As New York celebrates the sharp decline in crime — earlier this year the city revealed that the 494 homicides in 2007 were the fewest since reliable police statistics became available in 1963 — the crime writer may be the only New Yorker for whom that drop is not an unequivocal blessing. Just as the breakup of the Soviet Union caused problems for writers whose plots hinged on the dark doings of the cold war, so New York’s crime writers are wondering where to find grist in a far safer city.
[...]Sometimes New York’s crime writers grow wistful about the bad old days for unexpected reasons, as was the case with Donald Bain, the highly successful author of more than 30 “Murder, She Wrote” books along with other crime novels.
In January, Mr. Bain was the main speaker at a meeting of the Mystery Writers of America, held at the National Arts Club, opposite Gramercy Park.
At dinner in the club’s high-ceilinged dining room, Mr. Bain, a tall man with a white beard, reminisced about the early ’90s, when his daughter lived on Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village. Her apartment building was next to a social club run by Vincent Gigante, a k a the Chin, the mobster whose associates used to sit outside the club, playing cards and drinking late into the night. If one of the men saw his daughter emerging from the subway station a few blocks away, Mr. Gigante dispatched one of them to walk her home safely.
The other writers at the table laughed, but their laughs were tinged with nostalgia for a vanished version of New York that could hand you a scene, just like that.
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