Briscoe is aware that his paper is on life support. What he doesn't realize when we first meet him is that this day's edition will be its last. The paper's young, wet-behind-the-ears owner is pulling the plug. Briscoe guesses as much when he's summoned to the young man's office.
"Christ," Briscoe tells himself, "I've lived too long. I'm being summoned to the palace by a twenty-eight-year-old. The dauphin. A kid who spent two summers here as an intern, couldn't get a fact straight. And earned his place at the top of the masthead because his mother died."
Briscoe regrets the paper's passing not so much for its impact on his own life. After all, he should be retiring anyway. But rather for the body blow it will be to his staff members -- and the void he knows it will leave in the city's daily life.
But as Briscoe struggles to come to terms with the paper's death notice, there comes an even more traumatic blow. He learns that one of the two victims in the Greenwich Village slayings is Cynthia Harding, a wealthy socialite who for years has been, aside from his grown daughter, the only woman in his life.
More than a dozen characters wander in and out of "Tabloid City" as the murder investigation unfolds and their paths intersect. A few too many characters for this reader's liking. Some of them play only bit parts. Others come dangerously close to being mere stereotypes.
But, despite this coming and going of other characters, this is very much Briscoe's book. And make no mistake, Briscoe is only a thinly disguised stand-in for Pete Hamill, who has given us a gritty snapshot of New York and a tribute to the journalists who cover the city's dark corners.
James E. Casto was a reporter and editor at the Huntington Herald-Dispatch for more than 40 years before he retired.