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3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  514 ratings  ·  112 reviews
Now available in paperback, James Dalessandro's "riveting account of corruption, greed, and murder in the City by the Bay" (Dallas Morning News) was a best-seller in hardcoverand production has begun on a major motion picture. Set during the great San Francisco earthquake and fire, this page-turning historical novel reveals recently uncovered facts that forever change our...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 3rd 2005 by Chronicle Books (first published 2004)
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8.4 by Peter HernonThe Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline LowryEarthquake in the Early Morning by Mary Pope OsbornePaperQuake by Kathryn ReissQuake! by Joe Cottonwood
Best earthquake fiction
9th out of 10 books — 5 voters
The Joy Luck Club by Amy TanTales of the City by Armistead MaupinChina Blues by Ki LongfellowThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
San Francisco Bay Area Fiction
150th out of 178 books — 138 voters

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Beth Cato
I read this as part of my continued research on the Great San Francisco Earthquake. I've read a great deal of nonfiction, but I wanted a level of detail that can only be found in fiction. I found this book, published in 2005 not long before the centennial of the quake.

1906 struck me as extremely irritating and enlightening all at once.

To begin with the irritants: the perspectives of the story. It's a first person novel that uses omniscient third person to tell the tales of a broad cast of about...more
Ann Goddard
The author covers the political corruption being uncovered in San Francisco just before and during the great earthquake and fire of 1906. Using first person accounts, he's built a group of fictional characters within actual events. The main character is a woman opera critic for a San Francisco newspaper who's called on to help guide Enrico Caruso as he comes to perform in San Francisco on that fated date. The characters are both believable and enjoyable, and I learned much I hadn't known about t...more
Jenn Raley
I really enjoyed this fictionalized - though impressively accurate - account of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The author did a great job detailing the destruction wrought by the quake and the three days of fires that ensued.

The fictional characters employed by the author do a great job of providing perspective to the story, giving the reader someone to root for (and against) throughout the overarching drama. The story would be relatively generic and uncompelling if it weren't for the backdr...more
We all know that in 1906, San Francisco was destroyed by an earthquake and subsequent fire. But what was new to me was the extreme corruption found in the city prior to the disasters, and which caused so much more destruction. Most of the book is taken up with the story of a few good men, trying desperately to take down the corrupt leadership of the city, but getting thwarted by every turn, usually by violence. The earthquake and fires don't even happen until the last third or so of the book. Fo...more
This novel has a little bit of everything – early police procedural, action sequences, drama, shoot outs, natural disasters, love story – in essence, the whole nine yards. There is a little something for everyone here. The first half of the novel is significantly character driven. We come to know and love the men of the Brotherhood – some of San Francisco’s finest cops who are working to help take down the graft and corruption visible everywhere you turn. There is a core group of individuals who...more
Robin Levin
I found 1906 enthralling from beginning to end. San Francisco, at the time of the historic earthquake was in the grip of one of the most corrupt political machines we have ever seen in this country. James Dalessandro’s novel is as much about the efforts of brave citizens to end this corruption as it is about the earthquake.
If you were foolish enough to go to the Barbary Coast district of San Francisco at a time when ships needed sailors, you could easily be drugged by the bartender and find you...more
While the power of the Earthquake was beyond belief, the destruction of the city was caused by fires that burned for days, poor building construction, the futile attempts to stop the fires by dynamiting areas to create a fire break and failure of the water supply to stop the fires.

When reading this book I could not help but compare the devastation of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 to the devastation of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. While the forces of nature are powerful and uncontro...more
This was recommended to me at a bookstore in San Francisco as I was interested in reading fiction about the earthquake. Not literary fiction, but interesting and definitely holds your interest. I would like to read more into San Francisco pre-earthquake because it sounds interesting. I would have preferred if the novel had an narrative told from the third person perspective, rather than the first person. It was the only thing that really irked me throughout the novel and I'm surprised an editor...more
San Francisco is my very favorite place, so I really enjoyed reading this book about the earthquake and fire, and the city at that time. It was a little tough to get into the first few chapters, the author keep introducing new characters, it was confusing. But once I got into the story line I couldn't put it down. And in the end the author told you exactly who was a fictional character and who wasn't,(which saved me the time of looking them all up, which is what I was planning on doing). The bo...more
Dave Sippel
After (mostly) reading this book, I felt somewhat misled. I heard about this novel after watching a History Channel documentary on the 1906 earthquake. The documentary featured Mr. Dalessandro who spoke about what happened during the earthquake. I bought a copy from Amazon, hoping for a good adventure.

Little did I know but the majority of the book focused on the corruption of the city officials and the few good cops that wanted to take them down, with the aid of the female journalist protagonist...more
I got this book on mp3 from my library. It sounded interesting, and from the reviews here on this site and on Amazon, I thought it would be riveting. It was, but I initially was put off by this audiobook. First off, I was completely distracted by the narrator’s voice. Her cadence was almost like that of a text-to-voice computer. Then, I thought, maybe she speaks English as a second language. Either way, it was the first reason I considered quitting this book. The second was the constant shift of...more
My boyfriend called me one morning to say that he found a book in the "give-away pile" at the gym that I might like to read. After describing it to me, I told him to bring it home and I would give it a try. Thank you Frank, you were right - I did like this book!

“1906” is a historical fiction that takes place in San Francisco in the year (as the title states) 1906. It's what I would call a good-guy, bad-guy novel. The main characters consist of honest cops, crooked cops, criminals and a few newsp...more
The book uses the 1906 earthquake as the backdrop of a story about the rampant corruption in San Francisco. The story is told as a first person narrative of a young woman, Annalisa, who is an opera critic for a SF paper. She gets involved in the investigation and take down of corrupt politicians of San Francisco.

The large cast of characters include corrupt politicians, a brotherhood of cops, a famous opera singer, Shanghai Kelly, his goons, and a young Chinese girl. Their interwoven storylines...more
I can see why this was slated to be a movie about the San Francisco earthquake and fire (not sure what happened to that plan) as it is very heavy on action and dialogue. I enjoyed learning about the underbelly of San Francisco politics, graft and crime (Chinese girls sold into slavery, prostitution, shanghaiing men for labor on ships and general barbarism on the Barbary Coast). Much of the story was based on real/composite characters that made me want to read more non-fiction history of the peri...more
The idea of reading about the devasting San Francisco earthquake of 1906 in which over half the city burned to the ground was an interesting notion, but the author took the "Hollywood approach" to this one. I felt like it should have been titled "The E True Hollywood Story of..." I felt like the author wrote the book intending it to be gobbled up by a screenwriter rather than as stand alone work of literature. In short, this book featured drama and sensationalism rather than good historical fict...more
Apr 03, 2008 Valerie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who loves San Francisco or history
Recommended to Valerie by: Book Club
I read this book for a book club I was in because I live in the Bay Area and we were celebrating or remembering the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. I was erked a little by reading it 100 years later, visulaizing all this destruction in the most beautiful city on the Bay. I love San Francisco, my grandparents lived there for many years in the 90's and I loved the view from the apartment of Coit Tower, Fisherman's Wharf, and the Bay. I feel a sense of responsibilty or paternal nature over San Franc...more
While perhaps well-researched in its human history, it bothered me that the geologist was like, "Oh, this fault is where two of the giant plates that make up the earth are rubbing against each other," and everyone else was like, "Ah, gotcha." From any intro geology class, you know that wasn't a thing in 1906. Otherwise this book was pretty good, though maybe a bit too much at times.
Sterling Bollinger
This is beautifully written piece of historical fiction. This story puts human faces on one of the most horrific natural disasters to happen in the US. One of the most striking things about this book is the story that is created leading up to the earthquake, which doesn't occur until the last third of the novel. The story of murder, corruption, and society in early 20th century San Francisco is based on a collection of true events and characters creating a intricate atmosphere which allows the r...more
I got hooked into wanting to more about San Francisco's earthquake after reading a Clive Cussler book about a detective during the days around it, just incidently in the book. I really enjoy humanity under stress books, what we do, what we need to do, reframing view of self and world stuff, so I enjoyed looking at this. But the surprise was the political stuff. And, that it was all told in the voice of a woman, very interesting. I had no idea that there might be a different view of the fire, why...more
Gypsy Madre
Mar 28, 2011 Gypsy Madre rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Gypsy by: Read With Livermore program
Well.... I do not understand why the intelligent group that introduced me to this book (and indeed gave me a copy!) said (en masse) that they "could hardly get through it"!?!?! It was as the cover declared: "Rivoting"! Yes, it was difficult in some of the subject matter - but, sadly, not any more than you see on TV (and I'm talkin' commercials!) I am not one for novels, and more especially not one for crime infiltrated novels, but this was so Good vs Evil set in actual catastrophic (and literall...more
Lorette Russenberger
A good yarn with some interesting and probably accurate descriptions of gold rush San Francisco and the disaster and immediate aftermath. The characters and events are well written and engaging, if implausible. I enjoyed it for the vibrant sense I got of the city and its denizens.
Weaving fact and fiction, James Dalessandro crafts a tale that makes it impossible to lay aside. The catastrophic earthquake along the San Andreas Fault should be the ultimate misfortune that struck San Francisco in the early morning hours of April 18, 1906; but Dalessandro suggest that nature had only a supporting role in the destruction of the most notable city in the west. Civic corruption, disregard for scientific fact, family feuds, debased morals, greed, stupidity, all play a part in the c...more
BJ Rose
A friend put this in my hands and said, 'You've got to read this.' I expected it to be about the big earthquake and the devastation that followed. Since I already knew that the corruption and incompetence in city government increased the destruction begun by the quake, I thought it would focus on events following the quake. Boy, was I wrong! The focus was on events before the quake, culminating in the death and chaos and panic of this historic event. This book is fabulously written and very-well...more
This was an okay read. Not at the top of my list. I did enjoy the references to the real characters and sequence of events of the actual earthquake and the fires that erupted afterward. I also did not know about the corruption associated with the aftermath, but go figure...even back then there were money-hungry jerks looking out for themselves at the expense of others. I like how the author introduces the characters and you almost get an insight into each of their emotions, personalities and etc...more
Well researched and interesting way to learn about an huge event american history, and to capture other authentic elements of the time. But read very simply--as if it was aimed at a less mature audience.
Chris Jennings
This should be required reading for every San Franciscan. Not only does it provide countless historical tidbits about our amazing city, but it gives context to the greatest natural disaster in US history. I can't count how much I learned from this book or how many times I said "oh, that's who that street is named after!" Yes there is a somewhat predictable love story thrown into the mix, and yes some of the peripheral characters aren't developed as much as they should be but it really doesn't ma...more
I liked the baseline of the plot- city, corruption, natural disaster- but the romance was not developed enough for me, and the father-sighted connection to the plot wasn't likely enough for me either. That said, I liked it. And I liked the informational afterward.
Jemera Rone
A very readable account (novelistic) of the 1906 earthquake which lead to a terrible fire in San Francisco, CA, including the corruption in city government and the appearance (true) of the famous tenor Caruso in SF just before the earthquake. Romance betweeen hero and heroine included.
I was almost turned off on this one by the narrator - she put the stress in odd places and couldn't seem to figure out the appropriate places to stop for a breath, which made listening to it a bit grating. It was worth sticking it out, though. It's a fairly pulpy version of historical fiction; very action and adventure oriented, and not particularly literary. That being said, it seemed to be very well researched, and the author did a great job at painting a picture of San Francisco in the early...more
I enjoy reading books, fiction and nonfiction, about places I have visited or regions I have lived. I anticipated the destruction of a magnificent turn of the century city caused by the earthquake of 1906 in San Fran, but I never knew about the rabid political corruption already on a trajectory to destroy this wild west town. The story is told through the eyes of fictional young female journalist involved in all aspects of the goings on over a 4 day period surrounding the day of the earthquake....more
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