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Chicago 1871

  • Published: July 2018
  • Format: Dust Jacket Hardcover(B/W)
  • Pages: 436
  • Size: 6x9
  • ISBN: 9781984538666
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Brimming with excitement and featuring a compelling history, James E. Merl’s Chicago 1871 is a tour-de-force of fiction writing that combines time travel with an intriguing premise. 

John Kirk is somewhat of a patriarch, as we are introduced to him in the first few pages surrounded by his large family. In his eighties, he begins to tell them the strange and almost unbelievable story of his life; it is apparent to the reader that something strange is afoot when we learn that John was born in 1994, but as he is re-telling his life’s story to his adoring family, we are told that the year is 1930. This is the first indicator that time travel is a prominent basis throughout the novel. He begins to recount his long career of firefighting starting in 2014, and we soon learn that during one particular fire in 2018, he loses consciousness while becoming entrenched by smoke.

Upon awakening, he finds himself surrounded by a group of men that look like they are straight out of a period drama. All doubt is suddenly erased from John’s mind when it becomes proven that he is in Chicago, the year 1871.

How did this happen? Somehow, John managed to go back in time, and is surprised to find himself taken in by a group of firefighters, whose methods and practices seem completely bazaar.

John’s struggle to adapt to a different era and learn their firefighting tactics provides much of the amusement and intrigue, and serves as a very clever and original idea. 

The descriptions of the struggles of fighting fires are depicted with vivid clarity, and the historical details of the setting and place seem to almost jump from the page. This is hardly surprising; given the fact the author was himself a firefighter for no less than sixteen years. Having moved up the ranks during his long and successful career, he infuses his characters with the same sense of urgency and fearlessness that is needed to succeed in such a demanding vocation.

The bravery of the men is apparent to John when he finds himself working alongside the firefighters of 1871, and he becomes their close friend and ally. 

Merl then ups the stakes with the looming onslaught of the famous Chicago Fire, and we know that John must use his knowledge of modern firefighting if there is to be any chance of saving his new friends. What follows is both hair-raising and completely satisfying, making Chicago 1871 one of the most original novels to come out in recent years. This one is sure to please both history buffs and veteran firefighters alike.

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Dust Jacket Hardcover(B/W)
Price: $34.99