The Late Great Jimmy Breslin

Dashiell Hammett, Alexander Dumas, Homer (the blind Greek guy, not Homer Simpson), Georges Simenon, Sue Grafton, Mikhail Lermontov, Nikolai Gogol — these are authors whose books I automatically buy when I see them at tag sales and flea markets.

If you asked me who is my favorite author, I would have to think, but I think I would say Jimmy Breslin. He has so many books and so many columns and they’re all so great, and by that I mean enlightening and entertaining.

Breslin wrote a great column, and he was an old fashioned police reporter in that he did what none of the other reporters would do. He would interview witnesses and neighbors of the victims and the accused and get angles nobody else had.

And he knew the police so well — where they drank, where they screwed around, where they lived. There’s a great scene in World Without End Amen, where Davy McDermott has a fight with his wife and goes out on the front porch and lights a cigarette, and then we look down the street and see guys lighting cigarettes on all the front porches.

The best column I remember was Breslin sitting with two policemen at headquarters on New Year’s Eve totalling up all the murders at the end of the year. So there’s this guy who was stabbed at 11 p.m. and died two hours later and they’re debating whether to count the murder in the new year or the old year.

One of the cops says it’s like in basketball when you put up a shot before time expires and then it goes in. No one in the world could capture a moment like that like Jimmy Breslin.

Breslin has a great book about Watergate called “How the Good Guys Finally Won,” but all his books are great reads.