Pete Hamill’s North River

North River is not only about the loves of the main character, Dr. Delaney, it is about Pete Hamill’s love of New York City. The book follows Delaney from the time he discovers his grandchild on his front step through a series of hard knocks and helping hands. Set during the Depression, Hamill imbues this book with all the sensitivity of people in need and people willing to help. 

The center piece of the novel is the evolving relationship between Delaney and Rosa, a woman sent to help him raise his grandchild. As they find each other, the people of the neighborhood show themselves to be as human as the two main characters, complete with all the nuances one would expect from a melting pot of immigrants. At times the plot stutters but it’s no bother. The characters carry you through this world that Hamill renders so clearly.

I spoke with Pete Hamill shortly after this book came out. It was a pleasure conversing with someone who not only knows his subject matter, but has great affection for it. I’ve met other writers who seem to be more akin to snipers than loving members of the family. They hit their target and move on. Not Pete Hamill. He’s always been a New Yorker and he makes no bones about it. I’ve read a few of his other novels and each of them shows his understanding of the city and its people.

North River is best read in a couple of sittings, preferably in the winter, when you can gaze out the window and see the characters alive and well.

Published in: on September 5, 2008 at 6:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

MacMillan Judge and Fort Zoutman

Going back through my story notes this morning, I stumbled on some scenes for the end of a novel I mentioned earlier, MacMillan Judge, Privateer. Without ruining the story, I can tell you that our man, Captain MacMillan Judge, ends up heading to that favorite island of mine, namely Aruba. (Don’t worry, this story will be a long time coming. It’s third in line right now.) Well, in Oranjestaad there is Fort Zoutman, which today is more or less dwarfed by nearby commercial structures. However, back in the day, it was enough to keep the island under control.

The photo to the right is of the Willem III tower. It served as a general lookout for the soldiers in the fort that sits below and behind it. Judge spots this tower as he cruises the coast in search of a decent anchorage. In case I forgot to mention it, MacMillan Judge, Privateer is set in 1815-1816. I’ve been brushing up on my history of this period, not only of Aruba, but also the Mediterranean area around southern Spain and the so-called Barbary Coast. This was a wild time in the history of the known world. The United States was a new country. Britain and France had been at war (yes, again) for quite a while. Spain, although not a superpower, still had some fangs. Through these tricky times MacMillan Judge and his crew of the privateer-built, topsail schooner Fletcher pick their way to fortune and glory. Actually that makes light of the serious themes in the story, but it sounded like the blurb you might find on the back of a sailing novel and I’m a firm believer in some excitement now and then.

It’s had to imagine a time when the canon pictured below was a key component to military domination.

Nonetheless, they did the job. In the course of the story, MacMillan Judge receives two long guns from Don Francisco, a Spanish aristocrat whose family has been harassed by the Barbary Pirates for generations. Those two long guns figure into MacMillan’s strategy as he beats back an attack by two corsairs. There I go again, telling too much of the story. Well, let’s leave it at that. For now.

Published in: on September 5, 2008 at 11:10 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,