THE SINKING OF THE EASTLAND: America's Forgotten Tragedy
Release date: 10/01/2004
On the morning of July 24, 1915, the liner Eastland rolled over and capsized into the Chicago River; 844 people died. In his first nonfiction book, mystery writer Bonansinga (The Black Mariah , etc.) captures the raw emotion in a story full of greed, courage and overwhelming grief. The victims were looking forward to a day of eating, drinking and dancing. Dressed in their finest, the passengers swarmed onto the boat. Gazing at the huge, sturdy looking, freshly painted vessel, most took it on faith that they were in good hands. Unbeknownst to them, the Eastland had been beset by serious problems from its launch. The ship was hard to control and prone to listing even under normal conditions, though its various owners had covered up this fact. As the disaster unfolded, the best and worst of human nature was immediately on display. Men shoved women and children out of the way in desperate attempts to escape. From shore, passersby risked their lives to save the fortunate few. In pure Chicago style, the disaster's aftermath was marked by political infighting and petty corruption. For all the loss of life and the implications to public safely, this incident is little known today; Bonansinga's powerful book returns it to the record. Photos. (Oct.)
Forecast: Bonansinga's layman's terminology may not gratify nauto-maniacal purists, but smooth prose and social consciousness should help this appeal to Chicago historians and disaster buffs especially.