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The Christmas Kid: And Other Brooklyn Stories

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Never before collected in one volume, here are Pete Hamill's stories about Brooklyn, the borough in which he was born and grew up, and the one closest to his heart.

A young boy with a mysterious past forever transforms the lives of the neighborhood toughs. A man returns to his old haunts to avenge the death of his brother. A couple chooses to embrace their memories of a bygone era rather than live in a diminished future.

These are stories of a New York almost lost but not forgotten. They read like messages from a vanished age, brimming over with nostalgia (which Hamill has called the most common New York emotion), for the world after the war, the city before heroin and crack, the days of the Dodgers and Giants, even, for some, the world of the Depression.

Full of pieces that have been unavailable for years, this collection is classic Hamill -- a must-read for his fans, for those who love New York, and for anyone who seeks to understand the world today through the lens of the world that once was.

The Christmas kid --
The price of love --
A death in the family --
Wishes --
The love of his life --
Good-bye --
Changing of the guard --
Footsteps --
A poet long ago --
The car --
Just the facts, ma'am --
6-6-44 --
The trial of Red Dano --
Leaving paradise --
Lullaby of Birdland --
The boarder --
The men in black raincoats --
The radio doctor --
The challenge --
A hero of the war --
The final score --
Gone --
You say tomato, and ... --
'S wonderful --
The warrior's son --
The second summer --
The sunset pool --
The lasting gift --
The man with the blue guitar --
The hitter bag --
Trouble --
The home country --
The waiting game --
The home run --
Up the roof --
The book signing

288 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2012

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About the author

Pete Hamill

116 books493 followers
Pete Hamill was a novelist, essayist and journalist whose career has endured for more than forty years. He was born in Brooklyn, N. Y. in 1935, the oldest of seven children of immigrants from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He attended Catholic schools as a child. He left school at 16 to work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a sheetmetal worker, and then went on to the United States Navy. While serving in the Navy, he completed his high school education. Then, using the educational benefits of the G.I. Bill of Rights, he attended Mexico City College in 1956-1957, studying painting and writing, and later went to Pratt Institute. For several years, he worked as a graphic designer. Then in 1960, he went to work as a reporter for the New York Post. A long career in journalism followed. He has been a columnist for the New York Post, the New York Daily News, and New York Newsday, the Village Voice, New York magazine and Esquire. He has served as editor-in-chief of both the Post and the Daily News. As a journalist, he covered wars in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Lebanon and Northern Ireland, and has lived for extended periods in Mexico City, Dublin, Barcelona, San Juan and Rome. From his base in New York he also covered murders, fires, World Series, championship fights and the great domestic disturbances of the 1960s, and wrote extensively on art, jazz, immigration and politics. He witnessed the events of September 11, 2001 and its aftermath and wrote about them for the Daily News.

At the same time, Hamill wrote much fiction, including movie and TV scripts. He published nine novels and two collections of short stories. His 1997 novel, Snow in August, was on the New York Times bestseller list for four months. His memoir, A Drinking Life, was on the same New York Times list for 13 weeks. He has published two collections of his journalism (Irrational Ravings and Piecework), an extended essay on journalism called News Is a Verb, a book about the relationship of tools to art, a biographical essay called Why Sinatra Matters, dealing with the music of the late singer and the social forces that made his work unique. In 1999, Harry N. Abrams published his acclaimed book on the Mexican painter Diego Rivera. His novel, Forever, was published by Little, Brown in January 2003 and became a New York Times bestseller. His most recently published novel was North River (2007).

In 2004, he published Downtown: My Manhattan, a non-fiction account of his love affair with New York, and received much critical acclaim. Hamill was the father of two daughters, and has a grandson. He was married to the Japanese journalist, Fukiko Aoki, and they divided their time between New York City and Cuernavaca, Mexico. He was a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.

Author photo by David Shankbone (September 2007) - permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation.

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5 stars
88 (21%)
4 stars
184 (45%)
3 stars
98 (24%)
2 stars
26 (6%)
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8 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 102 reviews
Profile Image for Moonkiszt.
2,044 reviews212 followers
January 1, 2020
Here's another of my favorite authors: Pete Hamill. This was a surprise to me as well - he did a Christmas book! Yay!

This is a collection of stories in Brooklyn, his home town and area of expertise. A collection of stories that draw you in and ask you to have a seat and observe the community, and I promise when you close the book, have done with the stories, you miss those characters. You hope for them, and want to know the rest of the story.

I've got a Brooklyn itch now. Going to re-read "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" soon. . . .and more Hamill. Forever is a great book, and North River. . . .
Profile Image for Joseph Sciuto.
Author 8 books126 followers
May 17, 2023
What does a writer do? Answer: He reads. By reading one picks up, consciously or unconsciously, a style, one enhances ones' vocabulary, and one truly finds out if he/she really wants to be a writer. What makes a successful writer? Answer: Knowledge of your subject and characters and your ability to write HONESTLY. The above assessment was told to me by a famous writer, professor, and war hero and I have related this wisdom to everyone who has ever asked me about writing.

Mr. Hamill knows the subject of 'Brooklyn' during the 1940's, 50's, and 60's as well as any writer I have read, and his love for this famous borough of New York City in undeniable. He has written about this borough in a number of wonderful books which I highly recommend, "Snow in August," and one of my favorite books ever, "North River."

"The Christmas Kid: And Other Brooklyn Stories," is a series of nearly thirty short stories, brilliantly constructed, all about Brooklyn and its many characters and unique features during the time that he grew up there and which, sadly exist fifty-years later, only in his memories and his enchanting books and stories that will hopefully live on forever.

Mr. Hamill passed away in 2020. As a kid growing up in the Bronx, I used to read his column in the New York newspapers. He was then, and now in death the "Quintessential New Yorker." His writing possesses all the qualities that I write about in the first paragraph and this collection of short stories is simply another reminder of how important it is to know and love the subject you are writing about and to honestly portray that to the reader. I highly recommend.
Profile Image for JoAnne Pulcino.
663 reviews59 followers
November 24, 2012

Pete Hamill

This brilliant collection of classic Brooklyn where the master story teller, Pete Hamill again astounds us with his depth of emotion for the human condition, his pitch perfect depiction of the populace of Brooklyn and his ability to transports us to a time without heroin and crack.
Mr. Hamill believes the most common New York emotion is nostalgia, which is prevalent throughout the stories coupled with a love of New York and a visit to the world as it once was.

Every story is magnificent and anyone who loves New York, Pete Hamill or wants to understand a time that paints the classic immigrant experience or the past will be enchanted with this volume.

Very Highly Recommended
Profile Image for Mmars.
525 reviews97 followers
March 9, 2013
PLEASE BE FOREWARNED - THESE ARE NOT CHRISTMAS STORIES. These are stories of life and death. Or life, hardship, and death. Or trauma and survival. Why, why, why, Little Brown did you choose this cover? What a disservice to the author. One reviewer said they selected the title from their library's Christmas books display! Shiver me timbers!!!!

There aren't many warm fuzzy moments here. These are tales of hard-scrabble, working class Brooklyn post-WWII and Korea. Brooklyn is their home, their turf. The narrators do not leave. They stay, they walk out into the night and sometimes they survive and sometimes they do not.

This was a very intense reading experience. Hamill's skill at building suspense in such a short form is incredible. Written as newspaper articles, collecting them into one volume and allowing the reader to read them all in succession was nearly too much for me.

Hamill 5 stars, Little Brown 1.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,660 reviews26 followers
November 29, 2013
This was the first Pete Hamill I read and I thoroughly enjoyed his stories of a Brooklyn that has all but disappeared. His stories show deep affection for the neighborhoods and people. Some stories really sock it to you, and others are quieter, but many will be hard to forget.
Profile Image for Assem Saleh.
134 reviews54 followers
November 22, 2019
في مقدمة الكتاب، يقول المؤلف بأن هذه المجموعة القصصية مستوحاة من احد اكثر الخصائص التي تميز مدينة نيويورك و هي النوستالجيا و التي بدورها تعود الى سببين: سرعة تغير معالم المدينة و طبيعة سكانها من ناحية كون معظمهم كانوا في الاصل مهاجرين ما يعني انهم يحملون على الدوام ارواح مفعمة بذكريات الاماكن التي عاشوا فيها سابقا و الاشخاص الذين عبروا حياتهم في الماضي. الكتاب يتألف من 36 قصة قصيرة. اغلبية ه��ه القصص تطغى عليها مسحة من الحزن و السودواية و شيء من سخرية الاقدار.
هذا رابع كتاب اقرأه لبييت هاميل و لا زلت اسيرا لسحر كلماته و اسلوبه السهل و هو يهيم عشقا بمدينة اعشقها انا ايضا
Profile Image for Janet.
670 reviews15 followers
September 8, 2019
This book of short stories covers all different characters through several decades from Brooklyn. Some stories are fair, some good, and some great. Among my favorites were the title story, A Death in the Family, A Poet Long Ago, A Hero of the War, S' Wonderful, and The Man With the Blue Guitar.
Profile Image for Diane.
347 reviews72 followers
December 14, 2015
I've heard of Pete Hamill, but this is the first time I've read any of his works. This is a collection of short stories about life in New York City. I'm puzzled by the blurb on the back of the book: "They read like messages from a vanished age, brimming with nostalgia..." I didn't find the stories nostalgic, except for possibly the title story, "The Christmas Kid." These aren't feel good Christmas tales. In "The Christmas Kid," the narrator tells his mother that the new boy, Lev, has a number tattooed on his wrist.

"A number on his wrist?" my mother said one night. "Oh, my God." She was silent for a while, then glanced out the window at the skyline glittering across the harbor. "Well, make sure you take care of that boy. Don't let anything happen to him. Ever."

The local boys adopt Lev, teach him the ways of baseball, and protect him. When a nosy, interfering witch of a neighbor (Nora the Nose) causes a problem, the boys come to Lev's aid. The story is moving, but never saccharine.

The same can be said for many of the other stories in the book. "The Love of His Life" is a tale of romantic obsession. "Just the Facts, Ma'am" is a humorous story about Facts McCarthy, a walking encyclopedia of largely useless trivia (unless you're playing Trivial Pursuit), who changes when he meets the right girl. It's not as sappy as it sounds.

One thing you can always count on with Pete Hamill is that there won't be any heavy-handed sentimentality. The characters in the stories are people, not caricatures or two-dimensional puppets. Most of the stories are bleak and the endings are often sad. I had a hard time reading this book, and had to take breaks from it because it actually made me cry a few times. I dare anyone to read "Good-by" without shedding a tear.

This is a powerful collection of short stories and worth a read. I will definitely be reading more of Pete Hamill's books.

113 reviews
January 1, 2014
Pete Hamill's "The Christmas Kid and other Brooklyn stories" moves from poignant to vengeful, heart-warming to hopeless, yet each story is linked in this collection by its Brooklyn setting. Early to mid-20th century Brooklyn emerges as the main character of this book and now feels familiar even though I grew up in a very different time and place. The loyalty of working class immigrants to their neighbors, the fierce stubbornness that causes some characters to cling to their own clearly defined sense of right and wrong, the innocence of childhood and of young love that more often than not leads to disillusionment permeate these stories as ultimately does the lifelong hold Brooklyn has on its residents. While certainly not a book about Christmas, in spite of its title story, these stories are about community and family and friends, all of which are highlighted during every holiday season. The Seamus Heaney quotation from "A Herbal" that prefaces this collection aptly sums up the essence of each story as well as how this reader feels after completing this book: "... I had my existence. I was there. Me in place and the place in me." I'm grateful to have received this book as a Goodread's giveaway.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,736 reviews14.1k followers
January 8, 2013
The neighborhood of Brooklyn, over the span of thirty years, a huge melting pot of a place and a place that this author loves. I really enjoyed these stories, all the things that happen in a neighborhood, the good, the bad and of course the ugly. So very real, real people and real situations. Reminded me so much of my old neighborhood in Chicago, a mix of nationalities, playing in the alley, the streets, just the sense of belonging, thinking that it would all last forever. Of course, anyone who tries to go back will find it all different, and will be filled with such a sense of sadness. This air of nostalgia, yearning for a past that no longer exists anywhere but in our memories. This is why I love these stories, for their nostalgic feeling and for making me remember the good and the bad of times past.
77 reviews2 followers
December 20, 2012

These 36 short, short stories all appeared in the New York Daily News in the 1980s in an attempt to recapture the place literature once held in journalism. In that they certainly succeeded. It’s difficult for me to say I didn’t like The Christmas Kid when I have such admiration for Hamill’s writing. He’s one of my favorite authors and this collection does nothing to dim that admiration, but almost all were so melancholy, depressing, and dark that finishing was a chore. Still, the writing is beautiful & I'd give it 4.5 stars if I could.
Profile Image for Breanna.
523 reviews30 followers
January 7, 2016
I've always been a fan of short stories and I really liked this collection. Each story was different and hit you in a different way (emotionally) but it was also pretty cohesive. I look forward to reading more by this author
94 reviews
January 28, 2017
This book contains different short stories, that take place in Brooklyn. Some were more interesting than others.
493 reviews16 followers
December 24, 2017
Torn between three and four stars for this book of short short stories, but eventually coming down in favor of four for the way he creates a sense of place and feeling.
In a lot of ways there stories reminded me of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; they centered on pooor and immigrant communities in Brooklyn, reaching into a nostalgic past when things definitely weren't any easier, but they were the way they were--which for some people is all they really want. Each story dealt with aspects of that past honestly and seriously. Working-class existence is not sugar-coated; sometimes people are hungry, cold, desperate. Heroin and violence appear regularly throughout the stories, never glorified, but also as a part of life in a less than wealthy neighborhood of a big city. The love for place is tangible in every story; even as Hamill describes people being caught in truly awful situations (a surprising number end with protagonists being shot?) we can see that this hard and sometimes lonely place is home and the home-ness of it is what matters. The stories are largely bittersweet, but that gives them charm and weight.
I think the collection is a tad long for the length of the stories; they're so short that these 250 or so pages are 36 separate stories, all of which are pretty similar in terms of tone and plot. That's what keeps it from 5 stars for me; I got a little fatigued reading the whole collection, since there were so many stories with such similarity but without narrative relationships to one another.
My favorite stories were the title story, "A Poet Long Ago", "The Boarder", "The Man with the Blue Guitar", and "The Waiting Game". Generally a good read, but I would recommend not reading the whole collection as a book for maximum enjoyment.
Profile Image for Henry.
304 reviews1 follower
August 20, 2017
A wonderful collection of stories about where Hamill grew up, which was close to where I grew up. Many of the stories are placed in the late 40s and 50s (about 10 years before my time there) in working class immigrant Brooklyn, and Hamill captures the sensibility of that place better than anyone. His rhythmic dialogue keeps you smiling and he really evokes the community ethos of working class NYC that is so centered on the "neighborhood". After reading a collection like this, I wonder why anyone would read someone like Jonathan Lethem and think they know Brooklyn.
Some of Hamill's stories are only 4-6 pages and seem to be expanded character sketches or news stories, but that's to be expected. One great thing about his journalism background is how easily he throws you right into the middle of story. The only flat story in the collection is the last one, "The Book Signing", which is oddly predictable. If you are a fan of the real New York City, this book has some gems for you.
Profile Image for Frank.
146 reviews
September 2, 2021
A superb collection of stories centered around Brooklyn and its residents, taking the reader back to the Brooklyn of many years ago. My previous reading of Hamill has involved just a couple novels, and I was extremely impressed with his exceptional handling of the short story form. More subtle technique here, I think, which works well with the subject matter, whether he's telling a tale of sweet, youthful romance or street violence by rival gangs. Many of the stories sound like memoir pieces of Hamill's own life, while others appear to come from tales he might have heard from friends or relatives. A book that I enjoyed immensely and would have given 4.5 stars if I could have. Highly recommended to serious short story readers.
Profile Image for Alan Korolenko.
200 reviews
January 3, 2022
Short stories written by Pete Hamill for the NY Daily News in the early 1980s to bring back short fiction to newspapers as in the old days. Stories are set in Brooklyn, in South Slope,where Hamill grew up, in the 30s and 40s. Less nostalgic than regretful about the end of life, love and the old neighborhood personified by Rattigan's Pub on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 11th Street. For me the best of the stories were a bit more positive than the bulk of them including S'Wonderful about a much admired resident who retains the neighborhood's admiration even after committing embezzlement, The Hitter Bag, sort of an octagenerians revenge tale and the title story that ends as any Christmas tale should.
Profile Image for Susan.
476 reviews
December 18, 2017
This is a collection of fictional stories written by Hamill for the New York Daily News in the 1980's. They are set in Brooklyn, where the author grew up.

As with any collection of fictional stories, some of these provide better reading than others.

Of the stories that I read, "The Christmas Kid," which gave the volume its title, was my favorite. I also recommend "Just the Facts, Ma'am."
Profile Image for Lori.
1,408 reviews
December 7, 2019
"The Christmas Kid: And Other Brooklyn Stories" is a book of short stories. All the stories take place in Brooklyn over several decades. Many mention some of the same places, such as Rattigan's bar and grill that remained a mainstay in a lot of the stories. Some are funny, others sad and tragic. This might be a great book for those who are familiar with Brooklyn New York. Although I have never been there, I feel I learned a bit about Brooklyn and those who have lived there.
Profile Image for Pamela.
192 reviews
December 31, 2019
Let me begin by saying that I love Pete Hamill! The first story in this collection is, in fact, a feel good Christmas story. The rest are quirky, sad, a bit violent, heart wrenching stories of the Brooklyn area of Park Slope and South Slope where Hamill grew up. He writes of what he knows. He is remembering a time that was, and he lays it out, warts and all, for the reader to see it with him. It is filled with characters that you won’t soon forget. A wonderful read as always!
Profile Image for Donna.
693 reviews21 followers
December 5, 2017
The book cover and title is was not the best choice. Photos of old vintage Brooklyn would have been a much better choice.

Some of the stories are not the most uplifting...some quite depressing and sad. They all had a very realistic, old time feeling... If you choose to read it this....I'd suggest you balance it out with some happy, uplifting activities...
Profile Image for Angie .
287 reviews10 followers
January 4, 2019
A nostalgic bunch of short stories by Brooklyn native Pete Hamill. I really enjoyed these stories but most of them end badly or sad. I read this as a Christmas book (the main story does have a nicer ending) and was hoping for more uplifting stories for the holiday season. But all in all I enjoyed the stories and hearing about the places in Brooklyn my dad always talks about.
Profile Image for Dorina.
347 reviews2 followers
January 26, 2017
I always enjoy stories that take place in New York. This book of short stories is no exception. All of these stories are from Pete Hamill's life in Brooklyn, New York. All good quick reads. My favorite is the first one as it shows how a community can come together to benefit one.
Profile Image for Carol.
223 reviews
December 27, 2019
Book is a collection of original short stories that were written in the 1980's by Pete Hamill for various local Brooklyn newspapers. Some were better than others. I did enjoy the "walk down memory lane" with his mentioning many places in Brooklyn that I was familiar with, when growing up there.
Profile Image for Donnajo.
1,925 reviews
January 16, 2021
Won in past summer reading contest (shore)

Not my usual type of read short stories of author's newspapers articles. These types of books are hit and miss for me some stories are better than other's. Glad I finally read it and gave it a fair chance, well written. Just not my thing.
Profile Image for Cindie Usevich .
75 reviews1 follower
December 11, 2022
I was really excited to read this collection of short stories, but they are so depressing!! Almost all ended with death, murder, sadness, mania, grief, and addiction. Certainly not what I was expecting and not what I was really looking for.
Profile Image for Dave Donahoe.
200 reviews6 followers
December 8, 2018
Well, if there is one thing this book will teach you, it’s that Brooklyn is a very sad place.
Profile Image for Tamara.
4 reviews1 follower
December 30, 2018
A beautifully written book that transports the reader to another era of a Brooklyn neighborhood. Intriguing short stories that stick with you. Read it cover to cover in a matter of days.
Profile Image for Teri Pre.
1,622 reviews30 followers
February 13, 2021
I generally don't like short stories, but some of these were pretty good. Others....well..that's why I don't read short stories.
7 reviews
September 7, 2021
Brooklyn Stories

If you enjoy O'Henry type stories, grew up in Brooklyn, enjoy Pete's style and enjoy diverse situations you can look forward to 6 hours of varied emotions.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 102 reviews

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