Monday, March 10, 2008

New Amsterdam

I read this novel by Pete Hamill called Forever. It's one of my favorite novels; I should read more Hamill. It's about an immortal who lives in New York. He arrives in Manhattan from Ireland as a young man in the 1760s, and is nearly killed during the Revolutionary War. A freed slave/shaman whom he once helped saves him by invoking the River Gods to save his life. As a result, he is immortal but bounded by the rivers—that is, the Hudson and the Harlem rivers—he can never leave the island of Manhattan.

This tale of immortality allows Hamill to tell the history of New York through the eyes of immortality; from the 18th century to the present. It's a wonderful story and a wonderful conceit. Gangs of New York reminded me of the novel; the period in Gangs is covered by the book, and the flash-forward at the end of Gangs brought the notion of New York City as an immortal being to the fore.

Now there's a TV show called New Amsterdam. Although Hamill does not seem to be acknowledged anywhere in the credits, there is no doubt it's an adaptation. "John Amsterdam" is about 100 years older than Hamill's protagonist, is Dutch rather than Irish, but he too is an immortal embodiment of NYC. He, too, searches for the true love who will end his eternal youth and with whom he will age.

So, okay, Hamill should sue. But I was interested in seeing the show. It's really quite good. The lead (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is super-handsome in an Aaron Eckhart kind of way, but he's not bland. The interweaving of past and present is deft. He's a homicide detective (having been many things in many "lives") and the murder-of-the-week that I saw was smart and engaging but not too distracting from the back story that's the real meat of the show.

Mondays at 9 (8 Central); I'm looking forward to getting hooked on this one.

(Cross-post of New York)