THE GUNS OF LATTIMER: The True Story of a Massacre and a Trial August 1897-March 1898 by Michael Novak

THE GUNS OF LATTIMER: The True Story of a Massacre and a Trial August 1897-March 1898

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Without minimizing the fact that sheriff's deputies fired randomly into a crowd of striking Pennsylvania miners in 1897, killing 19 and wounding more, this detailed account of the affair is tedious. Michael Novak presents a fairly straight-forward narrative--he admits that each side was ""prevented from seeing the reasoning of the other""--although the underlying theme (as in most of his recent work) is the racism directed against foreigners. Noting that his saga has been omitted from many books on American violence, notably Hofstadter and Wallace's documentary history, Novak concludes that ""the reason, no doubt, is that its victims did not speak English."" The massacre occurred, he says, ""to the day, 74 years before the deaths at Attica Prison,"" a heavy-handed attempt to show that mistreatment of the downtrodden has a long history in this country. The sheriff and deputies were all declared ""not guilty,"" after a trial set up, according to Novak, expressly to avoid conviction; one of the victims was singled out, and the trial was supposed to determine who had killed him--an impossibility considering the confusion of the moment. Newspapers called the verdict ""a triumph for order and civilization,"" but to Novak it ""dramatized the place and weight of the ruling race."" An extensively researched presentation that overstates its case.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1978
Publisher: Basic Books