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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Lone Star State journalist Bill Minutaglio (First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty) has given us an important social history with this tale about one of the worst industrial disasters of 20th-century America: the 1947 explosions that killed hundreds and injured thousands in Texas City, Texas. In the aftermath of WWII, Texas City was the site of both a booming chemical industry and an idealistic approach to government that centered on taxing big corporations and improving the lot of minority citizens. It was also a seaport through which the U.S. government secretly began shipping ammonium nitrate fertilizer to Europe. When a cargo ship loaded with the dangerous substance exploded, it touched off a wave of destruction that leveled the city.
Avoiding dry reportage, Minutaglio presents a heartrending narrative that reveals the human tragedy of the disaster -- both from the immediate incident and the long battle with industry and government that followed. He digs deep to bring to life the story of the now elderly eyewitnesses and victims who successfully sued the federal government but failed over the course of decades ever to get compensation for their losses. Though some readers may find the book wanting on technical merits -- for example, the legal struggles named in the subtitle get only the barest treatment in the final chapters -- they will be won over by the drama in Minutaglio's snapshot of a place where a better future was destroyed in a single day. Katherine Hottinger