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Death's Door: The Truth Behind Michigan's Largest Mass Murder Paperback – November 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews


"I learned a great deal about the Italian Hall disaster. I'm impressed with the amount of research that Lehto has done, and his keen eye for the nuance and detail that must be considered when interpreting documents and making historical judgments. The good news is that it's a moving, poignant story. In any event, I enjoyed it, and I appreciate the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that Lehto has put into it." -- Dr. Daniel Clark, Associate Professor of History, Oakland University

"Lehto deftly sets the scene of the strike and for the Italian Hall deaths. With the tools of his professional disciplines, he adeptly dissects the legal handling of events surrounding the strikes, the two sets of murders preceding the tragic Christmas Eve and the investigation after the deaths of in the Italian Hall." -- Lake Superior Magazine

"Lehto puts events back together with the eye of a crime-scene investigator and first-class historian." -- Peter Werbe, Host of "Nightcall," WRIF 101.1 Detroit

"The souls of the innocent have finally been set free. Hard work and compassion were the keys to Steve's success in discovering what really happened. The authors tenacity and perseverance will preserve the true story of what happened in copper country's Hall of Horror." -- Jay Brandow, reporter for Saginaw WNEM TV-5

From the Publisher


Troy, Mich. (Jan. 2007) - Death's Door: The Truth Behind Michigan's Largest Mass Murder by Steve Lehto has been named to the Library of Michigan's 2007 Michigan Notable Books list.

Each year, the Library of Michigan chooses the 20 best new books reflecting Michigan's rich cultural heritage, featuring high-quality titles with wide public appeal that are either written by a Michigan resident or about a Michigan-related topic. "These books tell the stories of Michigan - defining our home as a place rich with spirit, history and inspiration - and they reaffirm Michigan as a wellspring of literary energy, creativity and unique voices," said State Librarian Nancy R. Robertson.

Death's Door is the most accurate account of the 1913 Italian Hall tragedy that struck a Michigan copper mining town during an intense labor strike. Author Steve Lehto uncovers the facts behind what songwriter Woody Guthrie called the "1913 Massacre."

Historian and attorney Steve Lehto has been featured in media across Michigan and Wisconsin including: WJR Detroit with Warren Pierce; WDIV Detroit Morning Powercast; WRIF Detroit with Peter Werbe, Michigan Public Radio; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Flint Sunday Journal; and Lake Superior magazine.

If you would like to interview the author or have him speak at your event, he is available for interviews, lectures, book signings and other appearances. Please contact Kelly Gehart at 800-758-1870 ext. 109



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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Momentum Books, LLC; First Edition edition (November 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1879094770
  • ISBN-13: 978-1879094772
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.2 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #791,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am a writer, attorney and professor. I practice and teach law in southeastern Michigan, and have taught history at the University of Detroit Mercy. Most recently, I was Historical Advisor to the film "Red Metal: The Copper Country Strike of 1913" which aired on PBS.

I have also written "Chrysler's Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit's Coolest Creation, "Michigan's Columbus: The Life of Douglass Houghton" and "Death's Door: the Truth Behind Michigan's Largest Mass Murder." These were named Michigan Notable Books by the Library of Michigan in 2007, 2010 and 2011.

Follow me on Twitter: @stevelehto

Or visit my website:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By G. E. Mantel on November 17, 2006
Format: Paperback
Steve Lehto of suburban Detroit brings to the table a unique set of qualifications: a legal "sharp eye," previous historical writing experience, impressive Copper Country roots & a long-standing, Finnish-American passion for getting to the bottom of the "1913 Massacre" story.

Yes, that same "1913 Massacre" written & sung by Woody Guthrie and later performed by his protégé, Bob Dylan ... and also the subject of a great forthcoming film documentary by New York filmmakers Louis Galdieri & Ken Ross.

"Death's Door" is, quite simply, destined to be crowned the proverbial "Final Word" about what happened at Italian Hall, Calumet, Michigan, why it's never been officially solved and why it's still such a bone of contention within the local community.

Far more than just another "cute little book" about the legendary copper mining center of the Upper Great Lakes, this latest from Lehto adds much to our appreciation and deepens our understanding of the area's history.

The author's insistence in keeping the discussion of the incident within the framework of the brutal, bloody 1913-14 copper strike is nothing short of a stroke of genius, resulting in a justifiable, pleasing mixture of up-tempo drama & that ugly-but-necessary touch of meticulous (and all too often, tedious) legalese. But of utmost importance is the author's unveiling of a determined sensibility as he contemplated (and often avoided) the use of mainstream newspaper reports to untangle the mess; as I saw for myself a few years ago during the editing of my own "Calumet: Copper Country Metropolis," Calumet was economically & politically a one-horse town with a one-horse press, period.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on February 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
On Christmas Eve over six dozen people were crushed as they scrambled to flee the Italian Hall in Calumet, Michigan. The call of 'Fire' had led to panic and death - and to the question of whether it was a purposeful call. DEATH'S DOOR: THE TRUTH BEHIND MICHIGAN'S LARGEST MASS MURDER is outstanding: it reaches beyond regional Michigan history to provide an intense crime probe into a long-unsolved murder mystery and in so doing involves even readers with little interest in Michigan affairs. General-interest holdings will find it a fine survey indeed, especially for collections where true crime is a popular category.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Ingrid Hill on December 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
Steve Lehto has taken the fine-toothed comb of the best sort of legal mind-- the kind that knows how to sort truth from rumor and lay both out beautifully on the dissecting pan-- to the tangled hearsay of the Keweenaw's 1913 Italian Hall disaster and he has produced a masterpiece.

He persevered (with the "sisu" of the Finn) through every tangle of fact and rumor. He writes well and clearly (a rare skill in his profession, if I do say so!). He quotes carefully, and he coaxes the reader into complicity with his CSI-style way of looking at fact and nuance.

I frankly believe any good reader of this book-- from naive to cynical-- will receive new and breathtaking education in human nature itself, in the ways moneyed interests forever subvert truth and justice to their ends, and the media of the day fall right into line... truth so ancient yet so new.

My novel, Ursula, Under, included a scene involving the Italian Hall tragedy, but based on the faulty information that has been taken for truth. I was delighted to read this fuller exploration, so very well done.

I want to add that the physical presentation of the book itself is splendid, and the thirty pages of photographs

are of a quality typically found only in a much more expensive piece of work. Bravo, Steve Lehto!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer A. Bickel on February 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
As a native Michigander, my interest in reading Death's Door was spawned purely out of curiousity. Having never heard of the Italian Hall tragedy, I found the "lawyer's take" on the events to be an interesting perspective. The book is filled with the facts of the drama. The writing style allows the reader to become the juror and come to a verdict based on the evidence presented. Placed within the historical context of the times, the tragedy of this story becomes an important lesson for us today. Greed, prejudice and deception fuel actions that harm the innocent. For those generations whose family members experienced the Italian Hall tragedy, Steve Lehto's meticulous attention to detail will help bring enlightenment and closure to the awful events of that day.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Peter D. Ouillette on September 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
As a native of Michigan's Copper Country, where the incident described in this book took place, I have come away from the book with a firm conviction that the author has done the history of that region a great service.

I was given a signed copy of this book for my birthday. I looked askance at the title, because such titles, in my experience, surround books that promote drama, or the author's own predispositions, at the expense of objectivity. The book in fact turned out to be a case study in how someone investigating history should deal with sources - correctly and incorrectly. I was shocked to see how historical accounts I had read of the disaster could rest on biased or misrepresented primary sources (newspaper articles). I am grateful for Mr. Lehto's reevaluation of the disaster.

This book carries a taste of an expose of community-wide anti-union machinations during a time of labor strife. However, given the valuable contribution stated above, and the fact that the author gives more than adequate examples of how the anti-labor fight was carried on from management ranks, I find said taste to be much easier to swallow.

The subject of the book, the Italian Hall disaster, is spared conjecture beyond facts from testimony, much to my relief. The author does not seek to dramatize the disaster itself. I learned little about the incident and its surrounding history, having read several other books relating to it. But most valuably, I UN-learned some myths about the disaster that had been buried in the Copper Country's popular consciousness for decades. I recommend the book to anyone with an interest in Keweenaw history.
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