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The Cold Millions

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  8,123 ratings  ·  1,370 reviews
An enthralling novel of early 20th century America from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Ruins
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It is 1909 in Spokane, Washington. The Dolan brothers live by their wits, jumping freight trains and lining up for day work at crooked job agencies. While sixteen-year-old Rye yearns for a steady job and
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Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 18th 2021 by Viking (first published October 27th 2020)
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Sharilyn Neidhardt No not at all. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (Jones) is the kind of rabble rousing pregnant heroine I can get behind any day.
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  8,123 ratings  ·  1,370 reviews


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David Putnam
I had high hopes for this book, this author is a master craftsman, a true wordsmith. I have enjoyed many of his other books. That’s not to say I did not enjoy this one, I did, just not to the degree I expected. I loved the characters, their plight, the time period and setting. What more could a reader ask?
Throughout the year I am stumbling in the dark looking for that great read that will immerse me into that ever elusive, “Fictive Dream.” I think most all avid readers are involved in this same
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Angela M
While this is only the second novel by Jess Walter that I have read, he has found that place in my literary heart reserved for writers whose every novel I want to read so I’ve just added several of his other books to my to read list. Mostly it’s because the writing is so impeccable that I am compelled to reread some sentences so I can experience that wow feeing again. It’s also because this is historical fiction at its best, reimagining a time, a place, events that really happened with a cast of ...more
Will Byrnes
What was it about these steep, western, water-locked cities, Seattle, Spokane, San Francisco? All three I’d visited, and in all three, the money flowed straight uphill. It made me think of something I’d heard about the Orient, that water drained the opposite way there. Who wanted to live in a place where water spun backward or money flowed uphill. These towns that had no business being towns, straddling islands and bays and cliffs and canyons and waterfalls.
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Liz
Dec 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, library
4.5 stars, rounded up
This engrossing historical fiction takes us initially to Spokane, Washington, 1909. The 1907 recession is still causing the economy to reel. Workers are just starting to try to demand certain rights and the Wobblies (IWW) are attempting to organize. Enter the Dolan brothers, young men of no firm address, seeking work through the job agencies but also involved with the fledgling union.
Walters paints a detailed picture of the time and place. His description of certain scenes,
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Elyse  Walters
This book wasn’t for me.
“The Beautiful Ruins” wasn’t either. Only I never mentioned it till now.

I know I’m in the minority—
But I couldn’t find my enthusiastic-footing...
Too many characters and points of views ...
I felt no emotional attachment to any of the characters ...

The fancy writing was just that: ‘fancy’.
The artful prose was ‘pretty’... but I didn’t feel passion for it.

Since I’m not going to finish this book - I won’t rate it.

Two for two... books I didn’t finish by Jess Walter.

Oh well..
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Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
There are times when you walk into a library and a book calls out to you. This book falls in to category.

It was very well written with a fictional story that blended so well the facts of the times depicted. The banding together of workers into what would eventually become very powerful union movements was a telling statement on the trials, the hardships, and the deaths experienced by the men and women who fought so hard for workers to earn a decent wage. It depicted those who became wealthy on t
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Betsy Robinson
Jun 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Boy, is this a good book!

If I hadn't already been convinced that Jess Walter could write anything—a crime caper (Citizen Vince), a love story (Beautiful Ruins), short stories that range from heartbreaking to hilarious (We All Live in Water), a funny commercial literary novel (The Financial Lives of Poets), a nightmarish psychological story in the aftermath of 9/11 (The Zero), or a blatant literary writer's foray into money-making with a cop serial (Land of the Blind)—this complicated and highly
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Debbie
Too much hype

This Debbie Downer was looking for an upper, but alas she didn’t find it. (You know it’s bad when I’m talking third person!) Before you throw tomatoes at me, let me say that I KNOW this is a good book. I KNOW the writer is fabulous. I just didn’t get pulled into the subject, which was the fight for workers’ rights. It was too political for me. So when I don’t like the subject and I get bored, all these nits keep flying around my head, insisting I drag my Complaint Board out of the s
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Diane S ☔
Dec 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At this time when our democracy is once again being threatened, Walters takes us back to 1909, and the fight for free speech, income equality and the right to make an honest, fairly paid living. The comparisons between then and now are palpable.

Gig and Rye are brothers, Rye only 16, as orphans Gig feels responsible for his younger brother and does his best to keep him safe. In Spokane, where this novel takes place this proves difficult, there is change coming, hard-fought change, and it is hard
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Ron Charles
In 2012, Jess Walter’s breakout bestseller, “Beautiful Ruins,” brought movieland hilariously and brilliantly to life. The story offered an enchanting vision of glamorous old wrecks — from Tinseltown to an Italian village to Richard Burton himself.

But now, with his new novel, “The Cold Millions,” Walter attempts to bring that same verve to the pitiless realm of Spokane, Wash., in 1909. Where once he satirized the meretricious appeal of Hollywood, movie stars and reality TV, here he’s hunkered dow
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Blaine
Mar 19, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021, from-library
Hell, it took only your first day in a Montana flop or standing over your mother's unmarked grave to know that equal was the one thing all men were not. A few lived like kings, and the rest hugged the dirt until it cracked open and took them home.
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He flushed with sadness, as if every moment of his life were occurring all at once—his sister dying in childbirth, his mother squirming in that one-room flop, poor Danny sliding between wet logs, Gig in jail, and Jules dead—and how many more? All peo
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Barbara
I chose to listen to Jess Walter’s “The Cold Millions” narrated by an amazing cast: Edoardo Ballerini, Gary Farmer, Marin Ireland, Cassandra Campbell, MacLeod Andrews, Tim Gerard Reynolds, Mike Ortego, Rex Anderson, Charlie Thurston, and Frankie Corzo. It is the cast that provided this historical fiction story with the depth and richness of the saga of a turbulent time in America’s history. Walter embeds historical figures in his creative story which lends the reader to research the figures and ...more
Maureen
Nov 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaway-arc
5 stars
This is second novel that I have read by Jess Walter. I have previously read Beautiful Ruins, which I enjoyed very much.
I was fortunate to receive this advance reader copy from Goodreads and the publisher Harper Collins.
This is the historical fiction story of real life people and some fictional characters from the 1909-1910 Free Speech Riots in Spokane. It is a very engaging read.

The Dolan brothers, Gregory, (Gig) and Ryan (Rye) live their lives through adventure jumping from train to tra
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Jill
Jul 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For years, readers have mulled what it means to be a good writer versus a great writer so let me add in my two cents: a good writer creates a fictional world and a great writer makes it impossible to look away.

With The Cold Millions, surely Jess Walter’s most ambitious book (and I’m a huge Jess Walter fan), this author lays claim to Great American Writer. Because this surely is a slice of America – the early 1900s where hobos, union agitators (Wobblys), tycoons, a red-haired vaudeville star, a s
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Martie Nees Record
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Harper/Collins
Pub. Date: Oct. 6, 2020

“Millions” is a richly entertaining historical novel that reconstructs the free speech riots that took place during the creation of the labor union during the early 1900s in Spokane, Washington. The novel is jam-packed with real-life people such as the passionate, 19-year-old union organizer, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (known as the Rebel Girl), the young labor lawyer, Fred Moore, and many others. Historical fiction is my favor
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Linda
In 1909, the city council of Spokane, Washington, issued an ordinance that banned public speaking on the city’s streets. Its goal was to silence union organizing activities by the IWW (International Workers of the World or wobblies). The Wobblies retaliated by launching the Free Speech Fight. On November 9th, soapboxes were erected throughout the city; IWW representatives would ascend, begin to speak, and promptly be hauled off to jail. Close to 500 unionists were incarcerated.
Jess Walters rec
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Elizabeth George
Jess Walter's new book is terrific and, in my opinion, destined to be a classic. Reminiscent of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, The Cold Millions documents a period of time in Spokane, Washington, in which the dividing line between rich and poor was about as profound as it is today, with the possible exception of today's ability to form labor unions without being beaten, robbed, jailed, murdered, or driven out of town on a rail. It follows the story of two brothers, Gig and Rye, who while loyal ...more
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Jan 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021
Published in the UK 18/2/2021

In the days after Gig left, Rye began to see that he was living in a particular moment in history.

Maybe this was obvious to other people, but it had never occurred to him. It was a strange, unwieldy thought, like opening a book and seeing yourself in its pages. Seemingly unrelated events— meeting Early Reston at the river that day, the free speech riot, Ursula the Great taking him to meet Lem Brand, traveling with Gurley Flynn, smuggling her story out to Seattle,
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Julie Christine
Is there anything Jess Walter cannot write? Satire, black comedy, speculative, bleak contemporary, gentle comedy, literary suspense, straight-up historical fiction, creative non-fiction, investigative long-form. He is simply one of the most insightful, en pointe writers of contemporary American letters. A master, however humble and generous. And he's done it again with The Cold Millions.

Set in Spokane, Washington in 1909, this is a classic history of the American West. The Cold Millions is based
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Jordan (Jordy’s Book Club)
QUICK TAKE: I'm a huge Jess Walter fan, but even I paused before picking up this story of unionizing brothers in the 1900s (sounds riveting, haha). I should have trusted Jess, because this ended up being one of the bigger surprises of the year for me. Captivating storytelling, incredibly well written characters, a plot that moves at a quick clip, and educational as well! If you haven't read A BEAUTIFUL RUIN yet, I highly recommend you start there, but this was a fantastic follow-up. ...more
Mary Lins
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Full disclosure, I’m a huge fan of Jess Walter’s novels and short stories. I “discovered” him while reading “Beautiful Ruins” in 2012, and immediately consumed his entire oeuvre. So I was thrilled to be able to pre-review “The Cold Millions” which will be published in October. When I read this novel, I was still in COVID-19 “stay at home/work from home” mode, and this novel gave me a wonderful chance to escape to Spokane, Washington in 1909, where things are even worse than they are here!

The pri
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Kasa Cotugno
This is the kind of rollicking historical fiction that reminds me mostly of the work of E. L. Doctorow, with its huge cast consisting of both fictional and real characters, and its opening up of a segment of American history that seldom gets a close look in history classes. Set in Washington State in 1909, Spokane but also Seattle, we learn of the union movement, stumping for free speech, the manipulators, the anarchists, the crooks, the rascals and the saints, mostly told through the eyes of tw ...more
Jaina
Dec 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 rounded up.
Tom Mooney
Nov 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a magnificent novel by a quite brilliant storyteller.

The tale of two brothers, both drifting workers holed up in Spokane in 1909. Rye is just 16 and already bears the scars of his time hopping trains and working outside in the elements. Gig is older, longer in the tooth, and involved in the labor unions that are whipping up trouble for the rich folks and law enforcement in town.

But, rather than a hardscrabble tale of poverty, what plays out is a kind of tragicomic picaresque with Rye at
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Lillian
I had a notion The Cold Millions would be exceptional but it has truly surpassed ALL of my expectations.
There is so much to praise in this incredible novel.
Where to begin?
Let's start with my favorite portal - language.
Every word is meticulously placed and his prose is precise.
That was the first thing that bowled me over.
I literally reveled in the language.

And the characters!
They are real, vibrant, authentic. Highly complex individuals representing every aspect of humanity; the good, the bad, th
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Bruce Katz
I loved this book!

It's a little bit Doctorow (particularly "Ragtime" -- real historical figures mingle with fictional characters), more than a touch of Steinbeck ("Grapes of Wrath," of course. A young female agitator -- Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a real historical person -- channels Tom Joad when she delivers an empassioned speech before a crowd: "This is the fight, brothers and sisters! And it's not just in Spokane!... It is anywhere these robber barons own the land and the industry and the agenc
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Nancy
Nov 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In 1909, the cold millions,"living and scraping and fighting and dying," with no chance in this world, are countered by the cold millionaires in their palatial, golden homes who dole out thousands to secure their privilege.

Migrant workers sheltered in open fields as they drifted between cities, looking for work. The police cleared out the vagrants. The working men were lured by union organizers of the Industrial Workers of the World, promising to give workers a fair deal and a voice by taking p
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Alison Hardtmann
Well, this was fantastic. There's nothing fancy here, Jess Walter has written a straight-forward historical novel about labor unrest in Spokane, Washington in the early twentieth century, and it's so well-constructed and wears its research so effortlessly, that it's pretty much a perfect novel. I mean, the subject matter sounds both worthy and boring, but it is not. Walter uses a pair of brothers who, after riding the rails and picking up work here and there, end up in Spokane, sleeping on their ...more
Nadine
Dec 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is historical story-telling at its cleanest and clearest, with no structural tricks or rhetorical acrobatics - as befits its subject. The only deviation Walter takes from straight third person chronological narration is giving each of the main characters a chapter told in their own voices, which brings them even closer to the reader. It's also a powerful ode to the International Workers of the World (aka the IWW, aka the Wobblies) at the turn of the 20th century, and their defense of w ...more
Karine
Exciting and "educational," The Cold Millions is a fast-paced and atmospheric story of tramps, labor organizers, multi-millionaires, detectives, and anarchists at the turn-of-century. Walter uses historical slang, figures, and events to bring the hardships and corruption of the time to life. ...more
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Jess Walter is the author of five novels and one nonfiction book. His work has been translated into more than 20 languages and his essays, short fiction, criticism and journalism have been widely published, in Details, Playboy, Newsweek, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe among many others.

Walter also writes screenplays and was the co-author of Christopher Darden’s 1996 b
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Articles featuring this book

When Kristin Hannah, the bestselling author of The Nightingale, began her new historical epic centered on the Dust Bowl and the Great...
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“How do you do it?” I asked her. “How do you keep getting up every day and fighting when winning seems impossible?” She thought about it, and then she said, “Men sometimes say to me: You might win the battle, Gurley, but you’ll never win the war. But no one wins the war, Ryan. Not really. I mean, we’re all going to die, right? “But to win a battle now and then? What more could you want?” 4 likes
“Hell, it took only your first day in a Montana flop or standing over your mother's unmarked grave to know that equal was the one thing all men were not. A few lived like kings, and the rest hugged the dirt until it cracked open and took them home.” 3 likes
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