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When the Dancing Stopped: The Real Story of the Morro Castle Disaster and Its Deadly Wake
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When the Dancing Stopped: The Real Story of the Morro Castle Disaster and Its Deadly Wake

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  116 ratings  ·  28 reviews
During the dark days of the Great Depression, thousands of weary souls escaped their bleak lives for a week of paradise aboard the Ward Line's glamorous cruise ship, the "Morro Castle." It was the most famous passenger liner of its day, lightning fast, elegantly appointed. It was also a ticking time bomb. It was the summer of 1934. Two sailors joined the "Morro Castle" cre ...more
Hardcover, 345 pages
Published October 1st 2006 by Free Press (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

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GoldGato
There are usually three types of crime layouts for books:

1. The author decides he/she knows what was in a criminal's head and spends the entire book spinning the spin.

2. The author writes a thesis but neglects to keep the reader involved due to the fact that it's really just a thesis.

3. The author throws everything at the reader from the beginning, so the rest of the book is a letdown.

Thankfully, this book is none of the above. Brian Hicks crafts a tale that leads the reader into a just-one-more
...more
Donna
The shipwrecks I read about are usually age-of-sail affairs that follow the survivors' struggle against their environment (and occasionally each other). But the wreck of the Morro Castle involves more than just the fire, the crew's response, and the rescue efforts. The author presents historical context, personal accounts, and a heaping pile of evidence against one arson suspect, all delivered in an organized, cohesive way.

The story itself is unnerving. There was unrest among the crew, and the c
...more
Jill
I thought the book was incredibly researched but I didn't find it as gripping as I thought I would. I had never heard of the Morro Castle disaster so I was intriqued. I did though find myself gasping here and there reading what all Rogers had done and gotten away with for so long. Too bad there was never any conclusive evidence against him for justice sake.
Jennifer W
Fascinating story of a disaster I had never heard of. It started off a little slow, but after the 2nd death (the first being more of an anecdote), it took off and I couldn't stop reading. Like most large catastrophes, lots of small acts lead up to a big freaking disaster. An inexperienced leader, 2 huge storms in the Atlantic, a crew and passengers not properly trained in evacuating a ship, a floating pile of fuel and excellerants, and maybe, just maybe, a madman capable of setting it all ablaze ...more
CJ
The Morro Castle was a luxury liner which sailed from New York City to Havana, Cuba during the early thirties. Although its primary function was to transport mail between the two cities, the ship also had a decent passenger business--despite the ever-worsening depression--taking tourists to "Gay Havana" which at the time was still a wild party town. On the Labor Day cruise in 1934, the ship mysteriously caught fire and sunk, killing more than half the passengers and crew aboard. This book tells ...more
Holly Ristau
I enjoyed this historical true crime story. It was well-researched and talked about an historical event that I hadn't heard about before. My two favorite things: history and mystery! It was also well- indexed, which I appreciated. I wish there had been a list of characters and their jobs because so many people are referenced, I ended up making my own list as I read along.
Sheila
I enjoyed this book. I had never heard about the Morro Castle nor about the disaster. The book read like a novel. Occasionally the voice of the narrator was heard but for the most part the story and what people involved were living through was the focus. I liked the you were there feeling as the author described what was going on in the different parts of the ship and how people just wanted to get away from home during the Great Depression. As the story builds you find out about the engineering ...more
Alison
This book is a good true life mystery story that keeps you guessing. Also its a bit of maritime history that I had never heard of.
Shelley
Part history, part story of a maritime disaster, but mostly a book about a psychopathic killer from long ago.
K
In the summer of 1934, off the coast of New Jersey, the Morro Castle, a well-known luxury liner returning from a Labor Day cruise to Havana, caught fire during a tropical storm just hours after its captain was found dead in his cabin. The ship was incinerated, some 134 passengers died, and the rest forced to jump into the sea to survive. Based on recently declassified FBI files, thousands of pages of investigation notes, testimony, and new interviews, Hicks provides a fast-paced account explorin ...more
Meadow
I love my disaster books and this one did not disappoint. As a matter of fact, it was full of disaster and then went beyond that into the life of a scary psychopath. I appreciated the authors goal of not fictionalizing the story by adding thoughts or dialog that he could not account for from personal conversations, transcripts, or interviews. After reading this I find it odd and a bit sad that the name Morro Castle is not a known name anymore (no one I asked knew the name at least) since it is o ...more
Phil Smith
This book came across as much better researched, much less prone to invention and supposition, and therefore much more believable. The author had access to fewer sources than earlier books (many more of the passengers and crew have passed away in the intervening years), but the personal stories were well-woven into the framework provided by court documents and other official records.
Catherine
This book was probably marketed as similar to "Devil in the White City," but it wasn't nearly as intriguing. The author meandered along to the point I thought I wouldn't make it through to the end of the book. I did make it to the end, but I thought if the focus were more on Rogers it would have been much more interesting. Focusing the book around the Morro Castle disaster made for far too many dull passages that made the story fall apart for me.
Sal4gal
I listened to the Audible version.

"Not at all what I expected!"

This is not an adventure book. It is detailed true history that follows the lives of a few characters. The construction details, the employees, the accident, the politics, J. Edgar Hoover, and trials. As I review the book in my mind, it indeed covers a lot from start to finish and the main characters are well developed making it more interesting as a documentary.
Kristi Richardson
The true story of a cruise ship that burned off the Jersey Coast and the real reason it did.

This is really a true crime book as the perpetrator was never exposed.

I liked the way the author lets you know some of the crew members and passengers, he interviewed the survivors before writing the book.

Well done and engrossing.
Alice Paterra
My dad was 9 when the Morro Castle tragedy happened. He remembers being taken to the shore to watch the ship burning. He had a neighbor who took his own boat out to the wreckage to salvage. Dad remembers how his mother cried at the loss of life and the shame of the party atmosphere of those onshore watching the fire.
Laura
I tend not to read too many maritime disaster books because they are just so gut wrenching. This one is no exception, but it is very well written and a page-turner. I'd recommend it to anyone who is looking for a The Devil in the White City readalike, a maritime disaster book or for true crime.
M
Took me about 5 chapters to get really into it. Then when the focus shifts from the shipwreck to the "main character" I was really surprised. And when the friend drops the bombshell ... wow.
Bill Florio
I saw an HBO or PBS special about the Morro Castle when I was a kid. Great writing, great research, a little rough on tech guys, but I suppose nuts and sociopaths have always had a place to roost.
Jen
"Devil in the White City Good: I kept looking up from the book, exclaiming, "Why didn't I know about this?!" Mystery, drama, conspiracy, declassified files...this book has everything!"
Heather De armas
This book would make a great film. It is like the Titanic only with staff murdering intrigue, political exploits with a Cuban princess and - my own heroic grand-uncle on board!
Jerry Smith
Fascinating, detailed and occassionally gruesome account of the Morro castle disaster that points the finger squarely at the apparently guilty party.
Sydney
Fascinating account of the Morrow Castle disaster. Extremely well researched and written as if it were a novel. I enjoyed it immensely.
Colleen
really enjoyed this read like a combination of mystery book and disaster movie


Stephanie Borders
Compelling to-the-point read about a deadly fire on a cruise ship in 1934.
Jo
Sep 03, 2007 Jo rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: my Jersey friends
So far there are two Bayonne characters in the telling.
Brynna
Good story, well written and researched.
Kittrell Rushing
Very readable, very interesting
Jennie
Jennie is currently reading it
Nov 20, 2014
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