CITY ON FIRE: The Forgotten Story of a Disaster That Destroyed a Town and the Landmark Legal Battle That Ensued

Bill Minutaglio, Author
Bill Minutaglio, Author . HarperCollins $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-018541-1
Reviewed on: 11/11/2002
Release date: 01/01/2003
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-06-095991-3
Paperback - 308 pages - 978-0-292-75923-7
Hardcover - 308 pages - 978-0-292-76104-9
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-0-292-76105-6
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Like the explosions it describes, Minutaglio's account is incendiary reading. Two oceangoing freighters loaded with ammonium nitrate leveled a factory town in 1947. Was it an atomic blast? Terrorism? Judgment Day? The author (First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty) assembles a harrowing mosaic about a blaze during a time of racial divisions and environmental plundering amid petrochemical companies that virtually ruled Texas City, Tex. He pauses to fill in the manufacturing town's pivotal role in WWII and sketches the principals involved in the gargantuan fire. From a priest beset with apocalyptic visions to a battle-scarred mayor, these and other residents come to life. The impact of the story is marred only by slight gaffes: Minutaglio sometimes switches between past tense and present without clear reason. Nonetheless, this tale is evocatively told. His hard-edged prose brands scores of images on readers' minds: the beheaded statue of Mary; a naked father clutching onto his charred automobile; the longshoreman delivered to the morgue even though he isn't dead; and so many more. The book vividly details the carnage as well as some acts of heroism and selflessness. (Jan.)

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