At 13, the heroine of my novel “Grist Mill Road” is the victim of a horrific crime. She is tied to a tree by a boy who then shoots her repeatedly with a BB gun, hitting her 37 times. Unconscious when she is rushed into surgery, Hannah awakes to discover the doctors have removed her left eye, a procedure known as enucleation.
Or, as she says: “I guess you could say my eye got nuked.”
Meet the darkly comic Hannah Jensen, victim of a violent act, eye-patch wearer and, now 39, crime reporter working the Big Apple beat. Once I realized my female lead was a New York City journalist, there was only one place Hannah could work — the New York Post. (Or as I call it in my novel, the New York Mail.)
Tabloids create a world of heroes and villains — you take a side, you pick a fight.
Pictures are blown up as big as life, the spleen exercised when necessary, headlines take aim at the gut.
The day after Charles Manson died, The Post screamed “EVIL DEAD” on its front page. Underneath, slightly smaller words blared: “Make room, Satan: Charles Manson is finally going to hell.”
Hannah could never have worked for a broadsheet like The New York Times, which strives to appeal to our intellect, a more rational reaction to horrific events. (Are victims of crimes supposed to react rationally?) Broadsheets and tabloids are like yin and yang, head and heart. After Charles Manson died, the Times ran the headline, “Charles Manson, 83, Killer Who Lingered In Culture, Is Dead.”
Every day Hannah pounds Gotham’s streets and walks the halls of 1 Police Plaza chatting up cops for the latest leads, her good eye twinkling at them. Too often in the world of popular entertainment the eye patch has symbolized villainy, but Hannah is quite the opposite — her eye patch makes subjects warm to her, sympathize with her. She even makes her own pirate jokes, owning her impairment, refusing to play the victim.
She adores the job of crime reporter: “That’s all I ever…