With 17 books under his belt, I have a lot to catch up with Pete Hamill. I have recently bought North River and Forever and started the former. The story is simple enough: a stroller with a three-year-old boy was left at the door of James Delancey’s walkup on asnowy morning. The boy, Carlito, is his grandson. His mother left for Barcelona to look for her revolutionary husband who was a member of the Mexican Communist Party. So the beleaguered doctor who ministered to the poor and the down-and-out now has one more person under his roof, a little boy who needs more than just nourishing—an emotional upbringing and a safe home. Hamill’s New York is one that is cottage industry in literature and film—the Irish misery. But the ground has been covered so often at this point that it risks cliché. Presumably the only trick left is to go even farther than your predecessors did, pile on the misery even thicker. At 77, Hamill is at his best when he writes about his city. He knows New York present and past, and he is able to make us taste the early-20th-century time frame of “North River”, which is the Hudson River.