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Firebrand: Politics, Arson, Perjury, and an Embattled American City in 1912 [Kindle Edition]

David R. Stokes
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In early 1912, the city of Fort Worth, Texas found itself in a firestorm, one that had political, religious, and criminal undertones. At the center of the controversy was a local minister, J. Frank Norris. Determined to make a name for himself, he adopted a sensational approach to preaching. Norris was the predecessor of the all culturally crusading clergymen agitators to come.

Using a tent he had purchased from the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt, Norris railed against the sins of the city, especially its notorious Hell’s Half-Acre. The Acre was home to more than 80 saloons, gambling houses, and house of prostitution. Even Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid had spent a great deal of time there. It was popular with some, but it had become an embarrassment to more civic-minded citizens.

Norris’s “clean up” campaign was opposed by long-entrenched interests in Fort Worth, and by many members of the local Chamber of Commerce and city government. Mayor W.D. “Bill” Davis called the men of the city together one cold night in the first week of 1912. He asked if there were “50 red-blooded men” in town who would silence the preacher.

Not long after this, a series of mysterious things began to happen. These included an attempted shooting and the delivery of mysterious notes threatening the life of J. Frank Norris. Then on the first Sunday of February, the beautiful edifice of First Baptist Church exploded in flames. It was clearly a case of arson. Many in Fort Worth believed that Norris himself set the fire. He was indicted several times for arson and perjury, and his court battles were a sensation followed by newspaper readers in Texas and around the country.

Did J. Frank Norris burn his own church and home for notoriety? Or was there really some kind of sinister? Let the reader decide.

Editorial Reviews

From the Author

This is a PREQUEL to my full length book, THE SHOOTING SALVATIONIST: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial that Captivated America  (Steerforth Press/Random House). Foreword by BOB SCHIEFFER of CBS News. Look for it on Amazon.

About the Author

David R. Stokes is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author, ordained minister, commentator, broadcaster, and columnist.

Product Details

  • File Size: 261 KB
  • Print Length: 104 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1490998365
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Critical Mass Books (December 7, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DU0N784
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #778,485 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story July 19, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The story is somewhat interesting but the book is not particularly well written. I imagine the story could have been much more interesting with more character development. It's a quick read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Thought it would be more interesting. September 14, 2013
By Harrie
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It sounded good, but it got kind of bogged down for me. I think maybe it was the writing style - just wasn't very exciting. I had been thinking that from a historical perspective it might be a good read - to compare with today's events, but it wasn't.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read! July 15, 2013
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I liked that the author told a compelling tale, it kept me interested up until the very end. I would recommend this to anyone interested in church history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read July 9, 2013
By Randy
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the way David Stokes set the drama, surrounds you with the history and then allows you to make your own conclusion.

Thanks David
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FIREBRAND's appeal will be to former Fundamentalists and students of modern church history. The narrative is extremely readable and it easily captivates. If you are a survivor of the Jack Hyles or SWORD OF THE LORD stratum of Fundamentalism, you will see the very roots of this culture in J Frank Norris. Norris was very frank and clear in his choice of sensationalized preaching over expository preaching in order to increase his numbers. Readers will also see where Jack Hyles discovered the story of his childhood. He simply took Norris' childhood as his own. The two are identical, except for one episode.

There are some flaws in Stokes' storytelling. I can forgive the lack of citations. My problem was that the author actually slips into J Frank Norris's head to tell us about Norris's heart sinking, etc. Tidbits like these were distracting and misleading since the book reaches no conclusions about whether or not Norris was actually guilty. A book can either read like a story, or it can read like an analysis, but trying a little bit of both styles in one book is not successful. If Stokes can tell me of Norris' disappointments, he can also tell me of his guilt or innocence. However, this is a minor niggle. FIREBRAND offers a quick, informative read that will offer some historical insights to the increasing number of young adults who wrestle with the devastating effects of the Christian Fundamentalist culture.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good read August 16, 2013
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David captures my attention and keeps it through the whole book. Interesting, compelling, full of facts, the author allows you to make your own assumption about the outcome. Was a good read
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great read. August 9, 2013
By Dale
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I had a hard time putting this book down. I could feel the pain the pastor and his family were going through. Love the book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but... August 9, 2013
By T. Buys
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Really seemed to lack much depth; just a long promo for his other book. A bit disappointing in the end.
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More About the Author

[BREAKING NEWS: "BLAIR UNDERWOOD is heading to Camelot. The actor's production company, Intrepid Pictures, has acquired the rights to David R. Stokes' spy novel Camelot's Cousin: The Spy Who Betrayed Kennedy. Intrepid will partner with Little Studio Films to adapt the thriller into a film with Underwood in the lead role." - From THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER (02.03.2015)]

David R. Stokes (58) is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author. He is currently working on several projects for publication 2015.

Screenplays based on three of his novels, CAMELOT'S COUSIN, NOVEMBER SURPRISE, & CAPITOL LIMITED, are currently being represented for production in Hollywood.

Retired FBI Agent and Bestselling author, Bob Hamer, says, "David Stokes combines his meticulous research with a writing style which makes you feel as though you are that fly-on-the-wall witnessing history as it unfolds."

David grew up in the Detroit, Michigan area and has been an ordained minister for 36 years. Along the way he added radio broadcaster, columnist, and author to his resume, while living and serving in Texas, Illinois, New York, and for the past 16 years--beautiful Northern Virginia. David has been married to his wife, Karen, for more than 38 years and they have been blessed with three daughters--all now grown and with wonderful children of their own.

There are, in fact, seven grandchildren, a fact verified by hundreds--maybe thousands--of pictures, as well as an ever-growing collection of toys joyously cluttering their home.

Visit David's website:


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