Pete Hamill, a high school dropout who turned a gift for storytelling, a fascination with characters and a romance with tabloid newspapers into a storied career as a New York journalist, novelist and essayist for more than a half century, died on Wednesday in Brooklyn. He was 85.

The writer Denis Hamill, his brother, said he had a fall at his home on Saturday after returning from dialysis and was in intensive care at Methodist Hospital when “his kidneys and heart failed him.”