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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

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  152 Ratings  ·  30 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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May 30, 2014 GoldGato rated it it was amazing
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
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
Feb 06, 2013 Donna rated it really liked it
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
Jennifer W
Feb 23, 2014 Jennifer W rated it really liked it
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
Feb 15, 2008 K rated it really liked it
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
Holly Ristau
May 26, 2014 Holly Ristau rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 13, 2010 Jill rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
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.
Mar 19, 2015 Donna rated it it was amazing
I loved this! For me it was especially interesting since I’m familiar with a few of the towns.
I have reproduction postcards of this ship and other local historical images of Southern Jersey, but didn’t know the history behind the image. This was a real eye-opener. The writing, the story, the characters and familiar towns involved kept me on the edge of my seat. As the drama intensified, I could not put this book down. I’m still amazed and keep googling images of the ship.

How Rogers got away wi
Mar 06, 2009 Sheila rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 31, 2015 Trappercat rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was a horrible book that I kept reading because of all the high marks. It is by no means a 4 or 5 * book.

It was redundant through the book, rehashing the telling of the story, using the exact same words ad-nausea.The lying and discontent by the officers, the crew and passengers were marked mostly by a few "trials" to find out what happened. No grand discovery by the author. The only learned behavior was that from that forward cruise lines held regular lifeboat drills.

The erratic behavior o
Jul 11, 2014 Alison rated it really liked it
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.
May 20, 2014 Shelley rated it liked it
Part history, part story of a maritime disaster, but mostly a book about a psychopathic killer from long ago.
Dec 28, 2011 Meadow rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 15, 2014 Phil Smith rated it it was amazing
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.
May 09, 2007 Catherine rated it it was ok
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.
Sep 04, 2013 Sal4gal rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 15, 2013 Kristi Richardson rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, true-crime
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
Jul 09, 2013 Alice Paterra rated it really liked it
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.
May 19, 2011 Laura rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 09, 2010 M rated it really liked it
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
Jul 28, 2011 Bill Florio rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, audible
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.
Dec 12, 2009 Jen rated it it was amazing
"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
Feb 10, 2013 Heather De armas rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 25, 2009 Jerry Smith rated it really liked it
Fascinating, detailed and occassionally gruesome account of the Morro castle disaster that points the finger squarely at the apparently guilty party.
Sep 02, 2007 Sydney rated it liked it
Shelves: have-read
Fascinating account of the Morrow Castle disaster. Extremely well researched and written as if it were a novel. I enjoyed it immensely.
Jun 10, 2010 Colleen rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
really enjoyed this read like a combination of mystery book and disaster movie

Stephanie Borders
Mar 12, 2008 Stephanie Borders rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Compelling to-the-point read about a deadly fire on a cruise ship in 1934.
Sep 03, 2007 Jo rated it liked it
Recommends it for: my Jersey friends
So far there are two Bayonne characters in the telling.
Feb 08, 2008 Brynna rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Good story, well written and researched.
Kittrell Rushing
Oct 15, 2008 Kittrell Rushing rated it it was amazing
Very readable, very interesting
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