Grandfather of a new art form was James Joyce's 768-page close look at a day in Dublin in Ulysses. Since then among many accounts of disaster John Hersey has watched Hiroshima blow up; Walter Lord has gone down with the Titanic and now Allan Eckert takes us round-the-clock through the great Dayton, Ohio, flood. And the so-called objective reporter reveals here that really his heart throbs like a bass drum, as he lovingly renders documentary scenes of human triumph and failure during catastrophe. Eckert does have the grace to admit that some of this book is documentary fiction. The reader is likely to guess that anyway when he finds himself privy to the inmost thoughts of people who die the next moment. Dayton is the nexus of four rivers which, for the first time on record, flooded simultaneously in mid-March 1913. Much of Dayton sat fifteen feet below the level of its levees. The unthinkable happened when floodwaters rose right over the 23-foot levees, burst them and kept on rising. In this very event, however, the foresighted president of the National Cash Register Company had built his factory on a high hill. Already, before the flood burst, he had anticipated it and transformed his factory into an emergency relief station. This story of hundreds of individual deaths and rescues during fire and flood is drastically readable.