Books

Compelling Stories of History and Technology

Iron Empires

From Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Hiltzik, the epic tale of the clash for supremacy between America’s railroad titans—an expansive, explosive battle that propelled America into the twentieth century.

In 1869, when the final spike was driven into the ties of the Transcontinental Railroad, few were prepared for its seismic aftershocks. Once a hodgepodge of short, squabbling lines, America’s railways soon boomed into a colossal industry helmed by a pageant of speculators, crooks, and&nbspvisionaries.

The vicious competition between empire builders such as Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, J. P. Morgan, and E. H. Harriman sparked stock market frenzies, panics, and crashes; provoked strikes that upended the relationship between management and labor; transformed the nation’s geography; and culminated in a ferocious two-man battle that shook the nation’s financial markets to their foundations, producing dramatic, lasting changes in American business and&nbspgovernment.

In this magisterial history, Michael Hiltzik brings to life these outsized figures and the era, industry, and nation that they defined. Spanning four decades and set against the gritty, glittering backdrop of the Gilded Age, Iron Empires reveals how the robber barons drove the country into the twentieth century — and almost sent it off the rails.

IRON EMPIRES

Big Science

Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex

Since the 1930s, the scale of scientific endeavors has grown exponentially. Machines have become larger, ambitions bolder.

The first particle accelerator cost less than one hundred dollars and could be held in its creator’s palm, while its descendant, the Large Hadron Collider, cost ten billion dollars and is seventeen miles in circumference.

Scientists have invented nuclear weapons, put a man on the moon, and examined nature at the subatomic scale—all through Big Science, the industrial-scale research paid for by governments and corporations that have driven the great scientific projects of our time.

Big Science

The New Deal: A Modern History

With The New Deal: A Modern History, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Hiltzik offers fresh insights into this inflection point in the American experience.

Here is an intimate look at the alchemy that allowed FDR to mold his multifaceted and contentious inner circle into a formidable political team.

The New Deal: A Modern History shows how Roosevelt, through the force of his personality, commanded the loyalty of the rock-ribbed fiscal conservative Lewis Douglas and the radical agrarian Rexford Tugwell alike; of Harold Ickes and Harry Hopkins, one a curmudgeonly miser, the other a spendthrift idealist; of Henry Morgenthau, gentleman farmer of upstate New York; and of Frances Perkins, a prim social activist with her roots in Brahmin New England.

Yet the same character traits that made him so supple and self-confident a leader would sow the seeds of the New Deal’s end, with a shocking surge of Rooseveltian&nbspmisjudgments.

New Deal

Colossus

The Turbulent, Thrilling Saga of the Building of Hoover Dam

As breathtaking today as when it was completed, Hoover Dam ranks among America’s most awe-inspiring, if dubious, achievements.

This epic story of the dam—from conception to design to construction—by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik exposes the tremendous hardships and accomplishments of the men on the ground—and in the air—who built the dam and the demonic drive of Frank Crowe, the boss who pushed them beyond endurance.

It is a tale of the tremendous will exerted from start to finish, detailing the canny backroom dealings by Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt, the herculean engineering challenges Crowe faced, and the terrific union strikes by the men who daily fought to beat back the Colorado River.

Colossus tells an important part of the story of America’s struggle to pull itself out of the Great Depression by harnessing the power of its population and its natural resources.

Colossus

Dealers of Lightning

Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age

Based on extensive interviews with the scientists, engineers, administrators, and executives who lived the story, this riveting chronicle details PARC’s humble beginnings through its triumph as a hothouse for ideas, and shows why Xerox was never able to grasp, and ultimately exploit, the cutting-edge innovations PARC delivered.

Dealers of Lightning offers an unprecedented look at the ideas, the inventions, and the individuals that propelled Xerox PARC to the frontier of technohistory—and the corporate machinations that almost prevented it from achieving greatness.

Dealers

The Plot Against Social Security

How the Bush Plan Is Endangering Our Financial Future

Award-winning journalist Michael Hiltzik documents the privatization lobby’s ties to the brokerage and insurance industries that stand to profit from the proposed changes.

He debunks the myths disseminated by Social Security’s enemies, repeated by rote even by its friends and now accepted as gospel by many Americans—including claims that the retirement of baby boomers will plunge the system into bankruptcy; that the $1.7 trillion in government securities held by the Social Security trust fund are worthless pieces of paper; and that workers can earn better returns on their payroll tax contributions by investing them privately than by leaving them in the system.

Finally, he offers a clear set of remedies for those few elements of Social Security that do need repair—proposals that will shore up the most efficient social insurance program in America’s history rather than destroying it in the name of reform.

The Plot

A Death in Kenya

The Murder of Julie Ward

When English expatriate Julie Ward was found dead in a Kenya game preserve in 1988, her body mutilated and burned, Kenyan officials insisted she had been killed by wild animals even though a postmortem confirmed that she had been murdered.

Her father, hotel chain owner John Ward, spent $396,000 investigating the case, revealing a Kenya government cover-up spiked with forgery and bureaucratic stonewalling.

Two rangers were charged with her murder in February 1991, and the trial is pending. Scotland Yard’s version of the crime conflicts with Ward’s scenario, but Los Angeles Times Nairobi bureau chief Hiltzik has reservations about Ward’s sleuthing ability.

In a true-life detective story told with admirable restraint, Hiltzik communicates a father’s heartbreak, rage and determination to get justice. The author sets the case in the context of Kenya’s tribal politics, xenophobia, tourist trade, hunting mystique and decrepit road system.

Death
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