cover image Piecework: Writings on Men & Women, Fools & Heroes, Lost Cities, Vanished Friends..

Piecework: Writings on Men & Women, Fools & Heroes, Lost Cities, Vanished Friends..

Pete Hamill. Little Brown and Company, $32 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-316-34104-2

Hamill (A Drinking Life) reminds us that ``if reporters stick around long enough they learn that the guilty are sometimes innocent and the innocent probably have an angle,'' and so in this collection of his previously published essays, he casts a suspicious if not compassionate eye on life. He first tackles the Big Apple, and few are more eloquent in talking about the City of New York. Although he recognizes that ``Nostalgia is a treacherous emotion,'' there is plenty of it here, as he gives the reader wonderful reminiscences of Greenwich Village in the '50s and '60s; shows how the lack of jobs has caused the welfare state to explode (he points out that there are 1.3 million New Yorkers on welfare today, compared to 150,000 in 1955); laments the passing of the trolley car and misses the New York that preferred stickball to crack. And although he covers the world's trouble spots from Vietnam to Beirut to Belfast, the sustenance of this collection are the biographical sketches of such diverse characters as boxer Mike Tyson, Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez, Sinatra, mobster John Gotti, General Colin Powell and Jackie Gleason. Hamill has a decided love for the rogue, and the reader may wind up liking John Gotti better than Colin Powell. Hamill finishes with thoughtful pieces that dissect his own mortality--recently, for example, he was stricken with tuberculosis. A collection that shows why Hamill is a New York literary treasure. (Jan.)