March 11, 1996 12:00 PM

by Pete Hamill

For those who still think of Pete Hamill as the consummate tabloid columnist who can flex his feistiness on tight deadline and tighter space, this set of previously published essays shows that the 60-year-old wordsmith can go long without losing his poet’s passion or his newshound’s nose for detail.

A self-proclaimed generalist—with “millions of words of newspaper and magazine journalism” to prove it—the Brooklyn-born Hamill has spent much of the last 30 years pursuing his far-flung interests in public. This 432-page collection—infused with clear-headed prose that searches out the bright lights and the blind spots of human heart—is “a recording of where I was and what I saw and who I met along the way.”

Few writers have owned a more jam-packed diary: late-night vodka with Frank Sinatra; early-morning batting practice with former New York Mets baseball whiz Keith Hernandez; reportorial sparring with inmate Mike Tyson; extended tours of Northern Ireland, Lebanon, Nicaragua and the drug capital of Miami; romantic encounters with his beloved New York and Mexico City; a peaceful negotiation with middle age.

Partisans who take pride in reading Hamill’s every word will discover a gem or two they may have missed; rookie readers will find this the perfect sampler. (Little, Brown, $24.95)

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