3 books that bust the lid off ‘bad old days’ New York City

By | July 17, 2021

This has been an extremely challenging year for the Big Apple, and while we’ve turned the corner on the pandemic, the city’s future isn’t entirely clear. I’ve been on a bit of a “Bad Old Days of NYC” kick this summer, reading about other chaotic times in the city’s recent past. Here are three classics.

The Bronx is Burning book cover

Jonathan Mahler (Picador) 

In 1977, New York was in the grip of the murderer known as Son of Sam, terrifying residents with the violence and randomness of his crimes. A citywide power outage in July — which set off days of arson and looting that would lead to the largest mass arrest in city history — and an ongoing baseball battle between Yankee slugger Reggie Jackson and team manager Billy Martin made for a tense, uneasy year in the metropolis. 

Fear City book cover

Kim Phillips-Fein (Metropolitan Books) 

In 1975, New York City was on the brink of fiscal collapse. Few believed it could happen — wasn’t a city like New York too big to fail? But as weeks went by, bankruptcy seemed like it was inevitable. In this strangely riveting read, Phillips-Fein takes the reader behind the scenes, giving a look into the boardroom and backroom deals that were made to save the city. 

The Savage City book cover

TJ English (William Morrow Paperbacks) 

In August of 1963, two twentysomething women were brutally killed in their Upper East Side apartment, a crime that would become known as the “Career Girl Murders.” A young black man named George Whitmore Jr. would be falsely accused of that murder and other crimes. Whitmore’s story is interwoven with that of a corrupt NYPD cop and a militant Black Panther in this fascinating read. 

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