Cobble Hill

Brooklynite’s debut novel conjures futuristic New York

Brooklyn BookBeat: Author To Celebrate Book Launch in Brooklyn

January 15, 2014 By Samantha Samel Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Brooklynite Adam Sternbergh, culture editor of The New York Times Magazine, has long been writing about New York City. Formerly an editor-at-large for New York magazine, he has written for numerous publications, including GQ and The Times of London. Recently, though, Sternbergh has moved beyond his background in journalism and tried his hand at New York-centric fiction. The result is an enthralling debut novel titled “Shovel Ready” (Crown, Jan. 14, 2014), in which he introduces us to Spademan, an extraordinary narrator who navigates a futuristic New York City. “Shovel Ready” has earned widespread praise from esteemed writers and critics, and the author will be appearing in Brooklyn to read from the novel on Jan. 16 at BookCourt in Cobble Hill.

Though set in the near future, “Shovel Ready” is inspired by the gritty, crime-ridden New York that existed just a few decades ago. Spademan, a former garbage man and loving husband, is now a lonely hit man. After a series of explosions destroy much of the city, masses of residents migrate across the world and New York loses its status as a tourist destination.

Spademan, who has stayed put, discovers that his new occupation — killing people for money —is not so unlike his job as a garbage man. He travels throughout the city, visiting Central Park (where he muses that “the rich never come out to the park anymore, could give a shit about Strawberry Fields”) and Brooklyn (where he walks through “Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, past the blocks of boarded-up and blacked-out brownstones.”)  

About Red Hook Spademan observes, “[it] sits low on the water, and from some parts you can see the Statue of Liberty, and supposedly the whole place used to feel like a frontier town, a refuge to escape to when the rest of Brooklyn got flooded with water.” But Red Hook’s value as a haven is apparently destroyed when it suffers a few floods, and now, Spademan explains, only “the poor with no options” remain in the neighborhood, “packed into public housing.”

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Spademan’s narration is eerily detached and jumpy: “I kill men,” he reveals at the beginning of the novel. “I kill women because I don’t discriminate. I don’t kill children because that’s a different kind of psycho. I do it for money. Sometimes for other forms of payment. But always for the same reason. Because someone asked me to. And that’s it.”

But despite the easy facility with which he operates as a hit man, Spademan faces a challenge when one client hires him to kill the daughter of a powerful evangelist. The assignment is more complex than usual: his client is shady and has sleazy motives, while his mark has an alarming secret. In order to protect himself, Spademan must work to stay grounded while still completing the job.

“Shovel Ready” is a dynamic debut that has already won the attention of Warner Bros., which is adapting the novel for film and reportedly considering Denzel Washington to star as Spademan.

The Jan. 16 event will begin at 7 p.m. BookCourt is located at 163 Court St. in Cobble Hill.

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