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City on Fire

Cover of City on Fire

City on Fire

A Novel
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National Best Seller Named a Best Book of the Year by: New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Vogue, The Atlantic, Newsday

"A novel of head-snapping ambition and heart-stopping power--a novel that attests to its young author's boundless and unflagging talents." --Michiko Kakutani, New York Times


New York City, 1976. Meet Regan and William Hamilton-Sweeney, estranged heirs to one of the city's great fortunes; Keith and Mercer, the men who, for better or worse, love them; Charlie and Samantha, two suburban teenagers seduced by downtown's punk scene; an obsessive magazine reporter and his idealistic neighbor--and the detective trying to figure out what any of them have to do with a shooting in Central Park on New Year's Eve.

The mystery, as it reverberates through families, friendships, and the corridors of power, will open up even the loneliest-seeming corners of the crowded city. And when the blackout of July 13, 1977, plunges this world into darkness, each of these lives will be changed forever.

City on Fire is an unforgettable novel about love and betrayal and forgiveness, about art and truth and rock 'n' roll: about what people need from each other in order to live . . . and about what makes the living worth doing in the first place.

From the Hardcover edition.
National Best Seller Named a Best Book of the Year by: New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Vogue, The Atlantic, Newsday

"A novel of head-snapping ambition and heart-stopping power--a novel that attests to its young author's boundless and unflagging talents." --Michiko Kakutani, New York Times


New York City, 1976. Meet Regan and William Hamilton-Sweeney, estranged heirs to one of the city's great fortunes; Keith and Mercer, the men who, for better or worse, love them; Charlie and Samantha, two suburban teenagers seduced by downtown's punk scene; an obsessive magazine reporter and his idealistic neighbor--and the detective trying to figure out what any of them have to do with a shooting in Central Park on New Year's Eve.

The mystery, as it reverberates through families, friendships, and the corridors of power, will open up even the loneliest-seeming corners of the crowded city. And when the blackout of July 13, 1977, plunges this world into darkness, each of these lives will be changed forever.

City on Fire is an unforgettable novel about love and betrayal and forgiveness, about art and truth and rock 'n' roll: about what people need from each other in order to live . . . and about what makes the living worth doing in the first place.

From the Hardcover edition.
Available formats-
  • Kindle Book
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Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    4
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    7.0
  • Lexile:
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Text Difficulty:
    5

Recommended for you


Excerpts-
  • Chapter 22

    Those first few weeks of grief counseling, Charlie took the LIRR in. He was always late, though; invariably his train would get hung up in the East River tunnel. He couldn't tell how much time had passed unless he asked other people--his dad's watch still lay in a coffin-shaped box in his underwear drawer--and they were already looking at him funny because he was doing his nervous humming thing. The stares only made him more nervous, which led to more humming, and when he came out of the subway he'd bolt the last five blocks to the doctor's and arrive sweaty and short of breath, sucking on his inhaler. Dr. Altschul must have said something to Mom, because after he got his driver's license, in May, she insisted on his taking the station wagon, as she'd insisted on the counseling in the first place.

    The office was on Charles Street, in the half-basement of a brownstone you wouldn't necessarily have known was anything other than a residence. Even the discreet plaque below the buzzer--All appointments please ring--made no mention of specialties. This was probably for the peace of mind of clients (patients?), so no one in the waiting room would know what you were there for, who needed board-certified grief counseling and who needed whatever it was Dr. Altschul's wife (also, confusingly, named Dr. Altschul) did. Honestly, that Dr. Altschul should be married at all was a mind-bender. He was the kind of bosomy overweight man who could make even a beard look sexless. Charlie kept trying to memorize the doctor's zippered cardigan, so that he could determine at the next session if it was the same one. But as soon as he'd settled in, Dr. Altschul would sort of tip back in his large leather chair and place his hands contentedly on his belly and ask, "So how are we doing this week?" Charlie's own hands stayed tucked under his thighs.We were doing fine.

    Which could mean only one thing: Charlie was still in denial. For eight or ten weeks now, he'd been resisting the pressure of Dr. Altschul's questions, the Buddha-like invitation of those flattened but not knotted fingers. Charlie focused instead on the oddments of the therapist's desk and walls--diplomas, little carved-wood statuettes, intricate patterns woven into the tasseled rug. He'd had the suspicion, from the very first, that Dr. Altschul (Bruce, he kept telling Charlie to call him) meant to vacuum out his skull, replace whatever was there with something else. It was connected with the doctor's studious skirting of the word "father" and its equivalents, which of course kept the person they referred to at the very front of Charlie's mind. But suppose they were right: the school guidance counselor, his mom. Suppose the dead father lodged in his skull was making him sick, and suppose Dr. Altschul could pry Dad out, like a bad tooth. What, then, would be left of Charlie? So he talked instead about school and pee-wee league, about the Sullivans and Ziggy Stardust. When given a "homework" assignment--think about a moment he'd been scared--he talked about the terrifying dentist his mom used to make him go see on the thirty-eighth floor of the Hamilton-Sweeney Building; how old Dr. DeMoto once scraped his plaque onto a saltine and made him eat it; and how the window, inches away from his chair, gave onto a sheer drop of six hundred feet. Mom had this idea that for the finest care, you had to go to Manhattan. In fact, maybe ponying up for a fancy headshrinker now was contrition for Dad; maybe she thought if he'd been rushed after the second heart attack to a hospital in the City, he'd still be alive. "Heights--that's what scares me," Charlie said. "And fires. And snakes." One of these wasn't...

About the Author-
  • GARTH RISK HALLBERG lives in New York with his wife and children. This is his first novel.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 1, 2015
    Hallberg’s maniacally detailed, exhaustingly clever depiction of 1970s New York is packed with urban angst, intellectual energy, and sinister pitfalls, much like the city it evokes. This epic of drugs, sex, and rock and roll combines fiction and new journalistic accounts of real events, with a character’s typed manuscript drafts (spill marks included), hand-written diaries, notebooks, photographs, cartoons, drawings, homework, and personal correspondence. A cast of characters drawn from all social strata features William Hamilton-Sweeney, artist and sometime heroin addict, once heir to a fortune, once lead guitarist for the post-humanist rock band Ex Post Facto; and Sam Cicciaro, the girl everyone finds irresistible, discovered half-dead in Central Park by William’s lover, Mercer. The search to identify Sam’s attacker is one of several story lines tying the ambitious work together; another is Mercer’s attempt, propelled by William’s sister, Regan, to bring William back into the family fold as their father’s business collapses and troubles in the family mount. Charlie, an alienated teenager who becomes a rock band groupie, falls for Sam. Meanwhile Richard Kosgroth, veteran journalist and Capote wannabe, interviews Sam’s father, New York’s fireworks king. Seventies survivors will not be surprised when city residents come together during the ’77 blackout. Readers wishing to wallow in cultural trivia will find much to savor in Hallberg’s all-encompassing, occasionally overwritten effort, but others will be left to wonder how so much energy could generate so little light. Agent: Chris Parris-Lamb, the Gernert Company.

  • Scott Simon, NPR/Weekend Edition "A probing look at New York City in the mid-1970s. The plot winds and twists through just about every corner of the city . . . And all this amid the blinding light of love, in a great midsummer blackout."
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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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City on Fire
A Novel
Garth Risk Hallberg
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