Topping the October 2105 Library Reads is yet another debut - City on Fire * * * by Garth Risk Hallberg, praised by early reviewers from being a "very-damn-good American novel"; "(an) epic tale - both a compelling mystery and a literary tour de force"; to "maniacally detailed, exhaustingly clever", and always "highly entertaining". Don't wait to reserve this one.
The titular city is, of course New York, in the "exquisitely grungy" mid-1970s, where musicians, writers, and power brokers connect, often in the most astonishing ways. The mystery is who shot fanzine writer and hanger-on in the Manhattan punk scene Sam(antha) Cicciaro in Central Park on New Year's Eve 1976, and why. Clinging to life, Sam (who is central to several of the plot threads) was found by Mercer Goodman, an intelligent young black man from Georgia, who was William Hamilton-Sweeney's lover, a musician and heroin addict and the estranged son of a banking titan.
Meanwhile, remnants of the band William once belonged to have holed up on Manhattan's Lower East Side and are plotting some kind of a revolution, possibly violent. Richard Kosgroth, a magazine journalist whose profile of Sam's father, the head of a fireworks firm, leads to suspicion that there's a bigger story to be told.
"Throughout, Hallberg expertly handles the multiple shifts in perspective, vibrantly portraying a specific time and place and creating memorable character...all wandering the vast, ongoing American dreamscape that is New York City."
"At times this (900-page) novel feels like a metafictional tribute to America's finest doorstop manufacturers, circa 1970 to the present: Price (street-wise cops), Wolfe (top-tier wealth), Franzen (busted families), Wallace (the seductions of drugs and pop culture), and DeLillo (the unseen forces behind everything)... an ambitious showpiece for just how much the novel can contain without busting apart." Will appeal to fans of the multiple award-winner A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Film rights sold to Scott Rudin.
* * * = 3 starred reviews