It is a fitting epitaph. Meet You in Hell is a classic tale of two men who embodied the best and worst of American capitalism. Standiford conjures up the majesty and danger of steel manufacturing, the rough-and-tumble of late-19th-century big business, and the fraught relationship of "the world's richest man" and the ruthless coke magnate to whom he entrusted his companies. Carnegie and Frick would introduce revolutionary new efficiencies and meticulous cost control to their enterprises, and would quickly come to dominate the world steel market. But their partnership had a dark side, revealed most starkly by their brutal handling of the Homestead Steel Strike of 1892. When Frick, acting on Carnegie's orders to do whatever was necessary, unleashed three hundred Pinkerton detectives, the result was the deadliest clash between management and labor in U.S. history.
Resplendent with tales of backroom chicanery, bankruptcy, philanthropy, and personal idiosyncrasy, Meet You in Hell artfully weaves the relationship of these titans through the larger story of a young nation's economic rise.
©2005 Les Standiford; (P)2005 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
"Standiford, the author of 14 previous books, brings his writerly experience to bear on this intriguing account of these two men's lives and of the industrial growth of the U.S." (Booklist)
Les Standiford is the author of numerous books of fiction. For some reason, he decided to try to tell the story of Frick and Carnegie. While this book is interesting at points, it fails as a history book for a number of reasons. First, the research the author did (the hardcory has a bibliography) is very limited, and this shows throughout the book. The author knows almost nothing of the age of which he is writing, and thus provides little context for the events and personalities he's describing. What little context he does provide is often wrong. He knows nothing about how a corporation's stock works, so is unable to describe accurately the way Carnegie took control of Frick's company.
The second problem is the number of historical errors. Saugus is in MA, not MI; anthracite was discovered in Eastern PA, not Western, etc etc. He wrongly attributes a bunch of financial speculators from Chicago with "pioneering the invention of vertical integration". Well, if you've only read 5 books on the period and only 2 of them were economic histories, you might make these kind of errors.
Finally, the author fails to explain how America was changed by the relationship of these two men. At the end, he makes a ridiculous attempt to draw lessons for today from his history. He takes a swipe at Wal-Mart for being non-union, as if the role of unions has not changed from Carnegie's time to the present.
There are wonderful books on this fascinating period of American history by qualified writers (John Steele Gordon and David McCullough). This is unforunately not one of them, and Standiford is out of his league here.
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