Floodpath: The Deadliest Man-Made Disaster of 20th-Century America and the Making of Modern Los Angeles

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9781620409152: Floodpath: The Deadliest Man-Made Disaster of 20th-Century America and the Making of Modern Los Angeles
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Just before midnight on March 12, 1928, the St. Francis Dam, a twenty-story-high concrete structure just fifty miles north of Los Angeles, suddenly collapsed, releasing a devastating flood that roared fifty-four miles to the Pacific Ocean, destroying everything in its path. It was a horrific catastrophe, yet one which today is virtually forgotten.

With research gathered over more than two decades, award-winning writer and filmmaker Jon Wilkman revisits the deluge that claimed nearly five hundred lives. A key figure is William Mulholland, the self-taught engineer who created an unprecedented water system, allowing Los Angeles to become America's second-largest city, and who was also responsible for the design and construction of the St. Francis Dam.

Driven by eyewitness accounts and combining urban history with a life-and-death drama and a technological detective story, Floodpath grippingly reanimates the reality behind L.A. noir fictions such as the classic film Chinatown. In an era of climate change, increasing demand on water resources, and a neglected American infrastructure, the tragedy of the St. Francis Dam has never been more relevant.

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An Amazon Best Book of January 2016: How does a man-made disaster that killed 500 innocents near a burgeoning metropolis become a historical footnote? In 1928, the St. Francis dam, part of William Mulholland’s ambitious plan to siphon water to young Los Angeles, suddenly disintegrated, releasing a wall of water that obliterated everything in its path. The story has been told before, but Jon Wilkman is the first to separate the disaster from its larger, triumphant context. Floodpath applies Wilkman’s skills as an award-winning documentarian, collecting first-hand accounts, contemporary reporting, and interviews with Mullholland’s descendants--while eschewing the dramatic speculation that pads much recent “narrative nonfiction”--to produce a factual-yet-compelling account that still resonates today. --Jon Foro

About the Author:

Jon Wilkman is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. His television series Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood was named one of the year's top ten programs by the New York Daily News and the Wall Street Journal, and nominated for three Emmy Awards, including writing. Wilkman also is the author, with his late wife, Nancy, of two books about Los Angeles. He is currently at work on a documentary on the St. Francis Dam disaster.

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9781620409176: Floodpath: The Deadliest Man-Made Disaster of 20th-Century America and the Making of Modern Los Angeles

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