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Men of Steel: The Story of the Family That Built the World Trade Center Hardcover – August 20, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

There have been accounts of the raising of the World Trade Center--but not by someone who knows the buildings so intimately, the man who supervised the construction. The towers marked "both the pinnacle of accomplishment" for the firm bearing Koch's name, and "the beginning of its demise as a proud family enterprise." Readers will learn about the workings of cranes, the problem of anchoring the towers in "some of the mushiest land this side of the Amazon" and innovations in technology that made the job possible. Photos.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This is the story of the Koch Erecting Company, founded in 1906 by tough German immigrants who parlayed their steelworking and business skills into a force in New York heavy construction. Koch III, the company's current co-owner, has the able assistance of true-crime writer Firstman (The Death of Innocents) but narrates this long struggle in his own feisty style. This family venture put up many landmark buildings and bridges before unexpectedly taking on the enormous World Trade Center project. There the company set new standards for the industry while risking financial ruin. The Koch relatives in management became estranged, and the company was eventually bought out. The authors try to tell two stories, that of the Koch family business and of the gestation of the World Trade Center concept, but this latter part lacks the Koch passion. Recommended for business history and industrial collections.
David R. Conn, Surrey P.L., BC
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (August 20, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400046017
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400046010
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,082,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A. Bowdoin Van Riper on May 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Subtitles that promise more than the book delivers are far more common than they ought to be. This book is a refreshing exception to that pattern. It's subtitled "the story of the family that built the World Trade Center," and that's *exactly* what you get. _Men of Steel_ is the story of the rise and fall of a family construction company and the stormy relationships among the men who built it. Koch treats both sides of the story--family and business--honestly and in detail, and the results are gripping. It hits many of the same notes as John Steinbeck's _East of Eden_, Arthur Miller's _Death of a Salesman_, or Ken Kesey's _Sometimes a Great Notion_... but in _Men of Steel_ you know that the narrator's pain (both physical and emotional) is real.
You learn a lot about ironworking in this book: About how the steel frames of buildings are put together, and about how the tools and techniques have changed over time. You also learn a lot about construction management: Estimating costs, writing bids, dealing with suppliers and unions, and keeping things running smoothly on the building site. Koch writes from the manager's perspective more than the workers, but there are other books (say, Mike Cherry's _On High Steel_) to give you that. Even dedicated civil engineering buffs are likely to learn a lot from Koch and Firstman's sure-footed narrative. The chapter (or so) on "kangaroo cranes" alone is worth the price of the book.
Koch and Firstman also give a unique view of *one* aspect of the World Trade Center project: How the framing and flooring was erected and what the process did for (and to) the company. They reveal things about that aspect of the process that no other book does--much of it critically important.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By daniel p. harley on September 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Karl Koch III's Men of Steel is a modern masterpiece presented as a New York epic. The history of the World Trade Center and its' construction are intertwined with a history of the Koch family and they will be forever inseparable. Although the style is obviously influenced by the late Joseph Mitchell of the New Yorker, there are situations and a cast of characters that the great bard-Shakespere would love to have written about.No aspect of how the World Trade Center was built has been omitted. There are vivid descriptions of the great New York power brokers and how they brought this concept to the table and negotiated its' construction. It describes how to bid and not bid a construction as well as how to build and not build a great structure.It is a book filled with heroes and villains, triumphs, treachery and tragedies and should be a must reading for any lover of New York.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Boucher on August 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Very easy to read, You are easily caught up in a family's struggle to survive a new life in a new world. It is easy to admire their spirit and determination to make it as they build their company from the ground up.
They consistently remain true to the values of hard work and honesty while truly living the American Dream. It makes the World Trade Center even more of an american symbol.
The facts regarding how they built the trade center and how they even received the job are fascinating in of themselves. The author's personal family struggle only make it more amazing that it ever happened at all.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By "hulamoon6" on September 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Kipling wrote:Gold is for the mistress, silver for the maid. Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade. "Good!" cried the Baron, sitting in his hall, but iron, cold iron, is the master of them all." ... Mr. Koch, through his own grief bless him, has told a story that is part blueprint, part tragedy, part adventure and will make every reader envision themself on the other side of the Men At Work sign. He will transfix you with wonder and make you tremble in your imaginary workboots. He reminds me of the fear I felt the first time I walked the iron and joy I felt with every completed project. This book will illuminate why and how we engineers do the things we do and it will do it in such a way that you'll wish you'd been there for every minute of the creation of those beautiful, doomed structures - I hope that it will inspire generations of engineers. Mr. Koch is generous in his praise of those who deserve it and gracious even to his enemies as problems not of his doing start on Day 1, which will make you celebrate his victories. You will read about the birth of these great buildings and the company that built them, understand what made them both tick, and grieve with him when all, all is lost. The saga of the cranes alone is worth the price of this book and I would recommend it to anyone curious about construction or the life span of the World Trade Center. And now I think I can let it go.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tom Koch on March 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a contractor/developer in the Baltimore area who shares the same last name and German heritage, but is no relation, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and could not put it down. It was as much an education of the New York contracting industry as it was a history of one family's trials and tribulations.
I enjoyed this book so much that I bought 15 copies and gave them to family and friends as Christmas presents. Each review from the recipients mirrored my enjoyment. I would highly recommend this book to anyone even if they have no conception of the contracting industry.
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