The Cold Millions by Jess Walter [8/10]

A captivating, swaggering literary novel about the American battle for unionism and workers’ rights in the cruel hard times of the early Twentieth Century, “The Cold Millions” showcases Jess Walter at his scintillating peak. Channeling E. L. Doctorow, he focuses on Spokane in the northwest, on two brothers at the rough edge of capitalism, one passionate about the Wobblies (the International Workers of the World), the other one younger and protective of his sibling. Careening events put them in the path of a fascinating, sinister tycoon and police thugs and assassins, and ally them with a female socialist firebrand. Jess Walter, like Doctorow, seamlessly plonks the small pawns of the world amongst real-life, outsized makers of history, and he seems capable of writing from the point of view of all the protagonists and antagonists. Roughhouse America springs to life in his scenes and the plot propels and surprises. All in all, The Cold Millions is a triumph and a hell of a fine read.

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