America is starkly divided between the haves and the have-nots. A Republican president seeks reelection in the afterglow of a war many view as unnecessary and imperialisttic. He is bankrolled by millionaires, with every step of his career orchestrated by a political mastermind. Religious extremists crusade against the nation’s moral collapse. Terrorists plot the assassination of leaders around the world. And a lonely, disturbed revolutionary stalks the President. . . .
It all happened. One hundred years ago. It all comes to life in The Temple of Music.
A vivid, gripping historical novel of the Gilded Age, The Temple of Music re-creates the larger-than-life characters and tempestuous events that rocked turn-of-the-century America. From battlefields to political backrooms, from romance to murder, The Temple of Music tells the tales of robber barons, immigrants, yellow journalists, and anarchists, all centering on one of the most fascinating, mysterious, but little-explored events in American history: the assassination of President William McKinley by the disturbed anarchist Leon Czolgosz.
The Temple of Music brings to life the intrigues and passions, the hatreds and loves of a rich cast of real-life characters, including Emma Goldman, the passionate anarchist who forsakes her personal life to fight for workers’ rights and free love; her imprisoned lover, the failed assassin Alexander Berkman; corrupt kingmaker “Dollar” Mark Hanna, whose fund-raising and strategizing foreshadowed how modern presidential campaigns would be run; William Jennings Bryan, the populist orator and chief political rival of McKinley; flamboyant newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst; self-appointed morality czar Anthony Comstock; steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie; and Carnegie’s iron-fisted manager, Henry Clay Frick. At the center of this tableau is William McKinley, the president, and Leon Czolgosz, his assassin. McKinley rises to the presidency almost by accident, floating on the money and political clout of Mark Hanna. Sober and unimaginative, McKinley’s personal life is marked by drama and tragedy, the unstable wife he loves, and enemies he cannot imagine—chief among them, Leon Czolgosz, a lonely immigrant and factory worker who plots the most spectacular protest in an age of spectacular protests—McKinley’s assassination at the 1901 Buffalo World’s Fair.
Sweeping in scope, The Temple of Music is a rare literary achievement that intertwines history and fiction into an indelible tapestry of America at the dawn of the twentieth century.
Lowy's second novel (after Elvis and Nixon) is a scattered but compelling account of the assassination of William McKinley at the hands of Leon Czolgosz at the 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y. Czolgosz is an enigmatic figure, and Lowy does a good job of filling in the blanks with a failed love affair and moments of anguished alienation that explain in realistically messy terms why a man would commit such an extreme act. Lowy occasionally engages in commentary that pushes beyond its usefulness as stage-setting as in his distracting protest against the turn-of-the-century marriage of big business and politics and he sometimes succumbs to pontification when encapsulating the era's clash of revolutionaries and robber barons. He makes up for this, however, in his colorful pictures of the era's giants: robust McKinley and his frail, haunted wife, Ida; megalomaniac newspaper magnate Hearst; eccentric socialite/condom peddler Morris Vandeveer; anarchist icon Emma Goldman; and McKinley's handler, "Dollar" Mark Hanna, gigolo father of the modern political campaign. In the end, the novel stays true to the mission of good historical fiction, which is to dispel the textbook notion of iconic events as either planned or inevitable. Czolgosz and McKinley are real people in Lowy's hands, motivated as much by love and fear as politics or ideology, and often confused as they unwittingly write the pages of American history.