1906: A Novel

James Dalessandro



By Annalisa Passarelli

Telegraph Hill. San Francisco. April 28, 1906.


It was just this morning that I finally started to convince myself I am still alive. Today, a week after the inferno burned out, a victim of its own success, the fire clap has even begun to fade from my ears and people may no longer have to shout into my charred face, nose to nose, to be heard. These welcome changes coincided with a knock on the door, the throbbing in my ears still spirited enough that I nearly missed the knocking. I shuffled through inch-deep ash, little clouds erupting with every step, and jerked open the brittle door to find an overdressed man named Mr. Appleby waiting on the puffy stoop. He cringed at the sight of me, lowered the handkerchief he had been clutching to his nose to ward off the acrid smell of burnt everything, and explained he had been sent by the California State Historian at Sacramento.

He stared into his bowler hat and began to recite the statistics, though the statistics alone, I assure you, do not sufficiently convey the horror. Three hundred miles of California coastline reconfigured, entire buildings swallowed up, whole towns reduced to rubble in a trail of destruction stretching from Point Arena to Monterey, thirty thousand buildings incinerated, a few hundred million dollars in smoke and ash. As best I heard, anyway.

He then offered an honorarium that sounded like one thousand dollars, asking me to consider a position as one of six writers chosen to report the Official Story in the events that transpired here on April 18, 1906, and in the three terrible days that followed.

After aiming one browned ear, then the other, straining for detail, I had my cracked lips parted and my swollen tongue dislodged from its sandy mooring and was about to mutter “yeth”, when he repeated the phrase “Official Story.” He looked up apologetically, braving the sight of me as chivalrously as horror permits.

He added, again quite apologetically, that all of the elements required for this Official Story would come from the office of our mayor, the ever-grinning marionette Eugene Schmitz, suggesting that the six writers would be encouraged to add “little dashes of color” and “some inspiring bits of human interest” which would then be reviewed by the charlatans anointed to the Official Information and Oversight Committee. For some reason that portion of Mr. Appleby’s tale came through quite clearly.

1906: A Novel Description:

A #1 National Best Seller in 2015 in its Kindle edition in several categories, including Historical Fiction, Mystery & Suspense and Thriller. 1906: A Novel is an epic re-creation of the wildest and wickedest city in America, the “Paris of the Pacific” preceding and during its total destruction by the great Earthquake and resulting fires that burned for three days.

Dalessandro’s epic novel captures the entire scope of the city, from the deadly Barbary Coast to the astonishing mansions and debauchery of its Nob Hill Mansions. Its impeccable research exposed a century of lies and coverups

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