This novel is a fictitious account of Leon Czolgosz, who, on September 6, 1901, in Buffalo, New York, shot and mortally wounded President McKinley. It is primarily a story of the months leading up to the assassination. It’s also the story of the men who tried to stop him.
Czolgosz was an anarchist who followed the teachings of Emma Goldman, a radical labor leader, preaching an overthrow of big business and government. A weak, timid man, Czolgosz was driven by a sense of duty to the cause of anarchy.
This is a suspense-filled novel featuring many characters affected by the assassination: European immigrants who are treated unkindly and must work hard to earn a living; the Pinkerton detectives who take advantage of their power; corrupt politicians; women forced into prostitution to survive; and, finally, Moses Hyde, who befriends Czolgosz and is forced by the police to spy on him.
Mr. Smolens has written an exceptional book of America around the turn of the 20th century – one which covers the entire breadth of the conflict between the working man (and woman) and the American political machine. The major characters – Czolgosz, Hyde, the nasty detective, and the Russian prostitute – are interesting and add depth to the story. The author stays true to the facts and develops a fictional storyline that held this reader’s interest, as I quickly turned the pages to read the next chapter. Highly recommended.