Gelman's journalistic success, prompted by his New York Newsday bureau chief's instructions, turns on mastery of what he calls the ``Italian Rules'': Do what it takes, just don't get caught. In 1988 this self-described ``yup-puppy'' was assigned to the crime beat after having spent two frustrating years as a researcher for the tabloid's editorial page (``I was zealous, determined and ambitious, at times to a blinding fault,'' he writes). But it's a redundant admission, given Gelman's self-revealing anecotes, like the one about when he intruded at 12:30 a.m. on a grieving mother of three whose husband had been gunned down hours before as the couple made their way home from Christmas Eve shopping. Readers put off by Gelman's ghoulishness, however, will come to respect him after witnessing his epiphany: the realization that in his reporter's bag of tricks ``empathy is more important than intimidation or subterfuge.'' His depiction of urban mean streets--ghetto children killed by stray bullets, young girls raped, mutilations, racial gang wars--makes us feel anguish for the victims and their relatives, makes palpable the crime reporter's frustration at numbing police bureaucracy, makes our adrenalin pump whenever Gelman's 24-hour beeper sounds and we join him on the chase for news. (Sept.)
Americans' appetite for crime stories, whether on TV or in print, seems to be insatiable, and this book will appeal to many readers. Gelman recounts his days on the police beat and his zeal to get the story and the newsworthy quote, ending with his sense of burnout and move to other areas of reporting. While he relates plenty of crime stories, this is also the tale of a young man's growth in his profession. In that respect, it differs considerably from Edna Buchanan's Never Let Them See You Cry ( LJ 2/1/92), which details a crime reporter's life in Miami. Buchanan brings experience and a crispness of style to her book that Gelman's lacks. Nevertheless, this would be a good addition to true crime collections.-- Rebecca Wondriska, Trinity Coll. Lib., Hartford, Ct.