When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes

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9780743242783: When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes

An account of the ecological and historical impact of a series of Mississippi River Valley earthquakes that took place in 1811 and 1812 documents how towns were destroyed, a massive lake was created, and political loyalties were altered, changing the course of the War of 1812. 35,000 first printing.

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About the Author:

Jay Feldman's writings have appeared in Smithsonian magazine, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, Gourmet, Whole Earth Review, and a wide variety of other national, regional, and local publications. A number of his pieces have been anthologized. He has also written for television, film, and the stage. He lives in Davis, California. For more information, visit www.jfeldman.com.

From Publishers Weekly:

The shocks that devastated the Mississippi River town of New Madrid, Mo., and environs in the winter of 1812 were among the strongest earthquakes in America's history. But in human terms they were fairly inconsequential (about 100 people died in the lightly populated area), hence the resort to empire, intrigue and murder to flesh out this engaging if haphazard survey of the Mississippi valley frontier. Journalist and scriptwriter Feldman gives a lucid rundown of the geology and seismology of the quakes and skillfully deploys sparse firsthand memoirs of the disaster to describe the titanic upheavals of earth and water that terrified onlookers. But that leaves most of the book still to write, so he brings in other developments tenuously related to the earthquake and the region. These include the brutal Indian wars of the early 19th century, the maiden voyage of the Mississippi's first steamboat and the murder of a Kentucky slave by his degenerate owner, which came to light after one of the titular quakes demolished the chimney where the victim's remains were hidden; a set piece of the Battle of New Orleans is tacked on as a coda. The author's attempts to tie these happenings together are perfunctory at best, but it's a diverting patchwork of events, with colorful characters, that Feldman's well-paced storytelling turns into a vivid historical panorama. Agent, Alex Smithline. History Book Club Alternate Selection.(Mar.)
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Jay Feldman
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