NOT A CIRCUS DAY. Stewart O'Nan's foreword to The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy begins, "I did not want to write this book. Why I attempted it I'm not precisely sure." It's a project that found him, when he was "doing research for a novel", and came across accounts of the July 6, 1944 Hartford Circus Fire. His curiosity led him to discover that there was no good published history of the fire and its aftermath. So he wrote it, which is reason enough to make it the subject of Book Review No. 34. Good research happens because the writer is curious. Not because the subject is trendy or titillating; because the writer is curious. Not because there is a hint of scandal or corporate intrigue or crazy people doing the roustabout work; because the writer is curious. And thus we have a compelling, well-written story, in which some of the loose ends are tied up, some mysteries remain, and the reality that each page of the fire code, as is true of the railroad's Book of Rules, as is true of the ship-handling manual, is written in blood. Mr Nan was able to interview some of the witnesses: rubes, roustabouts, kinkers, bosses, cops and firemen and nurses, and work the realities of the wartime consumer economy into his story.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

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