The title of Pete Hamill’s novel (memoir) is “A Drinking Life,” but the title is slightly misleading. Yes, the novel is definitely about drinking, but it is also a brilliant sociological study of the Irish/American and Irish immigrants living in Brooklyn during the 40’s through the 60’s. Or as Mr. Hamill puts it, The Pre-War World II era and the post World War II era.
It is a time when the Catholic Church reigned supreme, where almost all the men worked at working class jobs, where families were quite large, five children or more, living in relatively small apartments, all democrats, and acceptance into manhood meant drinking hard and hanging out in bars.
Mr Hamil followed this pattern perfectly, except that he was also an avid reader, drew comics, read newspapers and travelled the world as a columnist for the NY POST, Novelist, and screenwriter. Whether in Mexico, Vietnam, Spain, Italy or Ireland the one constant was drinking in bars, with on and off girlfriends, at parties, and alone.
At a relatively early age, his late thirties, he stopped drinking completely and never touched a drop for the next 50 years he lived.
Recently, I have read a number of fabulous writers who for ninety-nine percent of their work have written wonderfully and constructed their novels perfectly, but in too many cases the writers have taken the easy way out at the end… The predictable way, but that is not the case with Mr. Hamill’s novel. It is perfect from the very beginning to the last line of this marvelous book.