Sunday, September 21, 2008

New This Month: Tycoon’s War by Stephen Dando-Collins

I wanted to love historian Stephen Dando-Collins’ account of conflict and economic turmoil in the middle part of the 19th century, I really did. Even the subtitle sounded killer exciting: How Cornelius Vanderbilt Invaded A Country to Overthrow America’s Most Famous Military Adventurer. Seriously: that’s dead exciting stuff!

While I came away from Tycoon’s War (DaCapo) feeling as though I had a much better understanding of both Vanderbilt and the times in which he lived, somehow Dando-Collins never manages to lift the story off the page. At least not for me. At it’s very best, I found Tycoon’s War to be a bit of a slog. That seemed a shame. As I said, this is plenty exciting stuff.

The book points out that, despite the fact that when he died, Vanderbilt had more money than the U.S. Treasury, the would-be mogul nearly lost it all when genuis fellow-tycoon William Walker tried to conquer Central America, even though that attempt severely compromised Vanderbilt’s most lucrative business. And the war of the tycoons mentioned in the title is underway.

It’s an interesting story, well told and extensively researched. If the prose never sings perhaps Dando-Collins can be forgiven since he has here delivered a story that’s never before been told.



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