American Lightening By Howard Blum Book Review Sample
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‘American Lightening: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood & the Crime of the Century’ is an acclaimed non fictional account of horrible bombing of Los Angeles Times building. Famous author Howard Blum presents a descriptive account of the bombings that took place on October 1st in the year 1910 and shook the nation. Blum discusses different aspects of the incident and presents it in an analytical way in his above named book. This paper proposes a discussion on Howard Blum’s book and further presents a review of the book.
Howard Blum indicates towards the motive of bombing Los Angeles Times and says that there was a serious rift between the management and the union of Los Angeles Times. Union used to consider the Los Angeles Times as “Fiercely Conservative, anti union journal” due to management practices and behaviour (Blum, p. 22). The author calls this bombing as “The crime of the century”, and describes how unionists committed this heinous offence that claimed more than twenty lives (Blum, p.1).
Howard Blum focuses on the incident, as well as, the aftermath of the bombings. He describes how Detective William J. Burns was hired who traced the conspiracy with the help of his army of detectives, and revealed names of perpetrators. Detective Burns held McNamara and his brother Jim accountable for the Los Angeles Times bombings. Burns received wide praising from the corporate world, as well as by the president Roosevelt, but he was criticised by labour unions from different parts of the United States. Criticising Burns, American Federation of Labour president Samuel Gompers said “I have investigated the case, Burns has lied” (Blum, p. 187).
Growing tension between the management and union was found out to be the main reason of this bombing. There was not only a clash of the interest, but also there was a clash of ego between the management and union on several issues. Management, Burns and Union present their own theories regarding the bombing. Harrison Gray Otis was the man behind management operation and policies of Los Angeles Times, and he used to dislike the union. Otis never tried to pacify the dissatisfaction of union which created a rift in the management and the union.
Howard Blum weaves three plots at the same time in his book. In first story, he describes how Burns solves the case and reveals names of culprits. The next story is about Clarence Darrow who tries to defend accused persons, and last story is about film director D.W. Griffith who is known for his movie making skills. One prominent negative aspect of the book that comes into minds of readers is that it fails in linking all these stories. Other negative aspect is that the book does not provide ample demographic, technological and social changes that cause such problems between management and unions ((Blum).
After considering Howard Blum’s book and succinct analysis of the abovementioned subject, the paper concludes that the book is very well written. The author has described the Los Angeles Times bombings in a realistic and thrilling manner. Blum presents every detail of the horrible bombing and describes all events that took place after the unfortunate incident. The book is acclaimed by readers, as well as, by critics for its descriptive and realistic portrayal.
Blum, Howard. American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century. New York: Crown/Archetype, 2008.
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