20 years after his last drink Pete Hamill looks back on his early life. As a child during the depression and World War II he learnt that drinking was to be an essential part of being a man, it was only later he discovered its ability to destroy lives.
Earnest memoir of Hamill's drinking days as a Brooklyn youth and young reporter. Now sober 20 years, Hamill (Tokyo Sketches, 1992, etc.) looks back on his family life in Brooklyn during the Depression and WW II, when his father Billy's drinking became a model for his own liquid career, despite a vow not to follow in dad's footsteps. As a young man in Ireland, Billy lost a leg playing soccer, but his agility as a player remained legendary as the author grew up. Alcohol, Hamill says, removed his father from any close contact with him or his mother, and the boy aged without any real models for family life. Hamill began drinking as a bonding exercise with his street buddies - but he felt apart from them anyway, was drawn to cartooning (he spells out the history of comic strips in great detail), and, later, took lessons from Burne Hogarth, writer/illustrator of the Tarzan comic strip. Hamill quit school to work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, joined the Navy during the Korean War, later entered newspaper work as a rewrite man on the New York Post. Some background about the author's beloved Post and fellow reporters, editors, and columnists is included here, but this is no Front Page memoir in the manner of Ben Hecht. Hamill tells of watering holes favored by staffers; his lack of contact with his own wife and family; divorce; his entry into the celebrity life with Shirley MacLaine; travels in Mexico, Spain, and elsewhere; and of his putting down the glass forever on New Year's Eve 1972, doing it alone and without AA. Hamill's various ideas about why he drank are all welcome, but his more crushing humiliations as a drinker fail to make us squirm, while his readable, workaday, humorless style keeps this from placing among the more forceful books about alcoholism. Maybe it should have been a novel. (Kirkus Reviews)