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American Lightning

Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century

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Hardcover published by Crown (Crown Publishing Group)

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About This Book
In this masterpiece of narrative history, acclaimed author Howard Blum evokes the original "crime of the century" and an aftermath even more dramatic than the crime itself–a seminal episode in America’s history that would spark national debate and draw into its orbit master sleuth William J. Burns, crusading lawyer Clarence Darrow, and industry-shaping filmmaker D. W. Griffith.

"Hugely engaging . . . has tremendous verve . . . American Lightning throws valuable new light on an episode that seems, for us today, particularly pertinent. Terrorism happened here." –Los Angeles Times

"A fast-moving, skillfully constructed account . . . Blum’s style is cinematic." –Chicago Sun-Times

"Compelling . . . a tense detective story." –Seattle Times

"A thumping-good drumroll of narrative history . . . the cross-country manhunt reads like a great mystery novel . . . Blum blows the dust off a page of America’s own incendiary past and brings it to pulsating life." –Dallas Morning News
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In this masterpiece of narrative history, acclaimed author Howard Blum evokes the original "crime of the century" and an aftermath even more dramatic than the crime itself–a seminal episode in America’s history that would spark national debate and draw into its orbit master sleuth William J. Burns, crusading lawyer Clarence Darrow, and industry-shaping filmmaker D. W. Griffith.

"Hugely engaging . . . has tremendous verve . . . American Lightning throws valuable new light on an episode that seems, for us today, particularly pertinent. Terrorism happened here." –Los Angeles Times

"A fast-moving, skillfully constructed account . . . Blum’s style is cinematic." –Chicago Sun-Times

"Compelling . . . a tense detective story." –Seattle Times

"A thumping-good drumroll of narrative history . . . the cross-country manhunt reads like a great mystery novel . . . Blum blows the dust off a page of America’s own incendiary past and brings it to pulsating life." –Dallas Morning News
Product Details
Hardcover (352 pages)
Published: September 16, 2008
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Imprint: Crown
ISBN: 9780307346940
Other books byHoward Blum
  • Dark Invasion

    Dark Invasion
    1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the...
    What happens when German spies collaborate to unleash a campaign of terror upon America at the start of World War I? In the summer of 1914, New York Police Department captain Tom Tunney is preoccupied by Manhattan's raging gang rivalries and has little idea that, halfway around the world, a much more ominous threat to the city is brewing. As Germany teeters on the brink of war, its ambassador to the United States is given instructions to find and finance a team of undercover saboteurs who can bring America to its knees before it has a chance to enter the conflict on the side of the Allies. At the page-turning pace of a spy thriller, Dark Invasion tells the remarkable true story of Tunney and his pivotal role in discovering, and delivering to justice, a ruthless ring of German terrorists determined to annihilate the United States. Overwhelmed and undermatched, Tunney's small squad of cops was the David to Germany's Goliath, the operatives of which included military officers, a germ warfare expert, a gifted Harvard professor, a bomb technician, and a document forger. As explosions leveled munitions plants and destroyed cargo ships, particularly in and around New York City, pan- icked officials talked about rogue activists and anarchists—but it was Tunney who suspected that these incidents were part of something bigger and became determined to bring down the culprits. Through meticulous research, Blum deftly reconstructs an enthralling, vividly detailed saga of subterfuge and bravery. Enhanced by more than fifty images sourced from global archives, his gritty, energetic narrative follows the German spies—with Tunney hot on their heels—from the streets, harbors, and warehouses of New York City to the genteel quads of Harvard, the grand estates of industry tycoons, and the steps of the U.S. Capitol. The New York Police Department's breathtaking efforts to unravel the extent of the German plot and close in on its perpetrators are revealed in this riveting account of America's first encounter with a national security threat unlike any other—the threat of terrorism—that is more relevant now than ever.

    The Brigade

    The Brigade
    An Epic Story of Vengeance, Salvation, and WWII
    November 1944. The British government finally agrees to send a brigade of 5,000 Jewish volunteers from Palestine to Europe to fight the German army. But when the war ends and the soldiers witness firsthand the horrors their people have suffered in the concentration camps, the men launch a brutal and calculating campaign of vengeance, forming secret squads to identify, locate, and kill Nazi officers in hiding. Their own ferocity threatens to overwhelm them until a fortuitous encounter with an orphaned girl sets the men on a course of action—rescuing Jewish war orphans and transporting them to Palestine—that will not only change their lives but also help create a nation and forever alter the course of world history.

    The Eve of Destruction

    The Eve of Destruction
    The Untold Story of the Yom Kippur War
    On October 6, 1973—Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar—the Arab world launched a bold and ingeniously conceived surprise attack against Israel. After three days of intense, bloody combat, an unprepared Israel was fighting for survival, while the Arabs, with massive forces closing in on the Jewish heartland, were poised to redeem the honor lost in three previous wars. Based on declassified Israeli government documents and revealing interviews with soldiers, generals, and intelligence operatives on both sides of the conflict, The Eve of Destruction weaves a suspenseful, eye-opening story of war, politics, and deception. It also tells the moving human tale of the men and women who fought to maintain love and honor as their lives and destinies were swept up in the Yom Kippur War.

    The Floor of Heaven

    The Floor of Heaven
    A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon...
    It is the last decade of the 19th century. The Wild West has been tamed and its fierce, independent and often violent larger-than-life figures – gun-toting wanderers, trappers, prospectors, Indian fighters, cowboys, and lawmen –are now victims of their own success. They are heroes who’ve outlived their usefulness. But then gold is discovered in Alaska and the adjacent Canadian Klondike and a new frontier suddenly looms - an immense unexplored territory filled with frozen waterways, dark spruce forests, and towering mountains capped by glistening layers of snow and ice. “Klondicitis,” a giddy mix of greed and lust for adventure, ignites a stampede. Fleeing the depths of a worldwide economic depression and driven by starry-eyed visions of vast wealth, tens of thousands rush northward. Joining this throng of greenhorns and grifters, whores and highwaymen, sourdoughs and seers are three unforgettable men. In a true-life tale that rivets from the first page, we meet Charlie Siringo, a top-hand sharp-shooting cowboy who, after futilely trying to settle down with his new bride, becomes one of the Pinkerton Detective Agency’s shrewdest; George Carmack, a California-born American Marine who’s adopted by an Indian tribe, raises a family with a Taglish squaw, makes the discovery that starts off the Yukon Gold Rush – and becomes fabulously rich; and Soapy Smith, a sly and inventive predator-conman who rules a vast criminal empire. As we follow this trio’s lives, we’re led inexorably into a perplexing mystery. A fortune in gold bars has somehow been stolen from the fortress-like Treadwell Mine in Juneau, Alaska, with no clues as to how the thieves made off with such an immensely heavy cargo.  To many it appears that the crime will never be solved.  But the Pinkerton Agency has a reputation for finding the answers that elude others.  Charged with getting the job done is Charlie Siringo who discovers that, to run the thieves to ground, he must embark on a rugged cross-territory odyssey that will lead him across frigid waters and through a frozen wilderness.  Ultimately, he’ll have his quarry in his sights. But then an additional challenge will present itself.  He must face down Soapy Smith and his gang of 300 cutthroats.  Hanging in the balance: George Carmack’s fortune in gold. At once a compelling true-life mystery and an unforgettable portrait of a time in America’s history when thousands were fired with a vision of riches so unimaginable as to be worth any price, The Floor of Heaven is also an exhilarating tribute to the courage and undaunted spirit of the men and women who helped shape America.  

Favorite QuotesFROM THIS BOOK
  • As the detective made his way along a bustling Fourteenth Street in New York City that late December day in 1910, he was confident that, after a frustrating month in Los Angeles, he was...

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  • They were individuals willing to fight for their beliefs; and the legacy of their battles, their cultural and political brawls, remains part of our national consciousness.

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