Posts tagged ‘non-fiction’

April 20th, 2015

Days of Rage by Bryan Burrough

by Gwen



“During an eighteen-month period in 1971 and 1972, the FBI reported more than 2,500 bombings on U.S. soil, nearly 5 a day.”

I was born in 1971. So there were 2,500 bombings happening while I was, um, doing whatever it is that babies do. That number shocked me. It’s easy to fall back into thinking that terror in the U.S. started in the last say, twenty years; we’re wrong. The massive difference, that is important to point out, is that most of those bombings in the 70’s had few injuries and even fewer fatalities.

Being in diapers and learning my ABC’s, “the Underground” wasn’t on my radar as a kid and while I’ve heard the name Weather over the years, I certainly had no idea what they stood for or just what their point was before reading this. Burrough’s book gave me a better understanding of the period…and it wasn’t just about protesting the Vietnam War. In fact, it usually wasn’t about the war much at all. That was the big takeaway. I look back and figured that everyone was busy bitching about the war, but there was a lot more going on, like civil rights, Puerto Rican independence, and more.

Days of Rage is well written and breaks up the various underground groups well, really well considering some of these groups were overlapping or active during the same time periods. However, it is far from a flattering portrait and I’m pretty sure that that isn’t Burrough’s fault. The various underground groups were a ragtag bunch; some idealistic, some angry, some drug-addled, etc. It’s hard to fathom this period in our great history where things  were so freaking bad that groups of people thought they had to start bombing and planning to kill people just to get their point across. (with the exception of the obvious mainstream things like the Revolution or the Civil War)

The book was interesting and well done…the subject, or really that should be plural, was just lousy. Burrough’s says it well here…

“In the end, the untold story of the underground era, stretching from 1970 to 1985, is one of misplaced idealism, naiveté, and stunning arrogance.”

Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence by Bryan Burrough

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press (April 7, 2015)
  • ISBN-10: 1594204292
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594204296

Sort of Like Gwen's Signature


June 17th, 2012

The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush by Howard Blum

by Gwen

The Floor of Heaven

Three men collide in the Yukon.
*A cowboy, still grieving the loss of his wife, searching for new frontiers now that the west has been won joins the Pinkerton Agency.
*An orphaned Navy deserter, hoping to do what his father couldn’t do, becomes an Indian in the process.
*The King of Con Men, looking for a town big enough for it to be worth his while, fleeces everyone and anyone on his way there.

There is a story in my family that no one still living has really ever bothered to investigate. Supposedly, my great-great-grandmother, a widow, drug my very young great-grandmother up to the Klondike to run a laundry during the gold rush. Part of me thinks, That’s so cool and the other part of me wonders…. did any women go to a gold rush town and remain, um, just a laundress? You tell me, if you heard this story about one of your grandmothers, would you want to do the research and possibly air some dirty laundry?

Never the less, I have always been curious about what it was like to be searching for gold in such a forbidding place, so I snatched this one up. I didn’t find any family members. What I did find was a compelling story of three vastly different men and how their vastly different lives intersected in Alaska.

Told in a narrative style, The Floor of Heaven kept me turning pages and staying up until the wee hours. The Klondike was filled with hopes, dreams, heartbreak, horrible winters, and unique characters.

Here’s part of the blurb that hooked me….

In a true-life tale that rivets from the first page, we meet Charlie Siringo, a top-hand sharp-shooting cowboy who, after futilely trying to settle down with his new bride, becomes one of the Pinkerton Detective Agency’s shrewdest; George Carmack, a California-born American Marine who’s adopted by an Indian tribe, raises a family with a Taglish squaw, makes the discovery that starts off the Yukon Gold Rush – and becomes fabulously rich; and Soapy Smith, a sly and inventive predator-conman who rules a vast criminal empire.

As we follow this trio’s lives, we’re led inexorably into a perplexing mystery. A fortune in gold bars has somehow been stolen from the fortress-like Treadwell Mine in Juneau, Alaska, with no clues as to how the thieves made off with such an immensely heavy cargo.  To many it appears that the crime will never be solved.  But the Pinkerton Agency has a reputation for finding the answers that elude others.  Charged with getting the job done is Charlie Siringo who discovers that, to run the thieves to ground, he must embark on a rugged cross-territory odyssey that will lead him across frigid waters and through a frozen wilderness.  Ultimately, he’ll have his quarry in his sights. But then an additional challenge will present itself.  He must face down Soapy Smith and his gang of 300 cutthroats.  Hanging in the balance: George Carmack’s fortune in gold.

If you are a fan of narrative non-fiction and want to learn a bit more about the Yukon Gold Rush, this just might be your book. The tension that Blum builds reminded me watching a train wreck; you know it’s coming, but you can’t take your eyes off of the spectacle. I promise, you won’t find any dirty laundry in this one.


The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush by Howard Blum

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway; Reprint edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307461734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307461735