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American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century Hardcover – September 16, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In 1911, Iron Workers Union leaders James and Joseph McNamara plea-bargained in exchange for prison sentences instead of death after bombing the offices of the Los Angeles Times—killing 21 people and wounding many more. The bombing had been part of a bungled assault on some 100 American cities. After the McNamaras went to jail, Clarence Darrow, their defense attorney, wound up indicted for attempting to bribe the jury, but won acquittal after a defense staged by the brilliant Earl Rogers. The McNamaras were investigated by William J. Burns—near legendary former Secret Service agent and proprietor of a detective agency. Surprisingly, Burns's collaborator in the investigation was silent film director D.W. Griffith. This tangled and fascinating tale is the stuff of novels, and Vanity Fair contributing editor Blum (The Brigade) tells it with a novelist's flair. In an approach reminiscent of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, Blum paints his characters in all their grandeur and tragedy, making them—and their era—come alive. Blum's prose is tight, his speculations unfailingly sound and his research extensive—all adding up to an absorbing and masterful true crime narrative. (Sept.) ""
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved."
From Bookmarks Magazine
Most critics were eager to learn more about this neglected event in American history and were glad to have Blum as their teacher. They were most impressed by the first half of the book, which covers the attacks and investigation and which was several times compared to a Hollywood thriller or an episode of the television show 24. Reviewers were less thrilled by the second part of the book, where Blum introduces Darrow and Griffith into the story. Several felt that these great American personalities were presented superficially, perhaps because Blum attempted too great a scope in the book. But on the whole, critics found American Lightning to be a satisfying work of narrative history.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
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Quick, get this book to Robert Towne and let's get busy!
I never knew much about DW Griffith and his influences....or of his relationship to Mary Pickford.
Clarence Darrow is revealed as much more than a major trial lawyer. One never thinks of his love affairs.
The intertwining of Hollywood film and labor and the blowing up of the Los Angeles Times, was all new to me.
This is a very good, informative read about the not too distant past. I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the history of Hollywood film, the manipulation of the our laws and the start of the labor unions on both coasts of America.
in the early 20th century, and the hunt mounted by America's most renowned
private detective to find and convict the perpetrators of a mass murder bombing.
People who worry about "creeping socialism" in present day America can benefit
from an understanding of the extremes to which some early left wing labor
activists went in pursuing their dream of class equality. This popular history
reads like a fast paced novel.
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Howard Blum is the author of eight previous books. He is a contributing editor at ‘Vanity Fair’ and was a former reporter for the ‘New York Times’...Read more