John Lennon in Manhattan is fully imagined in new novel, ‘The Dakota Winters’

“The Dakota Winters” (Ecco, 324 pp., ★★½ out of four), Tom Barbash’s new novel, reads like a journalistic faux-memoir that feels familiar – especially if you knew New York in 1980, when Manhattan was emerging from a decade of bad press as a crime-ridden, drug-addled island of self-absorption.

Not that the seamy underside of the Apple is much on display here. Barbash instead focuses on the privileged, castle-like confines of a fabled apartment building on Central Park West, The Dakota, where “Rosemary’s Baby” was so ominously set, and where celebrities, most prominently ex-Beatle John Lennon and Yoko Ono, lived above it all.

His novel ambitiously blends fictional with historical characters, and it’s neither overwritten nor experimental. The fictional Dakota tribe, the Winters, mingles easily with the real one, via the first-person account of 23-year-old Anton, whose father Buddy, a comedian and former late-night TV talk show host, is charting a comeback. In the mid-1970s, Buddy Winter had famously walked off his show, disappeared for a while and navigated a vague mid-life crisis.

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