Amor Towles  debut novel Rules of Civility captures the rules of New York and places George Washington’s  110 Rules of Civility in the Appendix  where they rightfully belong! This read is a love relationship with New York, a city that authors its own rules!

What could be more compelling?  The earnest daughter of hard-working Russian immigrants born and raised on the Lower East Side.  A near-do-well wanna-be who will do anything to be accepted and regain lost riches. A sweet and adventurous mid-western transplant.  The swells of the Upper East Side trust fund gang, a hard charging publisher and of course “ladies who lunch .”  The players are all there and their personalities explode in a wonderful page-turning story set in the post depression era of the late 1930s.  New York is  bouncing back, regaining its lost energy, wealth, world status and rebuilding with money, music, bricks, mortar and unlimited opportunity for those willing to dare a ride on a rainbow.

The  book’s intimacy with New York is reminicent of Pete Hamill’s Downtown and Tabloid City.   There is a hint of F. Scott Fitzgerald and even a flash of Hemingway. ” By nine o-clock the restaurant would feel like the center of the universe.”  The 21 Club, the village jazz clubs before red velvet rope lines, the big bands, the after swing parties and the glorious and transparent lives  of trust fund swells of the Upper East Side and Oyster Bay.  Towles builds characters  who are looking out, looking in and some who don’t give a damn about all the action swirling around them. Falling in and out of love with intimacy left to the imigination.

Rules of Civility  is a New Yorker’s book but just like  the city, it is there for the  enjoyment of anyone willing to seize the moment.  This is a very, very good first novel which may well  have a movie running through its veins.

Simply said, enjoy!


Long ago I joined the chorus calling Pete Hamill a New York City Treasure. I enthusiastically expand the geography to a National Treasure!  Pete Hamill again  earns those accolades  with  his new novel Tabloid City!  If you have an ounce of New York City in your DNA you will  be captured by Hamill’s intimacy with his beloved turf.

Tabloid City  is set within 24-hours of life in New York. Terrorist plot, a daily afternoon newspaper in its last days, the legendary editor, typewriters, reporters who can not write without a cigarette, society ladies, an embittered disabled veteran, lost love, misplaced affection and a very old man who in his dying days does the right thing!  There is a line in Tabloid City that perfectly describes Hamill.  The copy refers to Sam Briscoe, editor of the The World.   ” You’re such a lucky man, Sam. You didn’t get the world secondhand. You didn’t take a course in it.  You Lived it! ” That is Pete Hamill!  The Wood! ( You will see).

There are three other Pete Hamill books which I relished with wonder. Downtown, My Manhattan. The title says it all!  A moving memoir of Hamill’s days and nights in New York from Times Square to the tip of Manhattan.  Street corners, movie theaters,  the pulse of anger, rebellion, hope, enterprise, greed  and celebration. The writing of a newspaperman. Not a wasted word!

One of Pete’s greatest treasures is PIECEWORK (1996) a compendium of his best writings dating back to 1970. Men and women, small pleasures, lost cities within the city, Gotti, Sinatra, Vietnam, Lebanon, Tyson, Madonna, cigarettes, typewriters, linotype , deadlines and headlines.

Hamill’s novel Snow in August, ( 1997)  is a fabulous read.  A story that could only unfold in New York where people who shouldn’t get along do so and where relationships blossom out of  fear and mis-understanding.  Snow in August is about Catholics and Jews, hope and transformation through the creation of characters in a plot that is entwined in the culture of Hamill’s  town. These are just four of Pete Hamill ” treasures.” Others include North River, Forever, A Drinking Life and Why Sinatra Matters.   Summer is coming. Go for them all!