City on Fire:
The Forgotten Disaster That Devastated a Town and
Ignited a Landmark Legal Battle
This book was optioned, on publication, by the actor Tom Cruise and his production company. The Texas City Disaster was the greatest industrial disaster in American history—and the greatest man-made disaster in 20th Century America. It is also one of the most profoundly hidden and misunderstood moments in this nation's history. No one knows exactly how many people died on an otherwise peaceful day in April 1947 along the prospering waterfront of Texas City: The official account put the number close to 600, but some believe it could have been as many as 700 or 800 or even 1,000. Some other things were very clear: as many as 5,000 people were injured, the explosion registered on Richter scales in Colorado and set off tremors in Louisiana. Planes were shot out of the sky, ocean-going vessels were hurled into the air, railroad cars were tossed like toys—and it instantly was the costliest, deadliest industrial disaster in America. The FBI launched a massive investigation, the Army occupied the city, foreign nations sent aid, the largest insurance claims in history were files—and then, the innocent people of this small, all-American city in Texas slowly came to believe that their own government had caused the disaster … that their own government, which they dearly loved, had blood on its hands. Told in a narrative fashion, "City on Fire" outlines the heroes who emerged before and after this deadliest of disasters—and how they battled racism, corruption and, finally, their own elected officials, in order to extract some justice for the doomed families in this once-normal American City. Praised by The Washington Post and many other publications, "City on Fire" was described as one of the greatest tales of survival ever written by Esquire—and compared to the works of Ernest Hemingway. It has been called "epic" by The Austin American-Statesman. The Texas Observer said it was one of the finest books ever written about Texas.