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Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle for the Soul of Americaby J Anthony Lukas
Synopses & Reviews
"This book is to 'true crime' stories what War and Peace is to most war novels. It not only gives us the crime of the era, but the era as a crime". — Gary Wills, The New York Review of Books
In Big Trouble, Pulitzer Prize-winner J. Anthony Lukas weaves what may be his most brilliant narrative, dramatizing the class struggle of turn-of-the-century America as it frames a sensational 1905 murder case.
Featuring an extraordinary cast of characters that include President Theodore Roosevelt, celebrated Pinkerton detective James McParland, actress Ethel Barrymore, and defense attorney Clarence Darrow, in a kind of non-fiction Ragtime, Lukas's Big Trouble paints a vivid portrait of a fascinating, all-but-forgotten case — in a book E. L. Doctorow calls "a richly textured historical recovery of a place and time. A work of scrupulous and significant reportage".
"Vast, detailed, colorful, at once analytical and driven by a storyline in the best manner of journalism". — Kevin Starr, The Wall Street Journal
"This vast and remarkable work of history does many things, but its principle achievement is to reveal how deeply and passionately Americans of the early 20th century fought each other over issues of power and wealth". — Alan Brinkley, The New Republic
"A work of history that has journalistic immediacy". — Richard Lingeman, The New York Times Book Review
Book News Annotation:
Beginning with a meticulous account of a 1905 murder in Idaho and the subsequent framing of radical labor leaders for it, the author of Pulitzer winner Common Ground follows the many leads from the scene to explore such aspects of the period as the cult of the private detective, the rise of the reporter, the heyday of the theatrical road company, the development of modern psychology, the growth of the conservation movement, the vogue of societies such as the Odd Fellows and Elks, the allure of grand hotels and Pullman cars, and the competitive fervor of sports. He traces at least one strong motive through several turns to the taking of San Juan Hill by the African- American 24th Infantry (not Teddy Roosevelt).
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the author of Common Ground — one of the most acclaimed books of recent years — comes a grand narrative of the United States as it charged, full of hope and trepidation, into the twentieth century.
J. Anthony Lukas, a masterful storyteller, tells a mesmerizing tale — of a terrible murder, a great trial, and the struggle they set off for the soul of America.
Big Trouble begins on a snowy evening at Christmas time 1905 in the little town of Caldwell, Idaho, to which the state's former governor, Frank Steunenberg, had returned to head his family bank while contemplating his political future. As he walked home that night, he sensed all about him the bold, exuberant, unashamedly acquisitive spirit of Caldwell's young entrepreneurs, who — as his brother had written — were "here for the money." Like so many in the West at that time, these brothers believed their prospects for enriching themselves were limitless, that the future opened wide before them.
ANd yet the governor suffered premonitions that he and his neighbors weren't fully in control of their own destiny, that something malign threatened their well-being.
Now, as he followed the plume of his frozen breath, his boots crunching eight inches of freshly frozen snow, he turned through his garden gate and a bomb attached to the gatepost blew him "into eternity."
Includes bibliographical references (p. -829) and index.
About the Author
J. Anthony Lukas won two Pulitzer Prizes: the first for reporting at The New York Times, where he served for a decade as a foreign and domestic correspondent; the second for Common Ground, which also brought him the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.
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