From Publishers Weekly
In honor of the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the Great Lakes ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald
, an event given lasting fame by singer Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,
" Schumacher recreates both the ship's final trip and the controversies that later eddied about the wreck's cause and the ultimate disposition of ship relics. Schumacher, biographer of Eric Clapton, Francis Ford Coppola and Allen Ginsberg, has also produced 25 documentaries about Great Lakes shipwrecks—an indication of his passion. Even as he dissects the rancorous disputes that arose among family members of the dead, historians and others seeking to either memorialize or exploit the shipwreck, Schumacher never fails to bring a sympathetic and knowledgeable view of the story, as well as great respect to the memory of the 29 crew members who died. Although some of the literary devices he employs are formulaic—the high school student being called from class to learn of the death of her father, for example—Schumacher, aided by his encyclopedic knowledge of Great Lakes shipwrecks and his abiding interest in telling an accurate, unsensationalized story makes them work in a rewarding narrative. (Nov.)
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Schumacher has previously written about popular music, which, given that his subject here owes its fame to a hit Gordon Lightfoot song, seems entirely appropriate. Schumacher chronicles theEdmund Fitzgerald
from its 1958 launching as the largest freighter on the Great Lakes to its 1975 sinking, memorialized by the song. He emphasizes that while the sinking was sudden, the freighter had already severely flooded, and the real mystery is the cause of the flooding. He canvases various possibilities (faulty maintenance, leaking hatchways, etc.) in detail, with clarity and sobriety. He does as much, too, in portraits of the crew, assessing the possibility of human error without gratuitous finger-pointing, and he includes moving portraits of the crew's families. Finally, he gives a balanced account of the subsequent discovery and exploration of the wreck, some of which has been so competitive and in such dubious taste that the wreck has been declared a gravesite to which further diving is barred. A thoroughly admirable addition to Great Lakes and general maritime history. Roland GreenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved