At first, and in the middle, and also at the end, many things about this book just bothered me. I didn’t like the style in which it was written. As I was getting ready to review this book, I looked up Howard Blum (go internet!) and discovered what the problem was. Blum is/was a journalist. Much of the book was written in a way that tries to heighten the drama when the story is dramatic enough. Not all, but SOME journalists tend to write in that style that works overly hard to bring the reader in. Much of my reading of this book consisted of me saying, “Stop trying so hard, I’m here, I’m reading your non fiction, calm down.” But I am getting ahead of myself.
The book is supposedly about the bombing of the LA Times building in 1910 and the subsequent investigation and trial of the terrorist. To make things interesting (read: to make the book poorly organized) we also follow Clarence Darrow around his miserable existence and early filmmaker D.W. Griffith around his semi miserable existence. Billy Burns, dubbed the American Sherlock Holmes, is tasked to find those responsible for the bombing. After some impressive sleuthing in a day and age before classy things like the internet, he finds the guilty culprits. The bombing uncovers an actual conspiracy by leaders of the Ironworkers Union to basically cause terror. Yep, terrorists. Of course Clarence Darrow (whom I have always despised, really, I could go into it) appears to defend the guilty parties in hopes of getting them acquitted. Blum has done his research, which I appreciate, but the structure of the book was VERY off putting. I feel like adding the early Hollywood aspect was a stretch and didn’t tie anything together.
Overall, this might be a good book for fans of ‘history light.’ It was entertaining, but not terribly thought provoking, because Blum tells you how you should be processing the information. I prefer my non fiction a bit less narrated.