New York, New York Is in Big Trouble—
Streets snarled in traffic, a government crippled by corruption.
The perfect symbol for the mire of corruption, especially for New York City, is traffic, and traffic is at the center of Urban Flight.
Cornell professor Jonathan Kirshner’s fiction debut is an action-packed crime and suspense novel with a daring high concept—corruption in the city government of New York in the mid-1970s, as witnessed by a helicopter pilot. The pilot, Jason Sims, should be doing his job with his brain turned off, but he’s a former sixties idealist, and when he sees trouble—and suspicious meetings that smack of money and murder—he can’t turn a blind eye. With his friend Adam Shaker, an investigative journalist, Jason snoops into the danger zone.
Jason and Adam are a stubborn pair of sleuths. The best of friends, they keep up a banter of affectionate insults as they spar over musical taste (Adam’s a rock journalist, and Jason a part time-blues guitarist). They also compete for the attention of Alison Monroe, a newly minted history professor who has her own ideas and resources to help them determine what is happening in the gridlocked city. But the pair find trouble—Adam because of his bulldog curiosity and his nose for what’s rotten; Jason a hero almost in spite of himself, compelled to use his helicopter as a weapon more than once. Jason has Adam’s back, and Adam has Jason’s.
Urban Flight sparkles with witty dialogue, and some of the scenes are frighteningly funny, such as a costume party of masked Nixons. There are echoes of RFK’s assassination and the Chicago police riot of 1968. Rock music trends are a sub-theme, providing the story with a sound track. And throughout we’re treated to cityscapes of New York, featuring such icons as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty.
This high-stakes novel is intelligent, entertaining, and right on the money.
Jonathan Kirshner is a professor at Cornell University, where he teaches in the areas of international relations, political economy, and the politics of film. His most recent books are Hollywood’s Last Golden Age: Politics, Society and the Seventies Film in America and American Power after the Financial Crisis. He lives in Ithaca, New York with his wife and two sons.