FIREBRAND by Georgia di Donato


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The 1896-1917 career of crusading newswoman Amanda Lamer--daughter of Judge Lamar from di Donato's Woman of Justice (1980)--in an uneven novel that blends intriguing Seattle history with corny plotting and thin characterization. Amanda, sent by Pulitzer's World to cover the arrival of Chinese immigrants to work in mills and mines, meets her first love on the steamer to Seattle--reporter Tom Maynard--as well as her new boss, Colonel Alden Blethen of the Seattle Times (one of the many real personages). And once in Seattle Amanda learns of labor injustices; she takes on the mistreatment of women cannery workers; she reveals the ""slavery"" of prostitutes; and through her investigative journalism she earns the title of ""Firebrand."" However, Blethen eases her into doing a lovelorn column as ""Beatrice Fairfax"" (though even there Amanda squeezes in some social consciousness when she can). So, when Tom gets to go to the Yukon during the Gold Rush and Amanda is told to take over the Woman's Page, she quits the Times and switches to the Press-Intelligencer under gentlemanly Eratus Brainerd--a quiet, much older admirer. And when Tom is not heard from, Amanda's off to the Yukon, where she learns of Tom's apparent avalanche death and also exposes a villain. Meanwhile, love letters have been arriving for Firebrand from a mysterious ""M.R.""--who turns out to be the junior partner in the Simpson's union-troubled lumber mill, young Mark Reed: Amanda loves him but sniffs out mill corruption and collusion, picking up information and clues from union man Gus Johnson. And then, suddenly, Tom is back from the Yukon loaded with riches: Amanda starts her own newspaper; Mark marries another; Amanda falls in love with Carl Gerhardt, a Wobbly, but sees him die in a police massacre. So finally she'll wed Mark, whose family has conveniently sailed on the Lusitania. A coincidence-ridden, feminist-slanted career romance with good incidental research--but Firebrand herself is low on candle-power, more a Brenda-Starr cipher in the Message than a convincingly tough and talented journalist.

Pub Date: April 9th, 1982
Publisher: Doubleday