City on Fire:
The Forgotten Disaster That Devastated a Town and
Ignited a Landmark Legal Battle


"A terrific nonfiction work that has the narrative force of an adventure novel. If the movie rights to City on Fire haven't been optioned, the author ought to drag his agent into the same Galveston courtroom where the survivors of the Texas City disaster once filed a civil action against the United States of America"


"Stunning … City on Fire will stand on its own as one of the finest books ever written about Texas."


"A compelling narrative about the human side of the drama … City on Fire succeeds at animating a disaster that is too unforgivable to be forgotten … The drama of the events immediately preceding and following the explosion is cinematic and powerful …"


"A first-rate job …"


"Riveting … historical reporting at its best. Minutaglio writes with such skill, one can almost feel the gritty, humid heat of Texas and smell the emissions of the nearby refineries … City on Fire is ultimately a story about courage, bravery and a painful quest for justice."


"Well researched and written … Minutaglio shares vignettes of death, bravery and disgrace from the disaster."




"Has the grand, masterly sweep of an epic … A more perfect pairing of writer and subject is hard to imagine."


"These lives and deaths, the author's meticulous research and brilliantly graphic narrative style, make City on Fire a memorable and lasting book."


"(A) fascinating new history of this almost-forgotten event … such details are worthy of Melville or Twain…"


"A detailed chronicle of the disaster … the astonishing dimensions of the tragedy and the fact that it had been forgotten by most of the world"


"Minutaglio tells the story in a straightforward you-are-there present-tense narrative, transmitting the urgency of the townspeople's pleas for help—"For God's sake, send the Red Cross" and "More stretchers for the dead." The water in the port boils and turns into a tidal wave that swamps much of the dock area. A school vanishes. Sailors are vaporized. Members of a volunteer fire department die instantly."


"Minutaglio has re-examined the case, sifting through never-before-seen government documents to recount the tragic story …"


"The facts, figures and accounts of the experiences of the victims combine to form a powerful story of heroism, self-sacrifice and survival …"


"The author, as he did in First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty, conducts interviews and peruses records to uncover little-known facts, then weaves them into a stimulating narrative … Minutaglio splendidly chronicles the investigations."


"Like the explosions it describes, Minutaglio's account is incendiary reading. Two oceangoing freighters loaded with ammonium nitrate leveled a factory town in 1947. Was it an atomic blast? Terrorism? Judgment Day? The author (First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty) assembles a harrowing mosaic about a blaze during a time of racial divisions and environmental plundering amid petrochemical companies that virtually ruled Texas City, Texas. He paused to fill in the manufacturing town's pivotal role in WWII and sketches the principals involved in the gargantuan fire. From a priest beset with apocalyptic visions to a battle-scarred mayor, these and other residents come to life … this tale is evocatively told. His hard-edged prose brands scores of images on readers' minds: the beheaded statue of Mary; a naked father clutching onto his charred automobile; the longshoreman delivered to the morgue even though he isn't dead; and so many more. The book vividly details the carnage as well as some acts of heroism and selflessness."


"This terrible story deserves the passionate retelling. (Recommended) For all all collections … On April 16, 1947, two huge explosions rocked the port city of Texas City, TX, killing 600 people, injuring thousands more, leveling houses and buildings, and soaking the landscape with toxic chemicals. Over two thirds of the book is a poignant present-tense account of the hours before, during and after the explosion, bringing to life the horror, pain and bravery of the people of Texas City" [STARRED REVIEW, indicating a work strongly and favorably recommended.]


"Minutaglio meticulously recounts the horrific fire that consumed Texas City, Texas … The author interweaves heart wrenching personal experiences with the collective story of a town attempting to recover from a monumental tragedy. Culminating in the landmark lawsuit brought by the surviving residents of Texas City against the U.S. government for negligence, this riveting account of catastrophe and heroism also details the first legal case in which the courts held the U.S. government accountable for its actions. Reminiscent of New York City's rise from the ashes after September 11, the chronicle of Texas City's devastation and resurrection will strike a chord with contemporary readers."


"Based on 200 interviews with survivors, shrewdly focused on a group of key figures, Minutaglio's account provides a highly personalized portrait of the tragedy … Imaginatively using the multiple perspectives to depict the tragedy and its devastating aftermath, Minutaglio conveys a punchy, noir-ish sense of period … An ugly but necessary meditation on our checkered military-industrial history."