Dawn of the Century

Robert Vaughan, Author Domain $4.99 (0p) ISBN 978-0-553-29249-7
Prolific Vaughan ( The Power and the Pride ), who writes under his own name and under 25 pen names, begins his first installment of the American Chronicles series with the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. At the core is a burgeoning university in St. Louis and a quartet of seniors, the young black man who befriends one of these white men at school, and the daughter of the university's president. Vaughan's prose style is mechanical and unexceptional, his plotting alternately obvious and awkward. For example, one of the quartet dies of yellow fever while covering the building of the Panama Canal, but his death is never seen, only reported by telegram. To his credit, Vaughan attempts to impose a somewhat anachronistic progressive sensibility on the racial issues raised by the presence of several black characters in a world dominated by Jim Crow laws and the blatant racism of turn-of-the-century America, and his handling of the Jewish member of the college quartet is sympathetic if clumsy. Famous historical figures--Buffalo Bill Cody, Theodore Roosevelt, J. P. Morgan--flit in and out of this quick read that rises to moments of genuine emotional power, albeit few and far between. Author tour. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
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