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Description de l’éditeur
Hailed as "toweringly important" (Baltimore Sun), "a work of scrupulous and significant reportage" (E. L. Doctorow), and "an unforgettable historical drama" (Chicago Sun-Times), Big Trouble brings to life the astonishing case that ultimately engaged President Theodore Roosevelt, Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, and the politics and passions of an entire nation at century's turn.
After Idaho's former governor is blown up by a bomb at his garden gate at Christmastime 1905, America's most celebrated detective, Pinkerton James McParland, takes over the investigation. His daringly executed plan to kidnap the radical union leader "Big Bill" Haywood from Colorado to stand trial in Idaho sets the stage for a memorable courtroom confrontation between the flamboyant prosecutor, progressive senator William Borah, and the young defender of the dispossessed, Clarence Darrow.
Big Trouble captures the tumultuous first decade of the twentieth century, when capital and labor, particularly in the raw, acquisitive West, were pitted against each other in something close to class war.
Lukas paints a vivid portrait of a time and place in which actress Ethel Barrymore, baseball phenom Walter Johnson, and editor William Allen White jostled with railroad magnate E. H. Harriman, socialist Eugene V. Debs, gunslinger Charlie Siringo, and Operative 21, the intrepid Pinkerton agent who infiltrated Darrow's defense team. This is a grand narrative of the United States as it charged, full of hope and trepidation, into the twentieth century.
Lukas's impressive but flawed excursion into early-20th-century Western America is an even more ambitious project than his 1985 Pulitzer Prize-winning epic, Common Ground, which chronicled the Boston busing wars. His work on the earlier book, he reports here, led him from the American dilemma of race to "the twin issue of class." Thus he sought a story that would illuminate a time when American class tensions were large and in the open. This book is an exhaustive retelling of the 1905 murder (in the Idaho town of Caldwell) of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg (an enemy of labor), the trial of the union men accused of the crime, the context of the Western labor conflict and the passions the case provoked nationally. Melding prodigious research with energetic writing, Lukas delves deeply into a case that deserves notoriety as it involved the quasi-official kidnapping from Colorado of defendants like union leader Big Bill Haywood, coverage by an enormous corps of reporters and the courtroom presence of defense lawyer Clarence Darrow--who gained a surprising acquittal for the accused. Perhaps handicapped by inevitable distance from his characters (unlike in Common Ground), Lukas animates his tale with regular digressions, the history of private detectives, the background of an Army general Steunenberg called in to quell labor unrest, socialist factions in New York, a theatrical road company in Idaho and the emerging sport of baseball. While interesting, the digressions tend to obscure the central narrative. Lukas resurrects a fascinating case too long lost to history and even offers informed speculation that the defendants were guilty. However, the book doesn't take the opportunity to link the class questions of this era to subsequent clashes, and the profusion of detail may deter readers expecting the emotional punch of Common Ground. 100,000 first printing. FYI: Lukas committed suicide in June.