Joemmama's Reviews > American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood & the Crime of the Century

American Lightning by Howard Blum
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Jan 18, 10

Read in January, 2010

A while ago I read a small part of this in some magazine, I can't remember which one, and thought it sounded really good. I was right! This was a terrific book. Howard Blum has written a narrative nonfiction book that is one of the best I have read. An amazing story, real people, and the fact that it is all true, made it even better. October 1, 1910 the LA Times building was blown up, killing 21 and injuring many others. Billy Burns, called the American Sherlock Holmes, is called into service, to discover the perpetrators, and bring them to justice.

Clarence Darrow, DW Griffith, Mary Pickford, and others are all a part of this story.

Anarchists, water wars, unions vs. non-union men, were all suspected in the bombing. It turned out to be the leaders of the unions, "suggesting" non-union places to bomb. The men who actually did the bombing, had done over 100 bombings across the country.

Burn's life was threatened, more than once. Scandal, bribery, and violence were all part of the trial, and at the conclusion, there was a surprise. Showmanship, and theater in the courtroom played out, much like what we see on Court TV. Movies were made about each side of the case, while the case was ongoing.

I learned alot from this book, most interestingly, that Edgar Lee Masters, one of my favorite authors, was a law partner of Clarence Darrow. It really showed that there is a big difference, then as today between justice for the rich and famous, and justice for the everyday man.

The whole story was intriguing, and a very sad part of American history.

I got this book from the Library.
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