By Erik Larson
To this day, the worst natural disaster in U.S. history rolled in as a Category 4 hurricane on September 8, 1900 in the booming sand island of Galveston, Texas. Over 6,000 to possibly 10,000 lives would be lost, and 3,000 homes would be completely wiped out of existence, and the chief meteorologist of Galveston, Isaac Monroe Cline, would also experience personal heartache.
Larson re-creates turn-of-the-century Galveston in fantastic detail while exploring the rise of the U.S. Meteorology department in its infancy, while laying bare the arrogance, control and tension between Cuban forecasters and U.S. meteorologists. Larson’s exquisitely researched account relies on Cline’s own letters, reports and telegrams while drawing in firsthand accounts of citizens.
This is a definite page-turner that drove me to read Larson’s other books, and my only complaint is- I could have used some pictures. Readers can Google for that, but in a disaster book, I want them. Although I’m not so sure I’d want to see the “dead gangs” who gathered up the dead in the oppressive Texas heat, placing them on barges to cast out to sea and then sadly seeing the bodies washing up to the shore. But before and after town pictures would have been a nice addition. Minor complaint in the face of hurricane horrors. The front cover does feature a photo of Cline, and inside Larson includes a sketch of the town.
Even though this is a non-fiction book, it reads like smooth fiction, and readers will find themselves spellbound in the rich details of history, human error, and the power of nature while knowing that doom lays one page away.
Readers Café Book Club at Kempsville Library will be discussing this book at their August 20th meeting. Join us!
More fascinating history-based books that read like fiction are-
The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger; Close to Shore: A true story of terror in an age of innocence by Michael Capuzzo; Twelve days of terror: A definitive investogation of the 1916 New Jersey shark attacks by Richard Fernicola, Krakatoa: The day the world exploded by Simon Winchester as well as Erik Larson's other titles.