Thursday, July 11, 2013

Horrors of History: City of the Dead - a review

Anderson, T. Neill. 2013. Horrors of History: City of the Dead. New York: Charlesbridge.

City of the Dead is gripping historical fiction that strays very little from historical accounts of the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. In ten chapters, T. Neill Anderson chronicles the unnamed hurricane from the dawn of its approach to the dawn of its passing. Employing fictional and actual persons of the time, the story unfolds from various points of view and parts of town - alternating between the orphans and sisters of the beachfront St. Mary's Orphanage, which had only three actual survivors, the inhabitants of the Lucas Terrace Apartments* located several blocks from the beach on the north side of town, Dr. Samuel Young in his sturdy home closer to the center of town, and Charlie, an African American laborer. Neill added Charlie's ordeal to the story to reflect the racial diversity that existed in Galveston at the time but is not reflected in the written annals of the storm.

The circumstances and dialogue are invented,

"It's a good thing we stooped by the grocery store last night," Alice muttered. There were almost twenty people in the parlor now -- they had all fled their houses when the flooding had become too great.The increasingly shrill cries of the cats reverberated through the living room,

But the photos, maps, and important details are real and accurate. A Prologue, Epilogue, and Author's Note put the story into context. Photo Credits are also included.

From the Epilogue:
Even to this day the Galveston hurricane of September 8, 1900, remains the deadliest natural disaster in the history of the United States.  Approximately eight thousand men, women, and children lost their lives -- in other words, about one in six Galvestonians are believed to have died, either in the hurricane or in the flood that followed.

City of the Dead: Galveston Hurricane, 1900, is the first  in the new  Horrors of History series, created for readers from age 11 - 14. Gripping, compelling and tragic, City of the Dead debuts in August, 2013.

  • * Title: Lucas Terrace under which 51 people lie buried, Galveston
  • Summary: Remnants of multi-story building, bricks and lumber strewn in the wake of the 1900 hurricane and flood, Galveston, Texas.
  • Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-123884 (b&w film copy neg. of right half stereo)
  • Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
  • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA


Adult readers interested in this topic may enjoy Isaac's Storm (Random House, 2000), a true account of the disaster, the politics of weather, and of U.S. Weather Meteorologist and hurricane survivor, Isaac Cline, stationed in Galveston at the time of the hurricane. Sadly, weather politics exists today as well as one can see from the competing information provided by European and American hurricane tracking models.  A USA Today article on the deficiencies of the US model in predicting Hurricane Sandy may be found here.

Also of interest is the National Hurricane Center's page on the history of tropical cyclone naming.  In 1900, at the time of the Galveston Hurricane, it was not customary to name hurricanes.  That practice was officially adopted in the United States in 1953.

1 comment:

  1. I figured it was only a matter of time until someone wrote about this for teens/ young readers. I read Issac's Storm several years ago, on the heels of reading The Devil in the White City, also by Erik Larsen. I found both of these books absolutely fascinating and have since read both of them again (at the shore, interestingly enough.)Thanks for this timely review of City of the Dead!