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The Cold Millions: A Novel Hardcover – October 27, 2020
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“Walter puts forth his most ambitious work yet, solidifying his place in the contemporary canon as one of our most gifted builders of fictional worlds.... It's often said that a novel contains the world; Walter brings new meaning to this phrase, peopling The Cold Millions with vaudeville stars, hobos, suffragists, tycoons, union agitators, policemen, and dozens of other vibrant characters. Warm and deeply humane, this transporting novel is a staggering achievement from a landmark writer.” (Esquire)
“Jess Walter is a superb storyteller. His plot rolls on at a steady pace. His ear for dialogue, whatever the character, is acute. He knows when to amp up the prose with a telling metaphor…. As polished and hard as a diamond, The Cold Millions reminds us of America’s tempestuous past and suggests that all this is anything but past.” (Dan Cryer, Boston Globe)
“Riveting…. With an expansive cast that includes anti-capitalist firebrands, menacing tycoons, a coalition of multifaceted, multiethnic itinerant workers and sundry ‘killers, detectives and anarchists,’ this book captures the audacity, promise, ugliness and beauty of American life.” (Kevin Canfield, Minneapolis Star Tribune)
“Stunning…. The Cold Millions feels timed perfectly to this moment of stark income inequality, where the crevasse between billionaires and workers widens and activism increases…. Walter marshals a motley, fascinating cast of characters so finely drawn that they lift from the page…. I haven’t encountered a more satisfying and moving novel about the struggle for workers’ rights in America.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“The Beautiful Ruins author has produced another layered, multi-character panorama.” (Vogue)
“Another home run for the author of Beautiful Ruins.” (Kim Hubbard, People Magazine)
“Another triumph for the versatile novelist behind Beautiful Ruins.” (Washington Post)
“The Cold Millions will break your heart and make you hopeful at the same time.” (Seattle Times)
"A story of brotherhood, deceit, love and sacrifice that will have you holding your breath with every turn of the page." (CNN)
About the Author
Jess Walter is the author of six novels, including the bestsellers Beautiful Ruins and The Financial Lives of the Poets, the National Book Award finalist The Zero, and Citizen Vince, the winner of the Edgar Award for best novel. His short fiction has appeared in Harper's, McSweeney's, and Playboy, as well as The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He lives in his hometown of Spokane, Washington.
- Item Weight : 1.2 pounds
- Hardcover : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 006286808X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062868084
- Product Dimensions : 6 x 1.13 x 9 inches
- Publisher : Harper (October 27, 2020)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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His latest novel, The Cold Millions, drops the reader into 1909 Spokane, Washington where many lives converge. Gig and Ryan Dolan are young Irish immigrants who hop trains and try to find any kind of job they can. They come up against job agencies who take financial advantage of men like the Dolans, police who don't like these "bums" sleeping outside, and uber-wealthy businessmen, like mine owner Lemuel Brand, who uses his money to take every advantage he can to stay powerful.
Tired of being taken advantage of, Gig gets involved with union organizers and gets thrown in jail, along with 500 other men, after a big protest. Ryan turns to famed union speaker Elizabeth Gurley Flynn to help him get his brother out of jail. Flynn sees that she can use young Ryan to gain sympathy and money for the cause of protecting and promoting the union.
Ryan also turns to vaudeville performer Ursula, who is romantically involved with both Gig and Lemuel Brand. Brand is a man who uses everyone in his orbit, pitting people against each other, having loyalty to none.
Once again, Walters' carefully constructs a fascinating world, again weaving real people into his fictional narrative (Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were in Beautiful Ruins), like Flynn and labor lawyer Fred Moore. I loved the sibling relationship between Gig and Ryan, it felt so grounded in reality. The dichotomy of Ursula using her femininity to get what she wanted, while Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was harangued because she "acted more like a man" works so well here.
One might think that reading about union organizing in 1909 has no resonance in 2020, but as I was reading, all I could think was wow, these things are still happening today. Wealthy men want to control society to benefit themselves only, women who don't act in a matter that is considered docile are ridiculed, people at the bottom of the economic rung are scorned, and eventually when people have had enough, they will protest against injustice.
The Cold Millions is a brilliant book to get lost in, that makes you think that maybe we will make it out of these troubled times as apparently they have always been with us in one form or another. I give Cold Millions my highest recommendation.
The primary protagonists are two young brothers, Gig and Rye Dolan: orphans, occasional tramps, hobos, wanderers, adventurers. They are constantly seeking honest work and honest pay, but in a town that is “union unfriendly” (to understate the case) they are constantly fighting an uphill battle, along with their fellow “cold millions” of oppressed and marginalized laborers. This story of corruption, free speech, and violent union resistance, is based on true occurrences and is peopled with “real people”, though Walter urges us to read it all as fiction.
Jess Walter never disappoints; all his trademark wit is here, with an interesting and engaging plot, and a fascinating historical setting. But make no mistake, “The Cold Millions”, is a novel chock-full of characters that you won’t be able to tear your reading eyes away from, and whom you will miss when you’re done! Some of them are only contained in a few pages, yet Walter so skillfully draws them that you feel you’ve known them deeply. Even the most “villain-iest villain” is a pleasure to read about. One of them even has the name Del Dalveaux – best villain name since “Snidely Whiplash”!
This host of characters who come in and out of Gig and Rye’s story will delight, amuse, instruct, and even break your heart. My favorite: Ursula the Great! A young woman who stars in what the town’s up-righteous call “a spectacle of indecency” that includes a live cougar and some light stripping.
I’d like to comment on a highly effective narrative technique Walter uses to provide pathos and also ratchet up tension and suspense, without spoiling it for anyone. I will only say that the sections of the novel that were not chapters, but were first person narratives, were utterly brilliant. I held my breath through each and every one!