Trial by Fire: Book summary and reviews of Trial by Fire by Scott James

Trial by Fire

A Devastating Tragedy, 100 Lives Lost, and a 15-Year Search for Truth

by Scott James

Trial by Fire by Scott James X
Trial by Fire by Scott James
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Book Summary

In only 90 seconds, a fire in the Station nightclub killed 100 people and injured hundreds more. It would take nearly 20 years to find out why - and who was really at fault.

All it took for a hundred people to die during a show by the hair metal band Great White was a sudden burst from two giant sparklers that ignited the acoustical foam lining the Station nightclub. But who was at fault? And who would pay? This being Rhode Island, the two questions wouldn't necessarily have the same answer.

Within 24 hours the governor of Rhode Island and the local police commissioner were calling for criminal charges, although the investigation had barely begun, no real evidence had been gathered, and many of the victims hadn't been identified. Though many parties could be held responsible, fingers pointed quickly at the two brothers who owned the club. But were they really to blame? Bestselling author and three-time Emmy Award-winning reporter Scott James investigates all the central figures, including the band's manager and lead singer, the fire inspector, the maker of the acoustical foam, as well as the brothers. Drawing on firsthand accounts, interviews with many involved, and court documents, James explores the rush to judgment about what happened that left the victims and their families, whose stories he also tells, desperate for justice.

Trial By Fire is the heart-wrenching story of the fire's aftermath because while the fire, one of America's deadliest, lasted fewer than two minutes, the search for the truth would take twenty years.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[G]ripping [and] meticulously researched... James draws on his knowledge of the state's politics and interviews with the principal players to present a complete, affecting picture of the tragedy's terrible human cost. This is essential reading for true crime fans." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"The author's account is minutely detailed, its technical discussions punctuated by human-interest-story portraits of the victims; it is often repetitive, sometimes to emphasize a point, sometimes seemingly carelessly...An unsettling history of horrific events whose memory is still fresh." - Kirkus Reviews

"While James makes incisive points about the media, faulty fire codes, ambitious prosecutors, and sloppy commercial practice, his book is more defense brief than balanced recounting. To get the other side of the story, readers should turn first to John Barylick's Killer Show, an attorney who represented victims in wrongful death and personal injury suits related to the fire." - Library Journal

"When Scott James tells the tragedy of The Station nightclub fire, he does for Rhode Island what Truman Capote did for Kansas. With new evidence and interviews, he traces the horror that left 100 dead and hundreds more scarred for life, and in James' new investigation, none are spared. From the judicial system to the media to the club owners and vendors, each is subjected to a reporter's skepticism, and an insider's unflinching compassion. This is journalism as it is meant to be." - Raj Patel, New York Times bestselling author of The Value of Nothing

"Trial By Fire sucks you in faster than flames racing across an oil-based ceiling before pulling you into the wrangling and untangling of the aftermath. Scott James' investigative journalism reads like an Agatha Christie whodunit." - Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Alex Storozynski, author of The Peasant Prince

"Trial By Fire is an incredible work of investigative writing and storytelling that thankfully never loses sight of the people at the heart of this awful tragedy. This is a story of community, of those that existed prior to the horrific events at The Station Nightclub and those that were born out of it. James brings the proper amount of compassion, skepticism and nuance to construct a narrative that is as engaging as it is, at times, alarming." - Academy Award winning filmmaker Daniel Lindsay, for best documentary Undefeated

The information about Trial by Fire shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Victoria

Interesting investigative journalism
Thank you St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for providing this ARC. This is an excellent work of investigative reporting on the 2003 Rhode Island Station Fire. I remember when this tragedy happened, but I think I’ve only heard details in the broadest sense. This book captures details regarding the state and the press’ rush to judgment and uncovers many facts that were not publicized at the time, casting serious doubts on the culpability of the club owners. This is also the first time that the owners have spoken at length about the fire as there was no trial in which they could present their side of the event. Depressingly, I think a similar situation could easily happen today (perhaps not the fire, given some improvements in fire safety codes) but definitely the political and emotional aftermath. The book is disturbing and graphic in some parts describing the fire and the dead and survivors. Recommended for those who enjoy non fiction and investigative journalism.

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Author Information

Scott James

Scott James is the bestselling author of the novels The Sower and Soma, finalist for the national Lambda Literary Award for debut fiction, under the pen name Kemble Scott. With his weekly eponymous San Francisco column for the New York Times, James found stories that drew coverage from other national and international media, including the New Yorker, the London Times, the Guardian, and many more. He's been honored with three Emmy Awards for his work in television news. He lives in San Francisco, and is co-founder of The Castro Writers' Cooperative, known as The Coop, a co-working space for Bay Area writers.

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