The Gargoyle Hunters

New York City is always reinventing itself: growing, pushing, regenerating, completely overhauling. Often that reinvention comes at the cost of preserving its past. As urban renewal projects multiply in 1970s New York, 13-year-old Griffin Watts gets swept up in his father's obsession with saving the city's ornate, often quirky architectural carvings from the wrecking ball. John Freeman Gill tells Griffin's story in his erudite, irreverent debut novel, The Gargoyle Hunters.

Gill (who writes the monthly "Edifice Complex" column for Avenue magazine) delves into the architectural history of Manhattan, as Griffin listens to his father wax eloquent about landmarks public and private: grand structures such as the Woolworth Building and humbler ones such as the Washington Market studio where Griffin's parents lived as newlyweds. "Every New Yorker," Gill notes, "has his own idiosyncratic system of cartography." With his parents' marriage crumbling as fast as the city around him, Griffin agrees to join his dad in "liberating"--i.e., stealing--and then selling scraps of the city, from limestone gargoyles to an entire set of exterior panels for a building. As he learns more about his dad's illicit work, Griffin starts to wonder if his father's obsession is an unhealthy one, but before long, both father and son may be in too deep to extricate themselves.

With a fresh, wry narrative voice, Gill presents a vividly imagined slice of New York history, a quirky portrait of the 1970s and a tender father-son story--with plenty of gargoyles on the side. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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