The gorgeous writing, vivid setting, compelling characters, and engrossing story aren’t even the best parts of this novel. Instead, I just keep marveling at how Jess Walter takes events from history to illuminate our present while keeping them rooted in their own time, from the labor movement to class, race, and gender equality and civil rights issues, to protests and freedom of speech. The northwest in 1909 has never been so relevant. Beautiful Ruins was a hard act to follow but, amazingly, Walter manages it with aplomb.
–Ariana Paliobagis, Country Bookshelf, Bozeman, MT
Jess Walter returns this week with The Cold Millions, a delightfully rendered novel of the free speech riots in Spokane at the end of the first decade of the twentieth century. Cleverly mixing historical figures with his engaging characters, Walter delivers a book that is both a rousing historical novel and a meditation on the continuing plights of those voices which do not have representation. The Cold Millions is a rigorously researched and mesmerizingly realized novel.
— A Good Book, Sumner, WA
Jess Walter’s fiction has covered comedy, history, crime, character study, and more, but I don’t think he’s ever put so much into one book before. His most recent novel centers on two brothers, Rye and Gig Dolan, scrabbling for a living as they ride the rails of the Northwest in 1909. Both are caught by a current of social unrest, swept downstream along with a cast of labor organizers, plutocrats, suffragists, vaudeville stars, mobsters, and many humble others. The judicious blend of reality and imagination brings E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime to mind, but as a portrait of the Inland Empire of the Palouse, there’s nothing else like it. The Cold Millions is an extravagant, panoramic story told with rumbustious verve, and it’s sure as heck going to be on my year’s best list.
—James Crossley, Madison Books, Seattle, WA