THUNDER CITY by Loren D. Estleman


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Fifth in the highly lauded series of Detroit novels that began with 1990’s Whiskey River, a marvel of Prohibition-era description, and continued variously with Motown, King of the Corner, and, most recently, Edsel (1995). The story this time goes back to turn-of-the-century Detroit and Henry Ford’s third attempt to make his automobile factory solvent. Almost no one thinks that Ford’s horseless carriage will ever take off and pay for itself—no one but Harlan Crownover, widely seen as the slow-brained member of a family renowned for its business sense. Harlan’s father, Abner Crownover II, had risen from grease boy in his own father’s firm to youthful genius who turned the firm into one that built short-haul freight vehicles and passenger coaches. These were capped by the elegant Crownover opera coach, which rode on a superb suspension system invented by Abner II, subsequently patented, leased to all other coach makers, and insuring Abner II of millions of dollars for the rest of his life. Or as long as coaches are made—and now young Harlan is backing Henry Ford. Harlan goes to Big Jim Dolan, the city’s street railway commissioner, for a $5,000 loan he plans to sink into Ford’s ingenious new assembly-line factory. When Dolan turns him down, Harlan hits up the Sicilian Prince, rising protection-racket boss Sal Borneo. Aside from being a health faddist, Borneo, tied to Dolan, has his hand in the city government—and into Ford by way of Harlan? Will Ford solve his rear-axle problem by stealing Abner II’s spring suspension system? Will Harlan eventually take over the factory and become the new Coach Prince? Will bloody Sal turn on Harlan? A tour de force of descriptive energy, researched to hair’s-breadth accuracy of detail, and packed with characters vivid enough to make Frank Norris dance a jig with Theodore Dreiser. Estleman’s final cut on this epic series should be a single chronological, chrome-plated volume of mirror-clear prose.

Pub Date: Nov. 18th, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-86369-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1999


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