Between 1907 and 1911, the United States was hit by the longest period of sustained terrorism in its history. Of more than 200 bombings that were carried out during this period, the most shocking was the dynamiting of the Los Angeles Times building on the morning of October 1, 1910, which killed twenty-one people. DEADLY TIMES tells the fascinating story of the bombing, the search to apprehend the bombers, the issues that polarized the nation, and the dramatic trials that ensued. The magnificent cast of characters includes: · General Harrison Gray Otis, owner of the Los Angeles Times· William J. Burns, who tracked down the bombers and eventually became the first director of the FBI· Earl Rogers, the brilliant criminal attorney, who became the model for Perry Mason· The legendary Clarence Darrow, who defended the bombers· And the bombers themselves, the brothers J. J. and J. B. McNamara
Lew gives an overview of the book:
The temperature had barely slipped below seventy degrees at midnight as the first day of October 1910 began in Los Angeles. The city was experiencing a typical late-September/early-October heat wave, with daytime temperatures in the nineties, made especially uncomfortable by a reversal of airflow from the Pacific inland. A few hours earlier, a veil of heavy clouds coasted in from the ocean, dropping blobs of rain on the city streets, and many people sitting out on front porches or lying on the grasses of the city parks seeking escape from the thick heat trapped in their homes suddenly had to race for shelter. It was the sort of weather that would have signaled an approaching thunderstorm anywhere else. The wetness here, however, amounted only to a momentary sprinkle, and by midnight the clouds seemed lighter and the air cooler. Nevertheless, because of the balmy weather, more people were on the streets, in local bars, and awake in their homes than on an ordinary night in that bur- geoning pueblo. Long before the invention of television, they were about to become mass witnesses to a historical event.
At J. T. Hinch’s Saloon, abutting the Los Angeles Times Building at First and Broadway, Julian Johnson, the newspaper’s drama critic, was holding forth on the current vaudeville fare at the Pantages Theatre. His audience was a number of Times reporters swigging one or more for the road home.9
At the Los Angeles Times Building next door, composers and Lino- typers blended their racket to produce a cumulative roar as they worked away at their chattering machines, transposing a record of the day’s events onto soft, hot lead, which, once cooled and slathered with ink, was even- tually transmogrified into the printed word. It had proved to be a quiet news day on the national scene. In New York, John A. Dix had been nominated by the Democratic Party to be their gubernatorial candidate; artist Winslow Homer had died in Portland, Maine, at the age of seventy-four; the Chicago Cubs of the National League were set to face the Philadelphia Athletics of the American League in the World Series without the help of the middleman in the Cubs’ famous Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance double-play combination: Evers had broken his ankle.
Since the paper had now gone to press, the news and editorial department on the third floor had been left virtually empty. Churchill Harvey- Elder, who had been appointed night city editor and labor editor, remained at his desk. He had been at his supervisory post for only ten days and in the newspaper business for only five years. He was young (twenty-nine), hand- some, and brilliant—some said a genius. Elder, who was of old California lineage from the Quaker suburb of Whittier—his grandfather, C. W. Harvey, was one of its founders—had seen much of the family fortune dissolve in recent years under an assault of taxes, water rights, and the heavy burden of exotic higher educations.
There, at the corner of First and Broadway, Elder had found an invaluable nexus of friendships and associations. Across the street from the Times stood the office of Earl Rogers, an old friend of his grandmother’s and one of the most celebrated criminal attorneys in the country. In an era when drinking whisky was considered the principal entertainment among men, Rogers was often the most entertained man in his crowd. ...
On the night of September 30, Harvey-Elder had dinner at a local restaurant with his cousin, Charles Elder, of the Los Angeles Investment Company. Charles would later recall their discussion concerning the smoldering dispute between the Los Angeles Times and the state’s labor leaders. Elder detected the menacing spirit in the air of Los Angeles, mentioning to his cousin the pall of resentment all over the city that seemed to envelop the general and the Times. It wouldn’t surprise him, he said, if The Fortress was blown up.
"He is one of the great reporters in America today....I could make a case that he is one of the most useful citizens." Poet Carl Sandburg to ABC News Chief Jim Hagerty, 1961. Lew Irwin has had a hand in nearly every facet of news and information broadcasting, a familiar face...
One can only imagine how an ideologically bent, academic writer would have treated such a subject. Fortunately Irwin, a veteran L.A. television journalist, is an artist in prose, blessed with a ready-made...