We'll finish the Fifty Book Challenge for this year a bit short of our goal, at Book Review No. 31. Michael McCarthy's Ashes Under Water: The SS Eastland and the Shipwreck that Shook America looks at some of the personalities involved in Eastland's capsize and the subsequent investigation. Mr McCarthy (of Grand Haven, not to be confused with an embattled football coach with a season turned to ashes on the west shore of Lake Michigan) stays away from the technical material, much of which has already been covered, and well, by Jay Bonasinga in The Sinking of the Eastland: America's Forgotten Tragedy and by George Hilton in Eastland: Legacy of the Titanic. But did you know that flamboyant trial lawyer Clarence Darrow was defending architect Frank L. Wright against a Mann Act violation? (These days, we drop people from the canon or from polite society, sometimes retrospectively, for less. Imagine architectural history without Wright.) And that Eastland chief engineer Joseph Erickson relied on the bit of Norse folk wisdom that provides this review with its title to ultimately be cleared of any charges stemming from the capsize? For that matter, have you considered that water ballast might be a necessary evil in a boat that must sometimes navigate channels subject to the caprices of wind, current, and sand? Or that Kenesaw Mountain Landis, not yet commissioner of baseball, owed his name to a lost leg? For the more substantive stuff, read the book.
Thus did I find Ashes Under Water a useful complement to the aforementioned technical works, and thus do I close my chronicles of this most interesting year.