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. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
This is the story of the 1915 listing of an excursion ship that killed 844 people while thousands of bystanders watched incredulously. Although it is the greatest tragedy that has ever occurred in Chicago (by comparison, the Great Fire killed 250 people), it is now almost totally forgotten. Since the survivors are no longer alive, Bonansinga (The Killer's Game) used the public record to re-create some dialog but on the whole tried to keep his text factual. His book is particularly stirring when it touches on the inquiry into the sinking. The author writes in taut, readable prose that will appeal to a wide audience. Libraries, especially in the Chicago area, should consider for popular collections; those seeking a fuller and more scholarly account should see George W. Hilton's Eastland: Legacy of the Titanic.-Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.