Enjoy reading about the "city that never sleeps?"

Try some of these novels that take place in the "Big Apple."

19th Century Fiction (These novels take place in New York City in the 1800s.)


Baker, Kevin
    Paradise Alley, 2002.

At the height of the Civil War, what begins with strong words and a few broken bottles will, over the course of five days, escalate into the worst urban conflagration in American history. Hundreds of thousands of poor Irish immigrants smolder with resentment against a war and a president that have cost them so many of their young men. When word spreads throughout New York's immigrant wards that a military draft is about to be implemented -- a draft from which any rich man's son with $300 can buy an exemption -- trouble begins to spill into the streets.





Carr, Caleb
    The Alienist, 1994.

The year is 1896, the place, New York City. On a cold March night New York Times crime reporter John Schuyler Moore is summoned to the East River by a former Harvard classmate Dr. Laszio Kreizler, a psychologist or "alienist." On the unfinished Williamsburg bridge, they view the mutilated body of a boy, a prostitute from one of Manhattan's infamous brothels. The newly appointed police commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt, enlists the two men in the murder investigation, counting on Kreizler's intellect and Moore's knowledge of NY's underworld.




Carr, Caleb

     The Angel of Darkness, 1997.

Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, investigative journalist John Schuyler Moore, and Kreizler's assistant Stevie ``Stevepipe'' Taggert investigate a peculiarly dastardly crime. The year is 1897, and a Spanish diplomat's baby has been kidnapped. Suspicion falls on Elspeth Hunter, a nurse who is actually Libby Hatch, a malevolent gang moll and the suspected murderess of her own children. The pursuit, capture, and attempted conviction of Libby involve such notable historical figures as painter Albert Pinkham Ryder, women's-rights crusader Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Libby's defense attorney Clarence Darrow, and New York City Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, who commandeers the US Navy to aid in the story's climactic pursuit. (Sequel to The Alienist.)




Christilian, J.D.
    Scarlet Women, 1996.

The setting is New York City, the year 1871. A prostitute has been found in a warehouse, her throat slit. The cops don't have time to spend on the murder of a "scarlet woman," especially when they've got the Tammany Hall corruption scandal to worry about. So solving the crime falls to private investigator Harp. A former street kid who learned early to live by his wits with many connections among the city's poorest citizens, Harp excels at finding information in the city's subterranean reaches.




Crabbe, Richard
    Suspension, 2000.

May 31, 1883, 3:55 p.m. Twenty thousand men, women, and children, their faces shining in the late afternoon sun, are strolling the Eighth Wonder of the World. The Brooklyn Bridge is open just a week, its promenade a magnet for the teeming masses of New York and Brooklyn. An engineering marvel of transcending beauty, the bridge is simply breathtaking. In precisely five minutes, it will fall. Seven desperate men, former Confederate soldiers turned saboteurs, have labored for years to destroy the bridge, which they saw as a symbol of hated Yankee supremacy. Sergeant Detective Tom Braddock is one step behind the conspirators. Working through a series of murderous dead-ends, Braddock has dogged the seven men from the cables of the bridge to the shadowy alleys of the Lower East Side and the back streets of Richmond, Virginia. Slowly, he has slowly drawn closer to the unthinkable truth, a truth that none can accept...



Doctorow, E.L.

    Waterworks, 1994.

It is a city where every form of crime and vice flourishes, corruption is king, fabulous wealth stands on the shoulders of unspeakable want, and there are no limits to larceny. It is New York in 1871, where the disinherited son of a monstrous millionaire sees his dead father alive—and sets off a train of mystery and revelation that takes us into the darkest heart of evil and avarice.





Silvis, Randall

    On Night’s Shore, 2001.

The year is 1840 and New York City is captivated by the mysterious murder of a beautiful shopgirl. The discovery of the body of Mary Rogers in the Hudson River prompts a young journalist, Edgar Allan Poe to search for the truth behind an apparently motiveless crime. Joining him in his investigation is Augie Dubbins, an orphaned street urchin who becomes Poe's most trusted ally. Using intuition and rational thinking, Poe and Augie recreate the last days of the victim's secret life.




Early 20th Century (These novels take place in New York City from 1900-1950.)


Baker, Kevin

    Dreamland, 1999.

From the decks of a steamship that brings Sigmund Freud to America for a lecture tour, hundreds of European immigrants strain for a glimpse of the promised land. As they approach, they see New York, the city of their dreams, being consumed by flames. But as they draw nearer, their despair turns to amazement as they realize their searing image of the New World is really the magical radiance of a million incandescent lights at Coney Island's Dreamland amusement parka sight so spectacular, so unearthly, they are sure they can only be passing through the gates of heaven....or hell.




Ducovny, Amram

    Coney, 2000.

Coney Island, 1939. On the eve of World War II, fifteen-year-old Harry Catzker spends his after-school hours on his bike, picking up betting slips from Coney Island carnival freaks for the local bookie and racing his imaginary sworn enemy, German Captain Ziegenbaum, whose ship menaces the coastline. As the lights of the Cyclone and Luna Park glow in the Coney Island night, Harry finds a surrogate family in the freaks and low-lifes. A premature victim of Weltschmerz, Harry ponders life, art, philosophy, and politics with Aba, a Yiddish poet who boards with his family, yet he is unable to shake the dark foreboding of a disaster that finally materializes, changing his life utterly.





Hamill, Pete

    Snow in August, 1997.

In the year 1947, Michael Devlin, eleven years-old and one hundred percent American-Irish, is about to forge an extraordinary bond with a refugee of war named Rabbi Judah Hirsch. Standing united against a common enemy, they will summon from ancient sources a power in desperately short supply in modern Brooklyn—a force that’s forgotten by most of the world but is known to believers as magic.





Meyers, Annette

    Murder Me Now, 2001.

Greenwich Village is decked with snow and mistletoe in December of 1920. Prohibition may be the law, but the speakeasies are crowded with writers, artists, friends, lovers...and, perhaps, a killer. Amid all the conviviality, the beautiful Olivia Brown is once again drawn into intrigue when a young nanny, employed by one of her friends, is found murdered. Even more mysterious is her pedigree. With the help of her downstairs tenant, private eye Harry Melville, Olivia's investigation reveals not only some dark family secrets, but a criminal organization called the Black Hand. Now the question remains: Did the young woman die at the hands of thugs, a family member, or worse...one of Olivia's friends?




Stashower, Daniel
    The Floating Lady Murder, 2000.

It's difficult to gain the public's attention in turn-of-the-century New York--even if you are the greatest escape artist the world has ever seen. So the young performer who calls himself Harry Houdini must be content, for the time being, working for the internationally renowned Keller, the "Dean of American Magicians." But tragedy strikes at the inaugural performance of the master's most astonishing illusion, the Floating Lady, when Keller's levitating assistant plummets abruptly to the ground, apparently to her death. Yet an investigation soon reveals that it is drowning, and no fatal fall, that has killed the unfortunate young lady. An intriguing impossibility to be sure. And it is the great, albeit unsung, Houdini--with the aid of wife Bess and brother Dash--who must solve the deadly conundrum, leading them all into a maze of twisted schemes, grim deceptions, and bloodletting that is no mere stage fakery.



1960s New York


Albert, Mimi
    Skirts, 1994.

The scene is both exciting and dangerous: the New York bohemian subculture in the early 1960s. Archeology student Helene Elphrick desperately wants to shed both her controlling Jewish parents and her middle-class morality. Lonely and vulnerable, she is an easy mark for Zalman Finster, a Hasidic rabbi turned artist who introduces the giddy young woman to the avant-garde cultural scene and to a wide variety of mood-altering drugs. Helene travels through the wildly energetic bohemian counterculture of the day. In her forays to the Cedar Tavern, former hangout for Abstract Expressionists Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, and Stanley's Bar, she is joined by her impressionable friends Victoria and Ruth, and the three easily succumb to posturing, fraud and much worse.



Plain, Belva

    Her Father’s House, 2002.

Donald Wolfe, a 25-year-old North Dakota native, comes to New York City in 1968 to practice law; five years later, he meets and falls for the captivating Lillian Morris. Marrying in haste, he repents big time when Lillian reveals herself to be disturbingly erratic. After she becomes pregnant, the two divorce, but when Donald judges his daughter, Bettina, to be neglected, he kidnaps her. Taking to the road, he invents a new past for himself and adopts the name Jim, renaming his daughter Laura. Many years later, the truth is revealed and Jim stands trial for kidnapping. Will Laura, now a young woman, be able to forgive her father his deception, which he claims was for her own good?



1980s New York


Mordden, Ethan

    I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, 1983.

In the first volume of his acclaimed quartet of books on Manhattan gay life, Ethan Mordden introduces a small group of friends--Dennis Savage, Little Kiwi, Carlos, and the narrator, Bud--and chronicles their exploration of the new world of gay life and the new people they are in the process of becoming. The last three books in the trilogy are: Buddies (1985), Everybody Loves You (1988), and Some Men are Lookers (1997).




Solomon, Barbara Probst
    Smart Hearts in the City, 1992.

Katy Becker, a feisty, attractive Jewish woman in passionate middle age, is involved in a lawsuit against her brother-in-law; she believes he is cheating her out of a share of the family estate. Katy recalls her early years living on the edge of Harlem, her youthful fling with an ambitious young black man now prospering in California, and her wonderful summers spent at the splendid family estate on Long Island Sound. These memories are interwoven with events from the present: the dog-eat-dog worlds of contemporary (1980s) New York law and finance, a rather somber romance with a tough-guy millionaire whose boat is a showy extension of himself.



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Compiled by Linda Bova and Denise Heid.

This page created and maintained by Denise Heid.
Last updated 02/06/2003 .