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Pete Hamill

Occupation writer
Nationality American
Official website

Pete Hamill (born June 24, 1935) is a prominent American journalist, columnist, novelist, and short story writer. He is one of four men who disarmed Sirhan Sirhan of his gun during the aftermath of the Robert F. Kennedy Assassination.



Hamill was born in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn as the oldest of seven children of Catholic immigrants from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He attended Catholic schools as a child, primarily Holy Name of Jesus Grammar School followed by a scholarship to the prestigious Regis High School in Manhattan.

Hamill left there at the age of 16 to work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a sheet metal worker, and then joined the United States Navy in 1952. In his 20s, Hamill had an encounter with the poet W.H. Auden that he described this way: "When I was in my 20s, not yet a newspaperman, I lived on Ninth Street and Second Avenue. I would occasionally see Auden going to or coming from St Mark’s Place, where he lived (one block away). I wanted to ask him what he meant, but never had the nerve. I wish I had. I’ve lived a lifetime since those brief encounters, and Auden is still in print. I still wonder what he meant, but far more important, I have the poetry." [1]

His brothers Denis and John Hamill are also writers. Denis Hamill writes for the New York Daily News.[2] His other siblings are Joe (deceased), Brian, and Kathleen. Hamill has a daughter named Deirdre. [3]


In the early 1950s, Hamill studied at the School of Visual Arts. In 1960, Hamill began working as a reporter for the New York Post. In subsequent years, he became one of the city's best known reporters, as columnist for the Post, the New York Daily News, and Newsday. As a foreign correspondent, he covered wars in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Lebanon and Northern Ireland. In different periods, Hamill was editor-in-chief of both the New York Post and the New York Daily News. His work landed him on the master list of Nixon political opponents.

Hamill published two collections of journalism, a book about the relationship of tools to art, and a book about New York City, along with Why Sinatra Matters, an essay on the music of the late singer.

In regard to the book on Frank Sinatra, Hamill has stated:

"I wanted to look at Sinatra for the several things that he accomplished, above all as a musician. Yes, he was an interpreter of other peoples’ songs, just as Pavarotti is, or Billie Holiday was. I’ve heard much music sung by people who wrote their own music, and not all of it is good. Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, John Lennon, the Rolling Stones: these are superb artists. But when I listen to hip-hop, I don’t decide to consign Sinatra, Lady Day, Nat Cole and others to the trash bin. Sinatra brought to pop music a distinctly urban voice, from the cities where the children of immigrants were making their presence known. In roughly the same period, Fiorello LaGuardia, Joe DiMaggio and Sinatra drove the Italian organ grinder and his monkey off the American stage forever...There was something else to the tale: Sinatra’s audience at the beginning was primarily female; it ended up primarily male. He helped humans trained to silence – or emotional numbness -- to express some of their deepest emotions." [4]

His articles have also appeared in the Village Voice, Esquire, Vanity Fair, Playboy, Rolling Stone and New York. Hamill is currently on the staff of The New Yorker.

Regarding his love of journalism, Hamill wrote of it in this manner:

"Reporting is the heart of the matter. The great Murray Kempton called it “going around”. Journalism is, as the cliché goes, history in a hurry. But it can be more. American reporting, in its great phase, starts (I believe) with Stephen Crane. Many of his early pieces are in “The New York Sketches of Stephen Crane” You can see later how he moved past journalism by looking at the newspaper story he wrote that was later turned in “The Open Boat”. Even newspaper columns, at their best, use reporting as the authority for their opinions. The great editors recognize reporting talent and try to sharpen it, improve it. No newspaper editor would ever say to a youngster: “There’s too much reporting in this piece.” When the work is at its best, it also become “literature in a hurry.” I always think of the line of Ezra Pound (dreadful, of course, on politics and society but smart about writing). In “The ABC of Reading” he wrote “Literature is news that stays news.”" [5]


Hamill has also written fiction, producing eight novels and two collections of short stories. He also published a memoir, A Drinking Life, which detailed how he overcame his alcoholism, as well as detailing his childhood and how it led to drinking.


  • North River (2007)
  • Downtown : My Manhattan (2004, nonfiction)
  • Forever (2003)
  • Why Sinatra Matters (2003, nonfiction)
  • News is a Verb (1998, nonfiction)
  • Snow in August (1998)
  • Piecework (1996, nonfiction)
  • A Drinking Life : A Memoir (1995, nonfiction)
  • Loving Women
  • The Guns of Heaven (1984)
  • The Deadly Piece
  • Flesh and Blood
  • Dirty Laundry
  • The Gift
  • A Killing for Christ


  1. ^ The Dan Schneider Interview 3: Pete Hamill, Cosmoetica, 8/8/07, accessed Sept. 17, 2008.
  2. ^ Bio page, NY Daily News, accessed Sept. 17, 2008.
  3. ^ The Dan Schneider Interview 3: Pete Hamill, Cosmoetica, 8/8/07, accessed Sept. 17, 2008.
  4. ^ The Dan Schneider Interview 3: Pete Hamill, Cosmoetica, 8/8/07, accessed Sept. 17, 2008.
  5. ^ The Dan Schneider Interview 3: Pete Hamill, Cosmoetica, 8/8/07, accessed Sept. 17, 2008.

External links


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