By Gene Lyons
October 10, 1997 at 04:00 AM EDT
type
  • Movie

Winner of two Pulitzer Prizes and a National Book Award, the immensely gifted Lukas committed suicide earlier this year after completing this saga of a critical episode in the history of American labor. First, a series of strikes, lockouts, and pitched battles between unionized mine workers and a loose cabal of Pinkerton detectives, National Guardsmen, and U.S. troops threatened to bring about something close to class warfare in the Rocky Mountain west. Then, in 1905, ex-Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg was assassinated by a man claiming to be hired by the miners. The murder resulted in one of the most politically charged trials in U.S. history. Billed as a ”nonfiction Ragtime,” this account more closely resembles Theodore Dreiser than E.L. Doctorow. Lukas, a reporter of legendary meticulousness, leaves little to the imagination. But patient readers of Big Trouble will be rewarded with a many-layered portrait of an important moment in the nation’s social history, as well as a fitting monument to its author’s extraordinary career. A

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