History, travel writing, and human tragedy collide in a heart-stopping work of narrative nonfiction.
On May 8th, 1902, Mont Pelée in Saint-Pierre, Martinique, erupted, killing almost 30,000 people instantly and completely destroying the city known as the Paris of the Caribbean. It was a spectacular, biblical, horrifying disaster, without a doubt the most sensational event of its time. Days later, rescue teams heard cries from the rubble and uncovered Ludger Sylbaris, a twenty-seven-year-old laborer who had spent the night of the eruption in jail for his involvement in a bar fight and turned out to be-against all odds-the only known survivor. He was soon world famous, traveling across America as part of Barnum and Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth.
Using written eyewitness accounts and historical research, Peter Morgan spins this tale and more into a spellbinding narrative. Framed by Martinique's painful history, the disaster reveals layer upon layer of corruption: a French governor more concerned with public image than the safety of his fellow islanders, the moral conflict of a scientist who knew the risks but was told to keep them quiet, and the tangle of colonial attitudes that ultimately caused the death of thousands.
With deft, literary strokes, in a book rich in detail, Peter Morgan delivers all the political intrigue, drama, heroism, and villainy of the greatest suspense novel - and every word is true.