I didn’t have the luxury to study the fine arts in college. I didn’t go to journalism school. So all my writing skills were acquired by osmosis and practice. I would voraciously read books — all types of books. From noir to travel to classics — everything that I could find in my local library.
When I grew up — figuratively and literally — I started to search for my voice as a writer. Given my sense of conviction around whatever topics I wrote about, one of my editors suggested that I should read Pete Hamill, then a columnist for The New York Post. And I did, and since then have read everything he wrote, and kept on reading him, even as his production declined due to age.
Hamill’s writing is vivid — full of color, texture and most importantly soul. I quickly realize that I didn’t have the faculties to even dare imagining writing at such a level. What I learned from his writing, however, was that a good writer should write like themselves. You are not merely reporting, but also bring empathy and compassion to the stories you tell. And it all is possible because of strong conviction and ability to tell the right from wrong.
Hamill, died at the age of 85 in Manhattan, New York. But in reality, he will never die. His work is the history of New York. His words are a roadmap for future columnists. And his ability to tell a story is a lesson for all of us who aspire to write — everything is interesting, if you have the passion for it.
You should find one of his books to read this weekend. And when you are done reading, you will realize why he is such a legend, and with his passing, an era has come to an end. Or if you are one of those who don’t like to read, watch this documentary on HBO – Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists. It is about Pete and Jimmy Breslin, another New York columnist, and what they meant for the city of New York.
Thank you for the gift of your words, Mr. Hamill. I am better because of them.
August 5, 2020. San Francisco