SMOKE, SOOT, AND STEAM

GALT’S RAILROAD HISTORY 1869-1960

This intriguing look at a railroad expansion should appeal to train aficionados and history buffs.

A debut history book details the enormous impact of the Central Pacific Railroad Company on a California town.

Before the arrival of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, Greer tells readers, “California was almost completely cut off from the east coast.…There was no economy to speak of…and very little agriculture.” The railroad’s arrival in Galt kick-started an economic boom that lasted for decades. By selling and leasing “cheap land to farmers and merchants along…their extensive rights-of-way,” the railroad made it possible for businesses to get their products to high-density population centers, such as Sacramento and San Francisco, and eventually across the country to the East Coast. The author notes that Galt became the home of two iconic brands: the Diamond Match Lumber Company and the Utah Condensed Milk Company, aka Sego Milk (eventually, the Pet Milk Products Company). The railroad also brought a revolution in communications when Western Union “strung its…lines from east to west” along the railroad’s “right-of-way.” Greer’s interviews with locals who were children in the early 20th century, circa the 1920s and ’30s, provide vivid glimpses of the era. Louise Loll Dowdell was 5 years old when she took her first train trip with her mother “from the Herald Stop all the way to Peltier Road to see” her aunt. The cost? Ten cents. She remembered her father telling the story of taking the electric train to Stockton to get his new car: “He didn’t know how to make it stop and ran into a tree stump.” Eugenia Olson recalled taking the “overnight ‘Owl,’ ” sleeping “in starched white sheets,” and eating in the dining car “with waiters, white tablecloths, silver service and a bouquet of flowers on the table.” While the writing is plainspoken, readers may find themselves skimming over the minutiae of railroad line growth in Galt: “On the east from ‘B’ Street north, there were three lighter rail sidings…there was a heavy rail passing track on the far west side.” Regardless, there are plenty of captivating nuggets of information here as well as an extensive bibliography and many historical photographs.

This intriguing look at a railroad expansion should appeal to train aficionados and history buffs.

Pub Date: July 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-72831-501-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2020

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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