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Cold Type

Frank Deford, author of Everybody’s All-American, NPR commentator
Harvey Araton writes, with keen insight, of a time when power was ebbing fast from both newspapers and their unions. It’s an especially bittersweet tale he tells of the people who had grown up in newspapers and unions, as they struggle to adapt to this evolving new order. And, of course, what makes this even more evocative, is that we’re still trying to sort this all out.
Midwest Book Review
Harvey Araton is a gifted novelist whose "Cold Type" is a solid entertainment from first page to last. Very highly recommended.
Synopsis: A son and his father struggle to hold onto what they think is right. It's mid-1990s; and "cold type" technology, a.k.a. computerized typesetting, wreaks havoc among workers in the newspaper industry. A fabulously wealthy Briton buys the New York City Trib and immediately refuses to negotiate with the truck drivers' union. In solidarity, all the other blue collar unions take to the streets. Jamie Kramer is a reporter for the Trib. His father is a hardcore shop steward (unusual for a Jew in Irish-dominated unions) from the old day of "hot type," but who has become a typographer in a world he doesn't understand. His father expects Jamie not to cross the picket line. It would be an act of supreme disrespect. But that's not so easy for Jamie. His marriage has fallen apart, he desperately needs his paycheck for child support, and he needs to make his own life outside the shadow of his father.

Critique: An impressively crafted original novel that takes on classic themes of generational family issues exacerbated by the recent and continuing history of a changing newspaper industry brought about by the inevitable advances of technology. Harvey Araton is a gifted novelist whose "Cold Type" is a solid entertainment from first page to last. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Fiction collections.
- August 1, 2014  Visit Website
Kirkus Reviews
New York Times writer and columnist Araton knows newspapers and knows New York, and in his seventh book (and first novel), he explores clashes more personal, more searing, more universal than any of the sports stories he's told before. Cold Type is a tale about collisions: between generations, between classes, between different crafts in a rapidly changing economy, between the past and the future, between father and son.

A story about a newspaper, a family, a strike, and social and economic change—sketched against the backdrop of New York in the 1990s.


New York Times writer and columnist Araton knows newspapers and knows New York, and in his seventh book (and first novel), he explores clashes more personal, more searing, more universal than any of the sports stories he's told before. Cold Type is a tale about collisions: between generations, between classes, between different crafts in a rapidly changing economy, between the past and the future, between father and son. These are collisions that no one wanted and that no one could avoid. They break the rules, they break apart families, they create heartbreak. They are as ancient as the hills and as current as today’s news—and the existential crisis that surrounds today’s newspapers. By crossing a picket line that includes his father, a hard-boiled shop steward, the reporter Jamie Kramer crosses a moral line, as well—and the book’s action and its interest revolve around what happens on both sides of those two lines. Tensions rise with the unions out on strike, but management and union defectors ensure that copies of the paper are out on the street. Before long, union workers drift back to their jobs—setting up one of the freshest surprise endings of the stale genre of the newspaper novel.


A novel with a strong whiff of the New York Daily News strike of 1990-1991—and with ominous foreshadowings of what the protagonist describes as “this internet thing everybody’s talking about.’’


- June 1, 2014 
Robert Lipsyte, author of The Accidental Sportswriter
Father and son face their demons, each other, and a depressingly realistic publisher in a newspaper yarn that made me yell, “Hold the Front Page” for Harvey Araton’s rousing debut as a novelist.
Mark Kriegel, author of Namath
I’ve been waiting almost 25 years for something good to come of the Daily News strike. Now it has. But this wonderful novel captures more than a time and a place. Harvey Araton deftly turns the picket line into a metaphor for other divides, for those that separate journalism and commerce, heroes and goats, and most of all, fathers and sons. Cold Type is a love song to the real New York.
Brad Parks, author of The Player
A gripping narrative and an insightful take on family, work, what loyalty means—and what it costs. Harvey Araton is a skilled writer who knows his way around the milieus he travels in this novel, whether it’s a newsroom, a labor hall or a living room. But what really makes this worth reading is the heart you can feel beating underneath it all.
Pamela Redmond Satran, author of Younger
Fans of Harvey Araton’s lively, engaging prose will love this vivid and heartfelt exploration of what it means to be a journalist, a son, a father, and a man.
The Great Gray Bridge
*featured #fridayreads* "Memorable and likable characters dominate this realistic and very enjoyable novel … a sort of old-fashioned novel, offering a social portrait and a really rich story. Kudos to Mr Araton and Cinco Puntos Press, of El Paso, Texas, for writing and publishing this worthy novel … I’m going to be recommending Cold Type for weeks."
Memorable and likable characters dominate this realistic and very enjoyable novel by longtime New York Times sports reporter Araton, who also spent years at the NY Daily News. The protagonist is Jamie Kramer, son of Morris, a longtime printer and union member at a NY paper called the Sun, which has recently been acquired by a marauding Anglo-Irish press baron, Leland Brady. Jamie works at the paper, too, though his one big story, on covert policies in his native Brooklyn that limit the sale of real estate to white people, a well-reported expose, earned him nothing but trouble. He hasn’t received the laurels bestowed on his hotshot cousin, Steven, a heroic columnist, at least in his own eyes. The book is set during a newspaper strike, apparently resembling in some respects a strike that occurred at the Daily News in the early 1990s. Araton makes entirely believeable the tension among the eight different unions striking the paper, triggered by the intemperate drivers.
Other characters include Jamie’s wife, Karyn, from whom he’s separated; their son, two-year old Aaron; and Jamie’s Latina colleague Carla, a savvy ally in the newsroom, and a sympathetic soul who knows Jamie’s secrets, even while she has many of her own. One subplot concerns Karyn, who’s in the midst of being recruited by a talkative entrepreneur in Seattle who’s starting a new business selling books on the Internet, still so new at this point in the ’90s. He even wants to recruit Jamie, who wants desperately to maintain a connection to Aaron, and so flirts with the idea of moving across the country. Araton never gives this Jeff-Bezos avatar a name but he hardly needed to do so. One irony that Araton doesn’t seem to have anticipated for his novel is that Bezos is now himself a newspaper owner, of the Washington Post, an inheritor of the world that Jamie Kramer and his father inhabit.
I will say very little about the ending, except that it’s a treat, as just desserts are served all ’round. This is a really enjoyable, sort of old-fashioned novel, offering a social portrait and a really rich story. Kudos to Mr Araton and Cinco Puntos Press, of El Paso, Texas, for writing and publishing this worthy novel. Thanks to Bobby Byrd of Cinco Puntos, who at BEA gave me the autographed copy I finished reading today. I’m going to be recommending COLD TYPE for weeks.
- Phillip Turner, June 14, 2014  Visit Website
Capital New York
“Set during that same period at the fictional New York City Trib, which has been purchased by a filthy rich but not-so-union-friendly Brit, Cold Type is a father-son saga that unfolds on opposite sides of the picket line and explores the psychological dramas of industry-changing technologies, namely the computerized typesetting system from which the novel takes its name.”
"Beach-bound media wags beware: Your summer reading stack just got a little taller.

This season brings at least four new novels with journalism baked into the plots, from a roman-a-clef about a young magazine reporter cutting his teeth in a dwindling medium to a newspaper noir that follows a fresh-faced tabloid stringer into the hermetic world of a Hasidic murder probe.

'I tried to bring alive what it's like to be a tabloid reporter at a time when newspapers are dying,' said Julia Dahl, the 36-year-old author of the latter novel, Invisible City, which was published May 6 by Macmillan's Minotaur Books.

In writing Invisible City, Dahl, who works as a crime reporter for cbsnews.com, tapped into her former life as a runner for the New York Post, where she spent inordinate stretches of time staking out the apartments of scandalized celebrities and knocking on the doors of relatives of the recently deceased. She was in her early 30s, and already had a fair amount of experience under her belt, unlike the novel's 22-year-old protagonist.

'It's as much about the perils of doing journalism and not taking it seriously as it is about a murder in the closed society of the ultra orthodox,' said Dahl. 'It's about how difficult it would be for a young reporter with very little guidance and maturity to interact with people on the worst days of their lives and ask them really uncomfortable questions.'

Michael Hastings, who died in a car crash last year at the age of 33, had a knack for uncomfortable questions during his short but storied career as a hard-charging national security reporter. His posthumous novel, The Last Magazine, which was published June 17 by Blue Rider Press, is a fictional rendering of Hastings' decidedly non-fictional experiences working for Newsweek during the transformational media era of the aughts.

'In Mr. Hastings’s book, even as the protagonist strives to become what he despises — a big-deal magazine writer — he realizes that soon enough it will all go away,' David Carr wrote in a New York Times column about the book. 'The milieu of the book paints a picture of a treehouse where like minds connive and look for an opening. But far below them, there is the sound of sawing — steady and implacable. The tree will fall. The insurgents — in media, in Iraq, in the world at large — are on the march and a privileged perch is no longer assured.'

These novels are some of the latest examples of what you might call reporter fiction, a literary sub-genre unto itself and one that spans the decades, from Evelyn Waugh's classic 1938 foreign-correspondent satire 'Scoop' to more recent entries like Tom Rachman's 'The Imperfectionists,' a 2010 release that pulls back the curtain on the existential tribulations of a faltering European paper's motley newsroom.

Out this week from Cinco Punto Press is Cold Type by New York Times sports-writer Harvey Araton, 62, whose debut novel was inspired by his conscience-bending decision to cross the picket line during the great Daily News strike of 1990-1991. (Araton's father, who'd died several months earlier, had been a union guy through and through.)

Set during that same period at the fictional New York City Trib, which has been purchased by a filthy rich but not-so-union-friendly Brit, Cold Type is a father-son saga that unfolds on opposite sides of the picket line and explores the psychological dramas of industry-changing technologies, namely the computerized typesetting system from which the novel takes its name.

'In the months after that whole experience,' said Araton, 'I kept thinking, 'Would I have dared crossed the picket line had my father still been around?' '(Real life spoiler: After a single day of scabbing, Araton said, he never went back to work for the Daily News again.)

Fellow Daily News vet Dick Belsky decided not to come up with some fake tabloid title for his latest novel, The Kennedy Connection, a J.F.K.-inspired crime thriller (out August 12 from Simon and Schuster's Atria imprint) that's narrated by Gil Malloy, a fictional reporter at New York's hometown newspaper.

The plot has Malloy, a discredited newspaper hack, connecting the dots between a string of modern-day murders and John F. Kennedy's 1963 assassination. (Like Dahl's book, it's the first in a series.)

'The character has made mistakes in his career out of his compulsion to get the big story and appear on page one,' said Belsky, 69, who also did time at the Post and was most recently managing editor of nbcnews.com, 'and that's been true of so many people I've worked with over the years in tabloids.'

Or, as the legendary Jimmy Breslin put it in his jacket blurb: 'Who better to tell the story of a newsman in disgrace than a man from the New York tabloids, where disgrace was a badge of honor.'

Stories like these play into the tired old narrative of journalists as a pack of navel-gazing know-it-alls who love nothing more than to read and write about themselves.

While there's some truth to that stereotype, these authors are confident their ink-stained tales will resonate with a wider audience.
'People love to hear stories about newspapers,' said Belsky. 'There's a fascination with it.'

'I was writing for more of a baby-boomer audience,' said Araton, 'but I think a newspaper story can also resonate with younger people who have an interest in the media in general.'

Dahl sees a timeless appeal.

'In a way it's like why we think cop stories are interesting,' she said. 'A newspaper reporter's job, especially at a tabloid where you're in a different person's yard every single day, there are just so many stories to tell. Most people don't get to just nose around in other people's worlds.'"
- Joe Pompeo, July 25, 2014  Visit Website
New Jersey Star Ledger
“Araton perfectly captures the painful struggle of newspapers, as the digital age looms.”
“The phone rang on a Saturday morning and I was muzzy from a night that was a blur of bravado, Scotch and fear. The newspaper where I was working was leaning toward a strike; the one at which my husband worked just authorized one.

The call was from the New York Daily News, offering me a job for more money and the chance to return home. I learned to read from that paper, even using "nabbed" in a second-grade composition. But there was a huge catch: I would have to cross a picket line.

The idea of a blue-collar kid crossing a picket line to write for the paper that was supposed to be the voice of the workers was absurd. I wiped my tears, went on and wondered about being inside that strike.
Harvey Araton, of Montclair, does an excellent job of telling one reporter’s story during that strike in this novel, which encompasses the lure of newspapers and the dynamics of complicated family relationships. Araton, a sports writer for the New York Times and formerly of the News, also does a fine job of explaining the moribund days of once-mighty unions that ran papers.

The story unfolds at the Trib, where Jamie is our hero, albeit an unlikely one. He’s smart, but not as smart or daring as his cousin, Steven, to whom he’s always been compared. Jamie’s dad, Morris, works at the paper and is a union boss. Morris’ brother, Lou, also works there; both of them are backshop guys. Steven is Lou’s son, the family star, a columnist.

Jamie has a failed marriage, a toddler son, a career not showing much promise, a negligible bank account and a frayed relationship with his father. He’s also clueless, though genuine, as he stumbles through life.

Araton is particularly adept at describing newsroom types such as Blaine, the paper’s longtime columnist:

‘He scratched a wide landing strip of a nose containing more colored lines than the city transit map.’

Jamie has no choice but to strike. As the son of a union boss and working for this paper, anything less would be a high crime. Yet Jamie does not have the conviction. Maybe he lacks the drive to be on papers, or maybe he’s just so shell-shocked over what his life has become.

His estranged wife forced him a move to a suburb they could barely afford. Worse, he had to leave his beloved Brooklyn. Jamie, a Jewish boy who relished his days of being good enough to shoot hoops with the black kids in the projects, never belonged in the suburbs. His wife makes him pay for missing the birth of their son, though the baby was born early and Jamie was on a story, unaware. As soon as he found out, he raced to the hospital, but it was too late — for the birth and the marriage.

When the strike starts, Jamie goes out, but his heart is never in it. In a dramatic scene, which winds up on the local cable station and on the paper’s front page, Jamie confronts his father and crosses the picket line, but not before his father decks him.

Araton perfectly captures the painful struggle of newspapers, as the digital age looms.

In this scene, unfolding Nov. 9, 1994, Gerry, the blustery union boss of the drivers, meets with his lawyer, Schmoo, as they talk about the new owner, Brady.

‘Schmoo, I never even heard of this internet until a couple of months ago and I don’t know what the hell you are talking about. People paying their subscription bills by computer? What the hell does that have to do with what we’re doing, with getting that bastard Brady to give us a fair shake?’

‘It has everything to do with you, Gerry. Everything. I’d bet a year’s salary that they’re already planning to make the same s**t you deliver every day available on the computer. Because sooner or later, probably sooner with the way the technology is going, these people will figure out how much cheaper it will be to not have to cut down trees and pay for the newsprint or run printing presses or finance a fleet of trucks and drivers to produce a newspaper that can be delivered right into the home with the press of a button.’

That strike and the others, ultimately, couldn’t pack the punch they once would have. Still, I never could have been a scab. I’ve since raised more glasses at more wakes for closing papers than I want to think about. Like Jamie, I’m not sure what’s next. Given the ending of this fine novel, I hope Araton revisits Jamie and lets us know where he winds up.”
- Jacqueline Cutler , August 17, 2014  Visit Website

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