NPR recently took a stroll with New York crime writer Gabriel Cohen through my very own neighborhood of Red Hook.  (I haven’t really lived long enough to claim cred, but whatever.)  In addition to the very famous me, Red Hook is also home to the  main character in Cohen’s crime series, NYPD detective Jack Leightner.  It seems like the occasion for the stroll through Red Hook is the publication of Cohen’s latest book, Neptune Avenue. You’d think they’d be walking around Coney Island and Brighton Beach for a nice bit of intrigue and pr, but they chose Red Hook because that’s where the fictional Leightner grew up.  Cohen made Red Hook Leightner’s childhood home because, as a writer,  he was drawn in by the mystery of “who killed Red Hook.”  The once  thriving port neighborhood saw almost all of its water-related industries disappear (and all the related commercial activity that went with it),  and Cohen wanted to figure out how and why that happened, and who’s to blame. Robert Moses?  New Jersey?

The piece is interesting because you learn about Cohen’s motivations behind certain plot and character decisions, and it’s a nice reminder that writers should put their own interests and curiosity into their work.

However, the article falls off right at the end though with some wistful pontificating about Red Hook’s future.

So is Robert Moses the culprit? Like any good novelist, Cohen realized that there was a twist in the mystery of who killed Red Hook.

“It’s not dead,” Cohen says. “There’s life in the old neighborhood yet. You see a lot of weeds coming up from the cracks in the Red Hook sidewalks and the whole neighborhood is like that. It’s hopefully indestructible.”

Sure, it’s a pretty bad time for longshoremen in Red Hook, and yes, the neighborhood is very isolated (and segregated), but to hint that anyone could think it’s dead is silly.  Everyone looooooooooooooves Red Hook these days. It’s the “undiscovered” neighborhood du jour for wandering and long bicycle trips.   Gentrification brings its own brand of death (houses are $$$, etc.), but Red Hook is experiencing a huge rebirth, and anyone who takes a walk around the neighborhood would see that.  I know it was different in 2001, when Cohen wrote the first novel of the series, Red Hook, so I don’t understand how he failed to note how its changed in the intervening years.

What, exactly, is the point of this post?  I’m not really sure myself.  Self-indulgence?

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