"A gray blanket cloaks the trees of Montparnasse on a late autumn morning. Smoke from the coal fires that heat homes and shop along the narrow streets swirls upward to join the fog that congeals intermittently into drizzle. This part of Paris hides the sign of the Great Depression better than the blighted districts and tattered storefronts....."
Looking for a dash of tightly written tragic history from the Gilded Age? Check out this short read by H.W. Brands. Being a passionate paramour of history, I really admire Brands for this work and his conception of bringing little known American history tales to light. The first in a continuous series called The American Portraits, Brands tells the yarn of the notoriously haughty James "Diamond Jim" Fisk. As so eloquently put by the title, Jim meets an untimely, abrupt ending resulting from years of rowdy behind the scenes behavior regulating the Eerie Railroad Company. Set in the mid 1800's during a time when life in NYC was far from opulent, Jim Fisk was financially thriving. Gregariously bumbling around the town, Jim was both well know and well liked. Enter Josie Mansfield, showgirl extraordinaire. Commence downfall.
This book is worth mentioning due to the astute angle with which Brands writes from. While most historical books are verbose accounts, the author gets to point and recaps the little known story of Jim Fisk within the confides of 206 pages. Wealth, exuberance, scandal, moustaches and murder all grace the pages of this historical account. His documentation is both colorful and absorbing; I will be anxiously awaiting the next portrait in the series to be released.