Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Crime

Book Review: Trial by Fire by Scott James

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for the finished copy of Trial by Fire in exchange for an honest review and feature!  All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Trial by Fire
  • Author: Scott James
  • Genre: Nonfiction, true crime
  • Publisher & Release: Thomas Dunne Books, October 2020
  • Length: 384 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for those interested!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

In only 90 seconds, a fire in the Station nightclub killed 100 people and injured hundreds more. It would take nearly 20 years to find out why—and who was really at fault.

All it took for a hundred people to die during a show by the hair metal band Great White was a sudden burst from two giant sparklers that ignited the acoustical foam lining the Station nightclub. But who was at fault? And who would pay? This being Rhode Island, the two questions wouldn’t necessarily have the same answer.

Within 24 hours the governor of Rhode Island and the local police commissioner were calling for criminal charges, although the investigation had barely begun, no real evidence had been gathered, and many of the victims hadn’t been identified. Though many parties could be held responsible, fingers pointed quickly at the two brothers who owned the club. But were they really to blame? Bestselling author and three-time Emmy Award-winning reporter Scott James investigates all the central figures, including the band’s manager and lead singer, the fire inspector, the maker of the acoustical foam, as well as the brothers. Drawing on firsthand accounts, interviews with many involved, and court documents, James explores the rush to judgment about what happened that left the victims and their families, whose stories he also tells, desperate for justice.

Trial By Fire is the heart-wrenching story of the fire’s aftermath because while the fire, one of America’s deadliest, lasted fewer than two minutes, the search for the truth would take twenty years.

I hadn’t heard of this tragedy but after a quick Google search (not recommended video viewing for the faint of heart) I became quickly interested. A reporter live at the scene, ironically there for a feature on safety, caught video of this rapidly unfolding horror show that created a mystery for years to come. This is an extremely readable and fast moving book for a nonfiction!

In Trial by Fire, Scott James looks at everyone’s side of the story. From the club owners to the club and band managers, the fire marshall, the foam company that sold the wrong insulation to the club owners, plus survivors, families of the deceased, and more, I feel like a really wide and unbiased portrayal of events was covered here. James even brings in Rhode Island history and legal precedents to set the scene for encountered attitudes and court proceedings. I appreciated the full disclosure elements too.

I think the most interesting part for me was how the media was so biased, and totally seems to have f**ked up a lot of the coverage and facts. The governor tried to clamp down on false information and the club owners tried to stay out of the crap slinging, but there is a really huge issue with bad media coverage and people rushing to believe it. I did learn a lot about how media works though. Another interesting part was … Well… I’m a nurse and love medical bits. I was morbidly fascinated while reading about people’s skin melting off as they tried to be pulled to safety, toxic smoke inhalation, flash points, and triage. Also the hospital coverage and burn treatments, especially the pulmonary advancements were super interesting to me. Thinking about this from a first responder perspective is truly horrifying. I can’t even imagine being inside or outside and just hearing all the screams stop, it’s too terrible to process fully 😳

I learned a ton about everything from fire in general to safety codes, history, the legal system, and human nature by reading this book. I really highly recommend for anyone interested in true crime or investigative journalism type reads. Also there is a huge humanitarian aspect to the book and personal stories of many survivors and victims, if you enjoy a bittersweet success story.

Thank you again so much to St Martin’s Press (Sara thank you!) for my copy, all opinions are my own!

If anyone has read this and/or wants to discuss it, feel free to leave a comment! Thanks for reading!

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Crime

ARC Review: Magnetized – Conversations With A Serial Killer by Carlos Busqued

  • Title: Magnetized
  • Author: Carlos Busqued
  • Translator: Samuel Rutter
  • Publisher & Release: Catapult- June 2020
  • Length: 192 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for true crime fans
Here is the description from GoodReads:

A riveting psychological portrait for readers of true crime classics such as My Dark Places, The Stranger Beside Me, and I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, one of Argentina’s most innovative writers brings to life the story of a serial killer who, in 1982, murdered four taxi drivers without any apparent motive.

Over the course of one ghastly week in September 1982, the bodies of four taxi drivers were found in Buenos Aires, each murder carried out with the same cold precision. The assailant: a nineteen-year-old boy, odd and taciturn, who gave the impression of being completely sane. But the crimes themselves were not: four murders, as exact as they were senseless.

More than thirty years later, Argentine author Carlos Busqued began visiting Ricardo Melogno, the serial killer, in prison. Their conversations return to the nebulous era of the crimes and a story full of missing pieces. The result is a book at once hypnotic and unnerving, constructed from forensic documents, newspaper clippings, and interviews with Melogno himself. Without imposing judgment, Busqued allows for the killer to describe his way of retreating from the world and to explain his crimes as best he can. In his own words, Melogno recalls a visit from Pope Francis, grim depictions of daily life in prison, and childhood remembrances of an unloving mother who drove her son to Brazil to study witchcraft. As these conversations progress, the focus slowly shifts from the crimes themselves, to Melogno’s mistreatment and mis-diagnosis while in prison, to his current fate: incarcerated in perpetuity despite having served his full sentence.

Using these personal interviews, alongside forensic documents and newspaper clippings, Busqued crafted Magnetized, a captivating story about one man’s crimes, and a meditation on how one chooses to inhabit the world, or to become absent from it.

Magnetized is one of my first forays into the true crime genre. I love fictional serial killers and thought it would be fascinating to read into the mind of a real one!

I was right. I read this in two sittings and have no regrets. Melogno recounted his early life, what he remembered of the crimes, and about his life in prison in as much concrete detail as he can. One psychiatrist noted that his answers were so concrete that he was probably somewhere on the autism spectrum.

From a terrible early life where he learned no coping skills, to a dysfunctional post-military life, it was pretty fascinating to hear Melognos’s accounts. The utter lack of emotion i:n the book is also a factor because it was noted multiple times that the killer essentially didn’t have emotions. He seemed logical enough though and had some funny anecdotes, my favorite being about Pope Francis and the Satan worshipping chalice.

My favorite part as a nurse was seeing how absolutely terrible some of the psychiatric treatments are. I was totally horrified by the sleep therapy, quantity of drugs used, and general conditions of the hospitals described.

Overall i would totally recommend this to any fan of true crime and serial killer related novels.

Possible upsetting content involving animal abuse and child abuse, also murders being described.

Thank you so much to the publisher for my free copy in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own

Do you read true crime? Recommend me some good ones below!!

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction

We Were Rich and We Didn’t Know It by Tom Phelan

Tit;e: We Were Rich and We Didn’t Know It

Author: Tom Phelan

Publisher: Gallery Books

Release Date: March 5th, 2019

Rating: 4/5 ****

Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for the free eARC in exchange for an honest review

Here is the summary per Amazon:

Tom Phelan, who was born and raised in County Laois in the Irish midlands, spent his formative years working with his wise and demanding father as he sought to wrest a livelihood from a farm that was often wet, muddy, and back-breaking.

It was a time before rural electrification, the telephone, and indoor plumbing; a time when the main modes of travel were bicycle and animal cart; a time when small farmers struggled to survive and turkey eggs were hatched in the kitchen cupboard; a time when the Church exerted enormous control over Ireland.

We Were Rich and We Didn’t Know It recounts Tom’s upbringing in an isolated, rural community from the day he was delivered by the local midwife. With tears and laughter, it speaks to the strength of the human spirit in the face of life’s adversities.

The memoir covers Tom’s life from birth to when he takes off for boarding school. Similar events are organized into chapters and follow a fairly logical sequence. Minus the lack of transition between chapters, this is a smooth and enjoyable read!

The first person point of view let me feel like I was actually sitting in the kitchen with the neighbors. Phelan’s style paints such avid descriptions of people and places that I truly enjoyed it as a picture of his farm and community. A particularly descriptive part that stands out is about the crawlies in the soil and how connected they (Tom and dad) felt to the land and each other.

There are a multitude of neighbors, townfolk, schoolmates and family members who had a part in Tom’s childhood. His father and Missus Fritz were my two favorites, for their kindness and things they said when children weren’t listening!

I don’t know if I believe that they were as happy as he writes, but I feel like he didn’t know anything else. If he had known that the kids were targeting him out of desperation and jealousy instead of animosity, he would have had a better perspectie – but a portion of the moral is about hindsight and how you see things as an adult, things you regret or wish you knew.

Overall I give this a strong 4/5. Happy to recommend to anyone interested in history, Ireland, memoirs; anyone who likes to laugh at anecdotes and clever fixes; anyone into farming even would love this!