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Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938 Hardcover – September 3, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 126 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Former journalist and mystery novelist Scotti successfully applies her skills in both genres to this detailed retelling of the 1938 hurricane that ripped across seven Northeastern states and killed 682 people, "the most destructive natural disaster in U.S. history-worse than the San Francisco earthquake, the Chicago fire, or any Mississippi flood." Although the enormity of the destruction has been written about before, Scotti focuses on "a few experiences that seem representative of many more" through interviews with hurricane survivors, their families and friends, as well as previously published recollections by survivors, including the late Katharine Hepburn. Scotti's detailed look at the general extent of the hurricane's destruction adds poignancy to individual stories, such as those of Joseph Matoes, who sees his children swept away from their school bus as they are battered by huge waves; Lillian Tetlow and Jack Kinney, two sweethearts who survive a storm that destroys Napatree, R.I., and who later marry; and Charles Pierce, a "green and unsure" junior forecaster for a woefully underprepared U.S. Weather Bureau (now the National Weather Service) who stands against his experienced superiors as the only forecaster to recognize the danger of the hurricane. Scotti also skillfully presents the details of a hurricane, although she reminds us that "after decades of study and with all the technological tools of the trade... we still cannot predict a hurricane more than twenty-four hours in advance."
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


""A fascinating book, a bit like The Perfect Storm "but more compelling. Even for those who have read other books about the hurricane, this is a page-turner." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 277 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; 1 edition (September 3, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316739111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316739115
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

My first books were espionage novels. Since this was an exclusively male field, I wrote as R. A. (rather than Rita Angelica) Scotti and gained a reputation as "one of the best modern writers of intrigue." Neither reviewers nor readers suspected my true identity until I dropped the disguise and turned to non-fiction. My mother was born in New England, my father in Italy, and my books reflect the duality. "Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938" recounts the worst natural disaster in New England history. "Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal--Building St. Peter's" is a book that I have wanted to write ever since I stumbled into St Peter's Square. I was 19, on my own for the first time, and awestruck. The magnificence of Michelangelo's basilica led me circuitously to the mystery of Leonardo's Mona Lisa. "Vanished Smile" reopens the case of the mysterious theft of Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on September 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As an avid fan of all things weather-related, this book does not dissapoint. Much like Sebastian Unger's Perfect Storm, Sudden Sea focusses on an entire region that is caught off-guard by what in all estimates is still today one of the most devestatingly powerful storms the United States has seen. Scotti a does a wonderful job of intertwining story-lines stretching up and down the Eastern seaboard,further illustrating just how ill-prepared the population was for this freak storm.
Imagine not one by one, the middle-atlantic and new england coastlines being so devestated that cities were unable of warning the next. This is what happened in the summer of 1938. A storm that moved so fast and with such destruction that it literally reshaped the Eastern Coastline.
Buy this book. If you ever want to catch a glimpse into the humanity that becomes us in the face of disaster, this is a wonderful read. Read it before it becomes a movie -- which in all estimates it soon should be.
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By A Customer on September 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Wham! It hit me right between the eyes. I couldn't stop reading until I learned what happened to the kids on that bus. R.A. Scotti's detailed and moving account of physical destruction and human drama is a must-read for any storm watcher.
Initially projected to strike the Miami-Palm Beach area, the Category 5 Hurricane veered off course and went nearly unnoticed by the U.S. Weather Bureau's Washington D.C. office. If, according to Scotti's well-documented account, the higher-ups at the U.S. Weather Bureau's Washington D.C. office had listened to one junior forecaster, residents of Long Island, Connecticut and Rhode Island might have been able to brace themselves against the raging sea. Instead, the 2:00 p.m. weather advisory from Washington made no reference to the term "hurricane." A mere half-hour later, residents of Patchogue were blindsided when the Great Hurricane of 1938 slammed into eastern Long Island.
Scotti brings to this tale a human element so often missing in other books of this genre. This is, in many ways, a tale of human survival. Much of the book is drawn from personal interviews with survivors and, in that respect, "Sudden Sea" is, in part, a recording of oral history. Scotti's background as a novelist is evident throughout - I could clearly imagine Harriet and Margaret Moore clinging to shards of their rooftop as they floated through shark-infested waters from Napatree, Rhode Island towards Stonington, Connecticut, the children gathered for an end-of-summer party in Westhampton and the school bus mired the the murky waters near Mackerel Cove. In laying out the human drama, Scotti also discusses the conditions that allow such a storm to gain such force, investigates the failure of the U.S. Weather Bureau to issue appropriate weather advisories and questions whether such a storm could have such an impact today. I definitely recommend it!
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Format: Hardcover
I picked this book up on a whim and once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. Not having been alive in 1938 I knew very little about this disaster before reading Ms.Scotti's well reserched book. The way she weaves personal stories so seamlessly with the factual information creates a riviting tale of a way of life that would never fuloly be seen again. Ms.Scotti talks about the death and destrction that ravaged the east coast (682 deaths, 432 in Rhode Island alone) but she also talks about the amazing, and in some instaces humorus ways that people surrived the storm.
One of the things that I really love about the book is that it is so full of information and stories, yet I never felt confused or lost, I can't say that for many of the books I have read these days. I think Ms.Scotti is one of the most gifted writers I have had the pleasure of reading. Her ability to tug at your heart strings and not have it be in least bit over done is very refreshing. Personaly I think she is a breath of air as welcome as the sea breeze that must have been blowing along the beach only hours before the storm touched down. I can not wait to read her next book.
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Format: Hardcover
I admit it. I am a severe weather junkie. Hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, tidal waves, earthquakes-any drama wrought by nature appeals to me. In fact, I found this book by accident when looking for a book on the 1888 blizzard.

Many people who write nonfiction stories such as this rely on their experience as a journalist (i.e.; Sebastian Junger who wrote The Perfect Storm). Instead, Scotti, a fiction author of thrillers, sets the book up like a novel. Yes, there are a lot of meteorological details but it's the human drama that she succeeds with best. Using newspaper accounts and interviews with survivors, Scotti describes the "heartbreak, heroism, the incredible luck and the tragic misfortune of individuals and families."One of the reasons it took me so long to read this book was that I was continually looking up pictures and info on the internet and looking at maps. This storm wreaked havoc on all of New England, but was particularly devastating to Rhode Island, wiping one little community completely off the map. Scotti takes these personal stories and weaves them together in a gripping way that keeps the reader turning the page at a feverish pace by the end trying to find out the fate of the families she writes about.
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