DEATH FROM THE SEA: Our Greatest Natural Disaster: The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 by

DEATH FROM THE SEA: Our Greatest Natural Disaster: The Galveston Hurricane of 1900

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A windy history of the Galveston calamity which struck on September 8, 1900, leaving an estimated 7200 corpses and the once flourishing Texas island city buried under $30 million property damage and sundry offal. Mason, a writer of popular history for both adult and young readers (his last was The Great Pursuit, 1970), reconstructs the disaster from the time ""the great spiral arms of the embryonic storm began tightening into a cyclonic corkscrew"" to the putrid aftermath when ""wagons of the dead crawled through the torpid city"" and Galveston lay ""like the carcass of a fresh-killed steer, supine, partially open, offering rich pickings to scavengers."" But aside from verbal gusto and getting the facts straight, Mason has little to offer. This is not simply a matter of what-more-is-there-to-say: the extensive looting and ghoulishness which occurred after the hurricane is a source of historical controversy, i.e., were Negroes the only looters, as reported by the press? did they mutilate bodies of women, cutting off fingers and ears to get at valuables? how many blacks were shot by the authorities? Mason reports, quoting eyewitness accounts (which quite probably were highly prejudiced and hence unreliable), but offers little by way of perspective. Indeed the Texas-born author is much more concerned with how Galveston insured against another such natural tragedy than he is with investigating historical human conflicts. Appeal limited to Southeast Texas and weather buffs.

Pub Date: May 26th, 1972
Publisher: Dial