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1906: A Novel

1906: A Novel

4.4 23
by James Dalessandro

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Now available in paperback, James Dalessandro's "riveting account of corruption, greed, and murder in the City by the Bay" (Dallas Morning News) was a best-seller in hardcoverand production has begun on a major motion picture. Set during the great San Francisco earthquake and fire, this page-turning historical novel reveals recently uncovered facts that


Now available in paperback, James Dalessandro's "riveting account of corruption, greed, and murder in the City by the Bay" (Dallas Morning News) was a best-seller in hardcoverand production has begun on a major motion picture. Set during the great San Francisco earthquake and fire, this page-turning historical novel reveals recently uncovered facts that forever change our understanding of what really happened. Narrated by a feisty young reporter, Annalisa Passarelli, the novel paints a vivid picture of the Post-Victorian city, from the mansions of Nob Hill to the underbelly of the Barbary Coast to the arrival of tenor Enrico Caruso and the Metropolitan Opera. Central to the story is the ongoing battlefought even as the city burnsthat pits incompetent and unscrupulous politicians against a coalition of honest police officers, newspaper editors, citizens, and a lone federal prosecutor. James Dalessandro weaves unforgettable characters and actual events into a compelling epic.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Screenwriter and novelist Dalessandro (Bohemian Heart) pens an imaginative and dense interplay between fact and fiction in this story of corruption, crime lords and the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Annalisa Passarelli, the Evening Bulletin's music critic, narrates the tale with a mix of first-person intimacy and cool omniscience. She's secretly helping the chief of detectives, Byron Fallon, gather dirt on a corrupt political syndicate headed by Adam Rolf, city attorney and power broker. Rolf (a fictional character) owns the "puppet-mayor," Eugene Schmitz (an actual person), and is supported by an army of goons and waterfront toughs led by the infamous Shanghai Kelly, who, as Dalessandro notes in his afterword, was actually dead by 1906. Byron aims to arrest the mayor, the police chief and the city attorney in one fell swoop, but when he is killed investigating a murder at the waterfront, it's up to his son Hunter, a Stanford graduate and fledgling police detective, to carry his mantle. Annalisa and Hunter appeal to an association of honest cops known as the Brotherhood (co-led by Hunter's brother, Christian), who are dedicated to destroying Rolf's machine, although Hunter also has personal vengeance on his mind. They secure incriminating evidence, but before justice can be served, the earthquake strikes, plunging the city into chaos. This plot-and all its subplots, one starring a beautiful Kansas runaway, another featuring tenor Enrico Caruso-might have worked beautifully, but Dalessandro employs too many B-movie theatrics, and the love story falls flat. Still, there's plenty of suspense to keep readers turning pages to the bittersweet conclusion. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Interwoven storylines-civic corruption, sex, high-profile murder, Enrico Caruso-lead up to, then involve the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. Frustrated young newspaper reporter Annalisa Passarelli, who narrates, wants to cover politics but is consigned to cultural events like the upcoming performances of world-renowned tenor Enrico Caruso and rising dramatic actor John Barrymore. Nonetheless, Annalisa tracks the escalating war between the crimelords working the Barbary Coast (Shanghai Kelly, The Whale, and Scarface being three of the most notorious) and the overworked police force headed by righteous Lieutenant Byron Fallon. Byron's elder son Christian has followed in his father's footsteps, but younger son Hunter is attending Stanford. When a policeman is murdered while investigating a waterfront shanghaiing operation, Byron personally checks it out-and meets the same fate. Hunter and Christian, helped by Annalisa, follow a trail of graft and depravity that leads all the way up to the office of city attorney Adam Rolf, a highly respected citizen. Meanwhile, geologists tracking recent trends warn of the disaster to come, but the civic crooks put personal gain well above public safety. The lynchpin in a cabal that includes railroad magnates, crooked cops, and avaricious politicians, attorney Rolf regularly hires courtesans of the famous Madame Tessie Wall. Indeed, Kansas teenager Kaitlin Staley, dreaming of fame and fortune, runs away from her domineering father and straight into the arms of the predatory Wall and Rolf. Both Barrymore and Caruso are onstage the night before the early morning quake (Caruso's pre-performance rituals are outlined in amusing detail), and Dalessandrotracks a dozen other denizens of Nob Hill, Pacific Heights, Bush Street and elsewhere in the hours before the tremor. An action-packed final third dramatizes the quake and subsequent fire, and their impact on the sprawling cast of characters. Prelude to the disaster feels a bit like woolgathering, but Dalessandro (Bohemian Heart, 1993, etc.) pays off with an exciting and vivid depiction of history. Agent: Peter Miller/PMA Literary and Film Management

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Chronicle Books LLC
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

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A novel
By James Dalessandro

Chronicle Books

Copyright © 2004 James Dalessandro
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8118-4313-0

Chapter One


APRIL 15, 1906. 5:30 A.M.

The horses woke Hunter Fallon that Easter morning, neighing and kicking in the stalls beneath him. He opened his eyes to a sight as discomforting as the sound: an empty loft that until the day before had been crammed with graphs and charts, measuring devices, Bunsen burners and Petri dishes, microscopes, boxing gloves, leather football helmets, and sporting trophies of every shape and size. Gone, all of it crated and shipped by rail to his father's house in San Francisco.

Hunter lay there a minute, the rolling emptiness inducing a sort of vertigo. He dismissed the fractiousness of his four-legged companions as some sort of equine melancholy, convinced they were as saddened as he was over his departure.

The loft where he slept, above the palatial stables on the edge of the campus, had been his home since the recently deceased Jane Stanford, angel of the university, had awarded him a scholarship in the fall of 1900. Exercising and tending Jane's prized thoroughbreds and trotters had provided loft and board. He had described those years, in a constant stream of letters to his father, as more a miracle than an education. But that was over now. The adventures just ahead would be unlike any he had ever dreamed.

A golden beam of sunlight appeared on the redwood ceiling high above him, growing quickly from band to square to rhomboid. Hunter rose and stretched to his full six-foot height, and descended the ladder to the rough mahogany floor, where he quickly offered his good-byes.

"Mr. Whitman," he told a chestnut colt, "don't tell the others, but I loved you best." He scratched Mr. Lincoln, nuzzled Mr. Twain, accepted a pink and soggy good-bye kiss from Miss Woodhull, Miss Duncan, Mr. Edison, Mr. Roosevelt, Mr. Caruso. Hunter was, as were his charges, sturdy, handsome, and noble of stock.

A decade earlier, when we were both near the age of twelve, I had developed a schoolgirl innamorato for him, and was not alone among the young girls in North Beach, San Francisco's Latin Quarter. He was, even then, more an element of nature than an adolescent, restless and unyielding as the tide and fog that move through the Golden Gate. He was often seen tearing about on a bicycle he had built from spare parts, stopping to engage even casual acquaintances with dissertations on emerging developments in the telephone or new steering mechanisms in the automobile. His precocity was tolerated by most, as he was the offspring of legends.

His grandfather Malachi and granduncle Arthur founded San Francisco's police department during the Gold Rush, their primary qualification a willingness to battle a gang of former Australian convicts, the Sydney Ducks. As sons and nephews and grandsons followed them, the Fallon/Fagen/Rinaldi clan, more than a dozen of them, earned a city's reverence as the department's most honest and fearless officers.

The last I had seen of Hunter, his father was marching him home, dragging the pieces of a homemade glider constructed according to diagrams in Chanute's Progress in Flying Machines. Byron had caught Hunter near Sutro Baths just as he was about to launch himself and the contraption off the ocean cliffs. He was fourteen at the time and earned a considerable tarring for his efforts. Age, I was to discover, only enhanced Hunter's considerable gifts.

On that momentous Easter morning, now nearly twenty-three, Hunter sported the dark eyebrows, flawless olive complexion, and impassioned intellect of his Italian mother Isabella. From his Irish father he inherited a square-set jaw, haunting blue eyes, and unflinching determination. Summers in construction work and years of athletics provided a frame straining with muscle.

The ache of his bittersweet departure was tinged with apprehension. After all, it is not often that a young man's final college examination runs the risk of killing him.

Hunter donned faded Levi blue jeans, a gray woolen shirt, black leather engineer's boots, and a Pittsburgh Pirates cap signed by the great shortstop Honus Wagner, twisting the brim backward on his head. Moments later, he pushed a gleaming black and chrome Waltham out onto Stanford Lane. With an engine shaped like an enormous V, the motorcycle had arrived the previous winter in several hundred pieces and taken Hunter six months to assemble.

A quarter-mile away, a crowd of fifty had gathered for his benediction: fresh-faced young men in brown tweed suits and bowler hats, rosy-cheeked coeds in long skirts, square-shouldered jackets, and broad-brimmed bonnets plumed with Easter orchids.

Hunter lowered a pair of jockey's goggles over his Pirates cap and kicked the starter pedal. Three, four, five times, adjusting valves and levers. On the sixth try, the Waltham roared to life. He engaged the gear lever and rode in ever-widening circles, listening for signs the whole thing might explode between his legs.

As he circled, staring out at the lush green valley and the creek swollen with spring runoff, he thought of his mother Isabella, who had died a month before he entered the University. It made him tearful that she was not present to witness his finest moment.

On Stanford Lane, his friend and mentor, the patrician Director of Graduate Engineering studies, fretful and asthmatic Professor Rudy Durand, raised a small red flag. Hunter stopped the Waltham at a white chalk mark and gunned the engine several times. The flag dropped.

The motorcycle lurched, throwing the front wheel skyward, spitting a puff of ebony smoke, and slammed back onto the ground, the rear wheel blasting sand and pebbles down the lane. The howling machine gasped, bucked, and bolted forward.

In fifty yards, he had it up to thirty. Thirty-five, forty, forty-five. Hunter's heart pounded as he roared down the quarter-mile stretch, the wind ripping at his leather jacket, flattening the goggles against his eyes. The umbrella of eucalyptus funneled and amplified the sound across the valley. Above fifty, the road threatened to tear the tires from their steel rims. Hunter pushed the throttle lever to the bottom of its transit, fighting desperately for control as he charged toward Professor Durand. Fifty, fifty-five, sixty.

Half on and half off, Hunter crossed the finish line as Professor Durand clicked the watch. The gallery cheered and spun like tops as the blast of wind sent hats and bonnets flying.

"Sixty-four and one-half miles per hour," the professor shouted. "That beats the California motorized record of sixty-three miles per hour."

Hunter circled the crowd, pumping his fist like a victorious gladiator, and offered a good-bye wave. He charged across the picturesque quadrangle, past the majestic sandstone buildings, and through the stone Arch of Triumph, slowing briefly to capture a melancholy glimpse of the campus. He was struck by an eerie feeling, a disturbing sense that he might never see his beloved Stanford again. The feeling was so keen that he abruptly turned the Waltham in a wide circle, fixing in his mind the buildings and the great arch, the towering barn and golden-poppy dotted hills, finally offering a pained salute to the memory of Jane Stanford.

North he flew, onto majestic El Camino Real, weaving through belching Fords ferrying churchgoers and over-laden wagons hauling the spring harvest from the lush Santa Clara Valley.

His thoughts turned to his father's home, and the apprehension did not ease. He had rarely returned during those six years, unable to leave his stablemates; a plan that Byron had secretly arranged, an attempt to dampen Hunter's interest in the family's bloody business.

On the evening before his son's return, I suggested to Byron that after a six-year absence Hunter might scarcely recognize the City.

Both Hunter and I had been born in 1883, into a dark and silent world poised for transformation by a flurry of technological wonders such as the world had never seen. In just over two decades the world had changed more than in a millennium. We witnessed the coming of the telephone, electric light, aero plane, automobile, phonograph, antiseptic surgery, the moving picture and the X-ray machine.

In 1900, one of Hunter's heroes, Samuel Langley, pioneering aviator and director of the Smithsonian Institution, had declared that all of the world's great inventions had already been discovered. If all of the world's great marvels had already been invented, Hunter wrote, how could he invent them? In the six years since he had last lived on Telegraph Hill, those once-wondrous things had become staples in the public diet. San Francisco was bursting at the seams with change.

Byron had taken to sharing his son's frequent letters with me, until I felt I knew him almost as well as his father did. Hunter's musings included a hodgepodge of ideas: the enhancement of police work by scientific applications, his zeal for the progressive/conservationist politics of Teddy Roosevelt, theories on wireless communication, fund-raising activities for the defense of I.W.W. lion Big Bill Haywood for his trial in the bombing death of Idaho Governor Steunenberg, fervent support for the clarification of English via the Simplified Language movement, and Hunter's personal guarantee that the aero plane would soon replace the railroad as the principle transporter of people and goods.

In one missive received a week before his return, Hunter argued that Thomas Edison had become more influential than Queen Victoria in the five years since her death; ragtime and a new music called jazz would soon liberate the common spirit, replacing opera and helping to bring equality for Negroes; he finished with a timetable for the triumph of Suffrage and Industrial Unionism (less than ten years).

Byron was exhausted when he finished reading this letter aloud. I, on the other hand, though dubious about Hunter's technological predictions as I considered the march of progress a dehumanizing lockstep toward sooty oblivion, was touched by his impassioned belief in social progress, a commonality of spirit that, I must admit, awakened my former schoolgirl interest.

That Sunday, April 15, as he powered north through the once-rustic Peninsula, Hunter fretted over the proliferation of gabled mansions rapidly replacing the blinds and lodges where he and his father and brother Christian had hunted boar and pheasant. The astonishing wealth of San Francisco, fountainhead of the West, was spilling over and the Peninsula, the puddle beneath the spout, was in danger of becoming an amorphous suburban lump stretching from San Jose to San Francisco.

Hunter motored onto the final stretch, the Bayshore Highway, the imperial city towering just ahead of him. He reached back to check the two documents inside his saddlebag.

The first was a letter from the San Francisco Police Department, confirming his acceptance. He would be the first college graduate to join the department, provided his father did not kill him first.

The second was the engineering survey he had prepared for San Francisco Fire Chief Dennis Sullivan, entitled "An Independent Survey of Tectonic Movement along the San Andreas Fault and Its Effect on Subterranean Water Systems in San Francisco."

In the days that followed, we would realize how those two documents might have changed the fate of nearly half a million souls.

Chapter Two


APRIL 15, 1906. 5:45 A.M.

The San Francisco Police Department was the only life Byron Fallon had ever known. He had joined at age seventeen, believing it God's calling that he help end violence and corruption in the lawless city. He was a devout Catholic, blessed with a fearlessness and natural intelligence that earned him the rank of detective by age twenty-five. He bore two distinct physical traits that were of significance to his line of work: a set of cornflower blue eyes so soothing that they sometimes coaxed confessions from reluctant miscreants, and a pair of enormous hands that often worked where the former did not.

The fact that the dozen members of the Fallon/Fagen/Rinaldi clan had never taken a dirty dime had long ceased to bother-at least openly-other, less scrupulous police officers. It simply left a larger pot, and fewer hands to be divided among.

In 1895 Byron had been promoted to Chief of Detectives for his work in solving the sensational Belfry Murders at the Emmanuel Baptist Church. A church acolyte with a predilection for bathing in chicken blood while engaging Barbary Coast prostitutes had murdered two young girls and left their bodies in the church steeple, a case that became front-page news in all five of the town's papers.

As sunrise approached Easter morning, the bald, thick-limbed, fifty-three-year-old patriarch of the Fallon clan arose after another restless night. He paced his bedroom in the highest house atop Telegraph Hill, a two-story Italianate Victorian with modest dormers and white fish-scale siding. He paused at a window and gazed across San Francisco Bay as the water turned a shimmering pink, and a golden crown appeared atop Mount Tamalpais twenty miles away. He lifted a photo taken during vows at Mission Dolores: Isabella in a white lace dress and black velvet choker, silk flowers woven through her upswept hair, and he sporting a gray pinstripe morning coat, red cravat, and well-waxed handlebar.

"La luce splendida," he muttered, as he had every morning since she died of pneumonia.

Above the faded cherry chiffonier an electric light suddenly burned. Byron had it installed two years earlier, when he had the house electrified, so that his Cantonese housekeeper, Mr. Lee, could signal his arrival and not be shot as an intruder. Byron took his Colt revolver from beneath the pillow-it is doubtful he had taken a step in more than thirty years without it-and padded across his bedroom on feet akin to bony flapjacks. His hips tilted left, his shoulders twisted right and his right hand, the one that clutched the Colt, dangled lower than the other. Tattooed by scars and divots, he moved like a broken puppet repaired by a drunken craftsman.

"I make Hunter room with fresh blanket for him," Mr. Lee said, as he poured hot water into the basin before hurrying back to the kitchen.

Byron stared through the tiny bathroom window to Mount Tamalpais across the bay.

"How's the miracle this morning?" Isabella's voice. It had happened often lately: her voice, the rustle of her skirt, the waft of her familiar scent.

"Fine," he answered.

He washed and shaved and slid into a boiled shirt, brown bow tie, tan leather galluses, and a brown wool suit, purchased at the Emporium the previous week for the rather indulgent sum of nine dollars.


Excerpted from 1906 by James Dalessandro Copyright © 2004 by James Dalessandro. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

James Dalessandro is a San Francisco based screenwriter and author of several books, including mystery and true crime novels.

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1906: A Novel 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I attended a book club event about two weeks ago where James Dalessandro was speaking. I have belonged to a dozen book clubs in my life; I can't remember many groups who so unanimously loved a novel as they did this one. I literally could not put it down. I am a former literature professor, but not a snob: I love E.L. Doctorow, Margaret Mitchell, Barbara Kingsolver, and I loved James D'alessandro's 1906. I don't remember seeing a collection of more colorful or endearing characters. It grabbed me on page one and just never let up for 360 pages. Mr. D'alessandro's use of a female narrator, who suddenly finds herself in the midst of a story she has been reporting, is brave and for me one of the book's strongest suits. I was thoroughly engaged in the book's main character, Hunter Fallon, a Standord engineering student, son of a legendary police detective, who is bent on bringing scientific techniques into the police department and taking up the mantle of his heroic father. Hunter and Annalisa represented perfectly the buoyant optimism and social radicalism of turn-of-the century America, particularly San Francisco. Perhaps the novel's most endearing achievement is the blending of a dozen story lines: shanghaiiers, slave traders, corrupt politicians, flawed-yet-honest police officers, crusading journalists, a devoted fire chief, a pathological stubborn military commander whose troops dynamited the city into oblvion during the disaster, and my absolute favorite, the great Enrico Caruso. This was the rarest of all novels: it not only entertained me, it educated me about a disaster I knew little about. I have subsequently read 'Abe Ruef's San Francisco', by the late Berkeley history professor, Walter Bean, (and am working on two other non-fiction recounts) which Mr. D'alessandro mentioned as one of his primary sources. It painted an extraordinary portrait of just how violent Ruef and his minions were when cornered by the graft hunters portrayed in 1906: they dynamited the houses of their enemies, employed an army of goons, shot the crusading prosecutor Francis Heney in the face in his own court room, and may well have killed a reformer-minded police chief by a method similar to the one Mr. D'alessandro uses in 1906. I was quite struck by the throughness of the research in 1906. To me, 1906 was one of the high-water marks of historical fiction. I loved it, as many have. All that said, I can't, in good conscience, give it a 5 Star rating. That's an honor I would reserve for Mark Twain or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but if I could I would give Mr. D'alessandro 4 1/2 stars, because I think this book may be the most engaging I read all year. If you don't find 1906 to your liking, I think it will be a matter of taste, not any lack of talent on the part of the author. Bravo.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was an annoying read because one knows the earthquake is coming eventually, but the political and geological teases leading up to it are pitifully obvious. The plot is downright silly with the main characters zipping to and fro on a motorcycle, escaping serious harm amidst the chaos. The writing is disjointed, with the narrator suddenly appearing out of nowhere, jolting the reader into going back to figure out where she'd been all this time. The numerous coincidences are preposterous and almost laughable. If the 1906 earthquake is of interest to you, read a nonfiction version.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I started this book with high hopes. I read earlier reviews and was eagerly awaiting diving into the book. However I was very disappointed. The book is corny. At times it wants to be sherlock holmes and at other times war and peace. So many characters which become irrelevant as the story progresses. Like I said, I wanted this book to work but it just didn;t. The plot is all over the plot is all over the place and he drops street names constantly yet without a map in the book. A native of San Francisco may be able to follow the path of the characters but unless you drive in the city everyday good luck. Tremendously corny lines throughout make you want to laugh at how bad the writing is. Try it for yourself if you want, but I would stay away.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was riveted from page one. James Dalessandro has woven an epic tale involving a San Francisco that is no more. I was amazed at the accurate detail with which he portrayed this magical city and the realness of the characters who moved this intriguing story forward. Earthquake, Caruso, a brotherhood of righteous policemen fighting the good fight, an unparalleled love story, corruption, violence, despicable villains. All of these elements and more are seamlessly brought together, providing the reader with an edge of your seat ride from start to finish. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought that this book was amazing. I enjoyed every moment of reading it and could hardly put it down. I liked it because of the voice and word choice the author used. I also enjoyed it because of the importance of the Earthquake and how a fictional book can also give so much detail about what really happened. The romance between Hunter and Annalisa stood out to me, as well as the action of the fights and other drama. I would recommend this book to any high school student interested in historical fiction and perhaps even those preferring crime or mystery novels. This is definitely a crime novel, but also has a little bit of mystery in it. I would also recommend this book to adults that like these types of novels. When I first saw this book, I thought ¿wow that is a big book¿ because it does have 64 chapters and 368 pages, but since I liked it so much, I read it a lot faster and finished it long before I was scheduled to have it done. My advice to anyone who might be afraid to start reading this book is ¿go for it¿ because it ended up being a wonderful book that I might reread in the future. This book is great for high school students, especially students that have to do a history book report because it relates to history in a variety of ways, but also has elements of fiction to keep people interested. Dalessandro shows that he did research in order to make it a great book with historic moments in it. This novel has a little bit of everything, including early police procedure, action sequences, drama, shoot outs, natural disasters and a love story. Overall, this was a great book and I look forward to rereading it in the future.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Until yesterday, I had never written one of these reviews, though I have been buying books on line for years. But I saw a review that professed to be the only true objective critique, and that anyone who praised this extraordinary work was either the author or a pal or his publisher. I am not the author, I have never met the author and I absolutely flipped over this book. I was told the characters were all trite and minor: I found them brilliant and riveting. Listen to this description from 1906: 'Byron Fallon took the Colt revolver from beneath the pillow and padded across the floor on feet aking to bony flapjacks. His hips tilted left, his shoulders twisted right, and his right hand, the one that clutched the Colt, dangled lower than the other. Tatooed by scars and divots, he moved like a broken puppet repaired by a drunken craftsman.' This 'minor' character, introduced in Chapter 3, is the Chief of Homicide who appears to be the only cop on the SFPD trying to stamp out the Shanghaiing and slave trading in innocent Chinese girls, and his fate drives the entire story. Or how about this section, when his two sons, one an engineering genius trying to bring science to the police department, the other a stressed-out brawler crazy enough to shoot it out with Shanghaiiers, enter the infamous Barbary Coast. 'The first thing that hit Hunter was the noise of blaring trujmpets, flatulent tubas, tinkling pianos and screeching non-sopranos. His gait slowed when the smell hit: a nose curdling meld of stale boze, dried sweat, perfumed sex, cheap tobacco and manure, all garnished with the pungent lilt of burning opium.' If that's bad writing, I am indeed a moron. My wife stayed up until 2:00 in the morning last night, not wanting to quit reading 1906. She had tucked little post-its onto the pages she loved the most: these excerpts were her choices. I don't always like the books other people like: it was a chore for me to get through the DaVinci Code, but it did have a lot of interesting plot elements. But 1906 is so powerful, I'm still thinking about it two weeks later. The corruption, the descriptions of the city, the massive devastation and human incompetence, the amazing array of characters are just unforgettable. The writing is lean and tight and descriptive, with hardly a wasted word, almost like a big poem to San Francisco. A wonderful book about the biggest disaster in U.S. History, the earthquake and fire of 1906, that almost everyone would love. I gave it 5 stars not because anyone bribed me, but because 6 stars was not available or I would have given it that. That's my objective opionion: this book is the best I have read in years.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My friend's mother brought this book to our apartment and could not stop talking about it. I grabbed it before my friend could get it, and I could not put it down. I thought it was going to be about just the San Francisco Earthquake, but it was much more than that, much more than a disaster novel. The biggest character of all may be the city of San Francisco itself. The book is teeming with the best collection of characters imagineable: an opera critic named Annalisa Passarelli who is the secret informant to a group of corruption fighters trying to bring down the city's corrupt politicians, a brilliant young Stanford graduate trying to use scientific techniques (Hunter Fallon) to solve the death of his father who was the leader of the corruption crusaders, and Chinese slave girls and a runaway Kansas farm girl (Kaitlin Staley, my favorite), plus the Italian singer Enrico Caruso, and one of the best bad guys I have ever read, Shanghai Kelly. The scope of the book, the wonderful images and language just captivated me. I knew nothing of this book when I started it, other than what I had been told by my friend's mother, and it was a great discovery and a book I have told many of my friends about. I don't see how anyone could not love this book. It is very fast paced and very well written and the action sequences, particularly the earthquake and the fire that burned the city to the ground, are just thrilling.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Though people speak of the coming of the BIG ONE, 1906 was nothing to sneeze at. Talented author, James Dalessandro, has given us a part of history we can only imagine and with that he puts our imaginations at a challenge to envision the events. History is relayed vividly and with much emotion for the reader to be right in the days of yesteryear. This is a novel NO ONE should miss.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Starts slow but a great book.
Griperang72a More than 1 year ago
I have not heard much about the the story of the San Francisco earthquake but I enjoy history so I thought I would give this book a chance. I am happy to say that I enjoyed this book. You can tell that the author did his research when writing this book. The story kept me engrossed with the twists in the story line. There was not only history involved but adventure as well. The author did a good job in making the reader really understand what the people were going through during this time. I can't not imagine it. Another thing that I liked was how the story was told through the eyes of a female reporter. A very engaging story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel was one of the best books I have ever read. The author develops the charters as you are reading, not giving you their background in endless paragraph. The book is 900 pages long, but it reads very fast.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the book - written like a documentary and followed the history of the earthquake with accuracy good read
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Put me down squarely in the column of devoted readers who absolutely loved every word and every moment of this book. Historical fiction is my favorite, and I'd have to go back to Caleb Carr's The Alienist to find a book that kept me as enthralled as this one. Fast paced, poetic, with possibly the best cast of characters I've ever seen. My highest recommendation, from a woman who loves to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The first 4 reviewers here either must be the author himself, or some of his cronies. I find it impossible that all four of these people agree this a 5-star book. Also notice the reviews that sound strangely like advertisements...a dead giveaway!! Now let me give you an impartial review. This is a story with great potential that suffers from poor writing and and over-ambitious plot. First of all, it could have used better editing. Allesandro seems to find a word he likes and keeps repeating it frequently (ie. the word 'flirtatious' three times in less than two pages). The author is a man who choses to write the book as if he were the first person woman...which does not really succeed. Even though our heroine narrator is female, some of her personality and actions are decidedly unfemale: lacking in the emotion a woman would really feel. Then there is the plot. In the first 1/4 of the book we are introduced to what seems like 60 different characters. Each chapter brings a whole new story line with way too many character descriptions...especially when the character ends up playing a minor (if any) role in the story. I found myself turning back several pages to remind myself who each character was, who they were related to, etc. which made for very frustrating reading. There are certainly some good action moments throughout the book, but I ended up feeling more annoyed than entertained by the time I finished the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
James Dalessandro's unique style of storytelling brings the reader right into the days of 1906. The facts are amazing as well as the fictional characters especially strong, brave and determined Annalisa. She is truly a woman not appreciated enough in her time. What a GREAT character! NO ONE could have brought out the drama and excitement as well as James did in this novel. A MUST read for all ages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can see why there was a bidding war for the film rights of 1906. It's the CHARACTERS. They are so alive. As corny as it sounds, they do jump right off the page.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dalessandro is a Master Storyteller who brings truth to the table. The novel 1906 is a journey about humanity and the lack of it that shaped the soul of San Francisco. Walking side by side with each of the characters you can almost hear them breathe, almost see them as you turn a corner. The year was 1906 when the greatest earthquake brought 'The City' to her knees. Through the power of story, Dalessandro has given us a chance to walk in history and embrace the human spirit. If you are only going to read one book this year, make it 1906!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did not want this book to end.  Beginning three days before the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, this books takes you on a gripping journey through the political & moral corruption plaguing the City in the years leading up to the earthquake and fires that destroyed San Francisco, through the incredible tragedy that occurred on April 18, 1906.  The characters are numerous but the author manages to weave their stories together so that you never loose track of the individual story lines and they seamlessly come together to lead you amazing journey.  The characters are intelligent, intriguing, despicable, lovely, evil and inspiring and I couldn't get enough of each and everyone of them.  The chapters dedicated to the earthquake and its aftermath are gripping in their intensity and detail.  A true page turner and one I highly recommend.    
being-fair More than 1 year ago
One of the best historical books I've ever read even though it was fiction. I learned much about the earthquake of 1906 and the effect it had on many other cities besides San Francisco. I love the all the characters real and made-up. The story was very entertaining. For those that didn't like some of the characters and stunts, you must remember that the author did not ever claim the story was all facts. Those things made the story more interesting and not so boring with nothing but facts. I learned more about the 1906 earthquake from this book than I learned in school. Absolutely loved this book!
crewset More than 1 year ago
When James Dalessandro set out to chronicle the tumultuous events surrounding the Great Fire of San Francisco, he certainly could not have been aware of the profound depth his literary work would reveal in the human character. The intense, riveting action and driving plot wrapped in these historically verifiable events produces a compelling story and a classic tale for all time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down. The interweaving of fascinating characters, historical fact, and the breathtaking scope of the tragedy is unbeatable..