New York Journalist, Dies at 85

In 1997, he got another chance, this time at The Daily News. Mortimer Zuckerman, the owner, hired him to replace a British editor who had turned it from a brash, tough-guy paper into a tattler of celebrity gossip and supermarket tabloid stunts to compete with The Post and New York Newsday.

Mr. Hamill refocused on city news, covering immigrants, ethnic communities, Russian mobsters and infrastructure problems. He serialized Mailer’s novel “The Gospel According to the Son.” Circulation fell, and Mr. Hamill clashed with Mr. Zuckerman, but staffers said he brought glamour, collegiality and respectability to the paper. More than 100 of them signed a letter urging Mr. Zuckerman to retain him. “He’s a mensch,” said JoAnne Wasserman, a reporter. But after eight months, he resigned under pressure.

Mr. Hamill became nationally known for articles in Vanity Fair, Esquire, The New Yorker and other magazines, and for books. His first novel, “A Killing for Christ” (1968), spun a plot to assassinate the pope. “Pete Hamill is set on ripping the lid off the rotten church, the rotten upper classes, the rotten rightists,” John Casey wrote in a not entirely favorable review in The New York Times.

Most of his fiction was set in New York, including “The Gift” (1973) and “Snow in August” (1997), both of which drew on his youth; “Forever” (2003), the story of a man granted immortality as long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan; “North River” (2007), a Depression-era tale of a man and his grandson; and “Tabloid City” (2011), a stop-the-presses murder yarn.

More than 100 Hamill short stories ran in a Post series called “The Eight Million” and in a Daily News series, “Tales of New York.” His story collections, “The Invisible City: A New York Sketchbook” (1980), and “Tokyo Sketches” (1992), were hailed by Publishers Weekly: “His simple themes of love, loss, longing and deception are joined to powerful emotions and reveal a psychological bond” between America and Japan.

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