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Fire in the Grove: The Cocoanut Grove Tragedy and Its Aftermath Hardcover – November 7, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–In Boston, 1942, the Cocoanut Grove was an elite nightclub decorated in a fantasy of tropical glamour. It was also a firetrap, a block-long labyrinth of bars and entertainment areas cobbled together with substandard materials in disregard of building codes or common sense. On the night of the fire, it was, as always, dimly lighted and overcrowded. The management had blocked all exits except the revolving front door to squeeze more people in and to prevent anyone from leaving without paying a bill. The small fire that broke out in the basement exploded throughout the building within minutes, killing nearly 500 revelers. In a narrative reminiscent of the finest Titanic accounts, the author leads readers through the horrific events as they were experienced by individuals and, using court transcripts and recent scientific research, explains how the disaster developed. He portrays the culture of political corruption and gangland economy that allowed such a public gathering place to exist and provides a riveting chronicle of the attempts to prosecute those responsible. Esposito also reveals how doctors learned from the disaster to improve procedures for burn treatment. Finally, he reminds readers (through brief discussion of more recent club fires) that it can happen again and offers advice. Black-and-white photos augment the narrative. Few who read this book will enter a public arena in the future without looking for the exits.–Christine C. Menefee, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"A smart, well-paced, eminently readable account of an American disaster." -- Legal Intelligencer, 02/24/06

"Esposito carefully crafts his narrative of the actual fire...[and] contributes an interesting perspective to this tragedy." -- New York Law Journal, 12/09/05

"Esposito is at his best... [his] message does not miss its mark." --, 05/09/06

"Riveting and horrifying...Esposito has captured this almost Dickensian locale with precision...A harsh lesson in urban civics." -- Providence Journal, 05/13/06

"The highly readable text brings to life all the major players and delineates what led to the fire." -- Brooklyn Heights Press & Cobble Hill News, 12/15/05

"[A] well-researched volume." -- Associated Press, 6/4/06

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st Da Capo Press Ed edition (November 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306814234
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306814235
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #825,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Paul Tognetti TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It seems to me that I have read it too may times before. Back in 1903 a total of 602 people, mostly women and children, perished in a fire at a matinee at the Iroquois Theater in Chicago. Six years later 259 miners were killed in a fire at a coal mine in Cherry Il. And in 1911 another 146 young immigrant workers lost their lives at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York City. It just breaks your heart to read about the deaths of so many due to the greed, incompetence and irresponsibility of others. Now in 2006 author John C. Esposito, an original member of "Nader's Raiders" offers up "Fire In The Grove". This is the stirring account of that tragic evening in November 1942 when 490 people lost their lives at the fabled Cocoanut Grove night club in downtown Boston. It remains to this day the deadliest nightclub fire in American history. And it did not have to happen!

Let me begin by saying that I could not put this book down. I consumed this book in its entirety in less than two days. John Esposito paints a very vivid picture of just what was going on inside the walls of the Cocoanut Grove on that fateful night. Esposito spends a good deal of time describing the floor plan of the nightclub. His verbal description is supplemented by a very useful illustration that the reader can refer to when needed. It quickly becomes apparent the many obstacles that patrons would face when attempting to evacuate this complex. Due to the gross negligence of management and others most of those that died never had a chance.

So just who was responsible for the holocaust at the Cocoanut Grove? As you will learn in "Fire In The Grove" there is no shortage of potential candidates. Barney Welansky had owned the Cocoanut Grove for nearly a decade.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By drebbles VINE VOICE on January 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
On November 28, 1942, Boston's Cocoanut Grove nightclub caught on fire. Trapped by flames and deadly fumes, 492 people died in what was ultimately the worst nightclub fire in United States history. "Fire In The Grove" details the events of not only the fire, but the events leading up to it: shoddy construction; the use of flammable materials; overcrowding; blocked exits; the employment of minors; and the willingness of public officials to overlook the violations. The book also covers the stories of the victims and survivors; some survivors were forced to leave loved ones behind as they fled the fire. Treatment of burn victims is also described; doctors tried new treatments on the burns, which eventually revolutionized how burn victims are treated. The book also covers the trial of the owner of the Cocoanut Grove; readers will no doubt be outraged at how all involved basically got away with little penalty. Finally, the book covers the 2003 fire at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island where 100 people died in eerily similar circumstances.

"Fire In The Grove" is an extremely well written and touching book. Having grown up in the Boston area, I had heard about the fire which happened before I was born, but not until I read the book did I realize the full extent of the tragedy. The survivor's stories, especially those that had to leave behind loved ones are especially moving. The book also gives a clear picture of what politics in Boston were like at that time and what the nightclub life was like. There are plenty of pictures, including a diagram of the Cocoanut Grove, showing what a firetrap it really was. The picture of the truckload of caskets shows the enormity of the death toll and is hard to take.

"Fire In The Grove' is well worth reading.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jim Todd on January 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was blown away after reading this book. It has me thanking God that I've never been burned or had to experience what these people endured.

The book does a wonderful job of intermingling personal survivor accounts with the more dry politics so that I was very engrossed throughout. The cast of political characters is lengthy; sometimes I couldn't keep up with the way they all played in the story. But I did get the gist of it.

Some of the chapters had me gasping out loud. I've always been a fan of disaster movies. So, I felt guilty "enjoying" reading this book. It reads like the Titanic movie or The Towering Inferno. I felt so much for these people because I related to the number of banquets I've worked. (I'm an actor who has waited tables.) I know what a nightclub is like. I can't help but see everything about that night, the kitchen, the dining hall, everything was unsettlingly real to me.

This book will have you outraged over the GREED and stupidity which caused this horror. A makeshift coatrack blocked the one exit by the main entrance so that the greedy owner could pocket 3 dollars and 20 cents per night???

Flammable materials adorned the place, the exits were locked. They were practically begging for a disaster.

I can't shake this book. It's been a long time since I read something that affected me like this. Let's all do our parts to honor these people. Let's insist in fire code compliance everywhere! NOBODY deserved the death these people endured.

NOBODY! And it sickens me that it happens again and again and again.
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