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The Great American Railroad War: How Ambrose Bierce and Frank Norris Took On the Notorious Central Pacific Railroad

3.06 of 5 stars 3.06  ·  rating details  ·  35 ratings  ·  7 reviews
How two of America’s greatest authors took on the Central Railroad monopolyThe notorious Central Pacific Railroad riveted the attention of two great American writers: Ambrose Bierce and Frank Norris. In The Great American Railroad War, Dennis Drabelle tells a classic story of corporate greed vs. the power of the pen. The Central Pacific Railroad accepted US Government loan ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published August 21st 2012 by St. Martin's Press
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Before starting this book, I had considerable doubts that a book about the writers Ambrose Bierce, Frank Norris, and the Central Pacific Railroad could hold my interest. Having in the past read a bit about the doings of nineteenth century trans-continental railroads, it wasn’t clear to me that I’d learn anything new about their dreary misdeeds and financial problems. Furthermore, trying to discuss a railroad and two authors in the same book could easily result in a narrative lacking focus. If th ...more
The Great American Railroad War
Ambrose Pierce and Frank Norris wrote about a time period in American History that would rock the world of journalism and enlighten the world about the inner workings of the Railroad Industry. Before the advent of the railroad it was difficult if not near impossible to travel cross country and get anywhere except on horseback or stagecoach. With the Transcontinental Railroad completed in 1869 traveling from the East to the West coast would no longer take 6 months b
Can't recommend the book. I love trains, loved studying and teaching about the Industrial Revolution. I didn't feel Drabelle fleshed out the writers, Bierce and Norris, who I thought would be the centerpieces of the book. I did enjoy learning more about how the tunnels through the western mountains were dug, and it felt as if Drabelle fleshed out that aspect of the railroads well. There have been good reviews, but I just can't second them.
had to plow through this, after about page 120 i skimmed for fifty plus pages then read the rest.

just one thing i'll point out that annoyed me p.112 Ambrose Bierce was the most important writer to come out of the Civil War "the South's number one candidate, the poet Sidney Lanier, is all but forgotten today." how about Lew Wallace Ben Hur?
Patrick SG
I probably shouldn't review this as I didn't finish the book. The narrative of the building of the transcontinental railroad in the first couple of chapters is well done and a good precis for those who haven't read more detailed histories of this fascinating enterprise. The narrative style is brisk and easy to read. I got bogged down in the part following in which the financial and managerial intricacies of the railroad magnates began to be described. This is integral to the rest of the story - ...more
The story of the early railroads is convoluted and confusing and this book doesn't do a lot to clarify. But the B and C stories that were essentially biographies of Bierce and Norris were much better presented and very interesting.
The first part of the book, concerning the railroad, was compelling. Anbrose Bierce was a colorful character who coined a lot of clever sarcastic phrases and his fight with the railroad was interesting. By the time I got to Frank Norris, the book had lost its momentum and I did not see how some of the events of Norris' later life related to the topic. One enlightening aspect of the book concerned how journalism was practiced in this era. Many of the personal attacks Bierce wrote would probably b ...more
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