BookBrowse Reviews American Lightning by Howard Blum

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

American Lightning

Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century

By Howard Blum

American Lightning
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Sep 2008,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2009,
    352 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Jamie Kuhns

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

A forgotten part of history, an original 'crime of the century', is enthrallingly brought to life

Upon reading the first couple pages of American Lightning, one comes across a list of characters that immediately signals that Howard Blum's work will read more like a mystery novel, than historical monograph. Blum states, "I had no ambitions to be a historian….It's a reporter's story." Really, Blum tries to play both roles. But the challenge with narrative history is to walk the fine line between entertainment and education, and it is easy to sense from his identification of American Lightning as a "sort of nonacademic history" that he is aiming towards the former.  While categorized as a "narrative history," the need to make the book absorbing and compelling, should not supersede the fact that this story has a concrete setting in the American historical record. Blum should have noted in the preface, not in the epilogue, that the quotations are documented...


Top: William J. Burns. 2nd: Clarence Darrow. 3rd: D.W. Griffith. Bottom: Harrison Gray Otis.
Right: The remains of the Los Angeles Times Building (1910)

Members Only

BookBrowse's reviews and backstories are a members-only benefit. Full information is available on books for a limited time when they are featured as "Editor's Choices" - but that time has now elapsed for this book.

Find Out More
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...
  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Arsonist
by Sue Miller

Published Jun. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  103Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson
  2.  167The City:
    Dean Koontz

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.