The Cold Millions: A Novel

by Jess Walter

Hardcover, 2020

Call number




Harper (2020), 352 pages


Fiction. Literature. Western. Historical Fiction. HTML: A Most Anticipated Book by: The New York Times Book Review * Wall Street Journal * Time * Esquire * The Millions * Vogue * People * New York Post * USA Today * Medium * The Philadelphia Inquirer * Newsday From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Ruins comes another "literary miracle" (NPR)â??a propulsive, richly entertaining novel about two brothers swept up in the turbulent class warfare of the early twentieth century. An intimate story of brotherhood, love, sacrifice, and betrayal set against the panoramic backdrop of an early twentieth-century America that eerily echoes our own time, The Cold Millions offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of a nation grappling with the chasm between rich and poor, between harsh realities and simple dreams. The Dolans live by their wits, jumping freight trains and lining up for day work at crooked job agencies. While sixteen-year-old Rye yearns for a steady job and a home, his older brother, Gig, dreams of a better world, fighting alongside other union men for fair pay and decent treatment. Enter Ursula the Great, a vaudeville singer who performs with a live cougar and introduces the brothers to a far more dangerous creature: a mining magnate determined to keep his wealth and his hold on Ursula. Dubious of Gig's idealism, Rye finds himself drawn to a fearless nineteen-year-old activist and feminist named Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. But a storm is coming, threatening to overwhelm them all, and Rye will be forced to decide where he stands. Is it enough to win the occasional battle, even if you cannot win the war? Featuring an unforgettable cast of cops and tramps, suffragists and socialists, madams and murderers, The Cold Millions is a tour de force from a "writer who has planted himself firmly in the first rank of American authors" (Boston Globe).… (more)

Media reviews

Kirkus Reivews
Irresistible hobo brothers, an evil tycoon, a pregnant union organizer, a burlesque star, and a shady private eye light up a tale of the great Northwest in the early 20th century...This tour de force is testimony to Walter's protean storytelling power and astounding ability to set a scene, any
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Amazon Review
Spokane in 1909 might not sound riveting—but when brothers Gig and Rye arrive from Montana, they land in a town teeming with interesting characters. Add in Jess Walters’ prodigious talent as an author who can weave a damn good story, and you’ve got one of the most accomplished and readable
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novels of the year.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
Well, this was fantastic. There's nothing fancy here, Jess Walter has written a straight-forward historical novel about labor unrest in Spokane, Washington in the early twentieth century, and it's so well-constructed and wears its research so effortlessly, that it's pretty much a perfect novel. I
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mean, the subject matter sounds both worthy and boring, but it is not. Walter uses a pair of brothers who, after riding the rails and picking up work here and there, end up in Spokane, sleeping on their Italian landlady's porch because it's a little cheaper than renting a room, getting meals at the Salvation Army. Gig, the charismatic older brother, falls for an actress in a variety show and joins the board of the local IWW, a labor union. His sixteen-year-old brother, Rye, just wants regular meals and some stability. As the police come down hard on the strikers, both Gig and Rye's lives are permanently altered.

No plot synopsis can show just how compelling a story Walter has crafted, or how well he has woven in real people and events with his fictional characters. I was sorry to reach the end of this wonderful novel.
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LibraryThing member EBT1002
I loved this plot-driven historical novel. Set in the state of Washington in the first decade of the 20th century, this is the story of the IWW, the "Wobblies," a conjoining of many labor unions fighting for fair wages. Gregory (Gig) and Ryan (Rye) Dolan, two Irish-American brothers living rough,
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looking for work when they can get it, ride the rails west from Montana to Spokane. When their paths cross that of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a young woman at the forefront of the labor fight, they find themselves embroiled in one of the most notorious anti-union actions of the early new century. Both are arrested, along with hundreds of others, but Gurley Flynn gets young Rye released based on his age (not quite 17) and his innocent face. Rye is determined to secure his brother's release as well; after all, his brother really just fell into the Free Speech Action that day, he was not really an organizer or leader of the movement. And besides, it's hard for Rye to imagine life without Gig, his older brother who has looked after him since they were orphaned.

How the brothers' fortunes unfold within the context of this fascinating and important bit of our national history provides for a captivating story. The narration moves between characters in an unusual manner, one which only the most skilled writer could pull off successfully. Jess Walter makes it work. Rye is the centerpiece but we get some first-person narrative from a handful of other characters, giving us a glimpse into their backgrounds and motivations of which Rye is never fully aware. This enriches the reading experience and, in the end, I could not put it down until I finished.
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LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
Jess Walter is one of my favorite authors. I have read all of his books and he never fails to entertain. His prose is excellent, he creates memorable characters, and he does it in a page turning manner. In this book you can add historical fiction. Walter, who is from Spokane , uses the 1909 free
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speech labor riots in Spokane as the back drop to the novel. The main characters are Rye and Gig Dolan(16 and 24 year olds) who are orphans from Montana who go from town to town living the hobo, day laborer life. The story shows them caught up in the riots. Walter creates great characters: crooked politicians, good and bad police, rich owners, labor leaders and great minor characters real and fiction. One the main real characters is Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a 19 year old firebrand who works hard to expose corruption and try to help the plight of the exploited workers. She actually ended up founding the ACLU and was part of the labor movement for her entire life. Walter brings her to life with his portrayal. You really are able to connect with the plight of people in those times and many of the issues we are currently facing in 2021 were on display in Spokane in 1909. A great way to learn about an area of history that we need to know more about as we consider what kind of society we want in our country. If you have never read a book by Walter then this is a great place to start.
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LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
Perhaps it is the high-ridged mountains, the steep falling rivers, the teetering railway trestles, or the pine-carpeted hillsides, but there is a touch of the dramatic about Spokane, Washington. In the midst of such natural drama, it might be hard for a human drama to compete. However, the
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disparity between the absurdly rich and the abjectly poor there near the turn the last century seems to call out for extremes of action and emotion. When Gig and his younger brother Ryan ride the rails into town in 1909, the are looking for work and justice. Gig has joined the IWW, a union organizing to fight against a local unjust anti-free-speech law. Their adventure — with outlaws, spies, fancy women, cutthroats, zealots, and turncoats — could be the stuff of legend. Maybe not as significant as Tolstoy’s War and Peace, which Gig declares to be the greatest story ever told. But dramatic enough. Ryan would just like to find modest employment and keep Gig safe. Safety, however, is not on offer.

Jess Walter is not averse to lyrical humanism, a modest blending of Steinbeck and Doctorow. His characters leap off the page full of heart and folly. Some men are just bad. Others lack fellow-feeling. While other characters, as though to even the balance, are burdened by “first-degree aggravated empathy.” Walter deploys a full palette across a wide canvas, but at the centre lies the brotherhood of Gig and Ryan, actual brother orphans, and brotherhood in that wider sense, in which all who share the common fate of man or woman share a kinship.

Inevitably this story of capitalist corruption, insidious graft, and idealistic campaigning for justice will strike some as a bit on the nose in these troubling times. Don’t let that prevent you from enjoying this beautifully paced and finely judged adventure.

Certainly recommended.
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LibraryThing member tangledthread
This is a very well researched piece of historical fiction written with a lot of thought and heart. Two brothers, the last remaining of their family, are scrabbling to live in the Northwest. Gig, the older brother, loves literature, alcohol, and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW...Wobblies).
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Rye, barely 17, is just trying to keep his head above water and get on in the world.
Set in Spokane from 1909 - 1911, when exploitive employment agencies were in cahoots with the wealthy mine owners as the only means for a man to find work. The city authorities impose a ban on free speech to prevent the labor movement from gaining a foothold in the city. And the Free Speech fights ensued.
Though mostly fiction, the author draws on actual events and people involved in the Labor Movement of that time, with Elizabeth Gurley Flynn playing a central role.
Though there is some brutality, the book poses philosophical questions about what it means to be involved in causes larger than oneself. And provides differing perspectives from some of the key characters in the novel.
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LibraryThing member brianinbuffalo
Put simply, “The Cold Millions” is fantastic. I almost passed on reading Walter’s work. Given my ever-growing list of “must-read” books, I wasn’t sure that a novel about two brothers involved in the labor movement in the early 1900s would grab me. Nothing against brothers, the labor
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movement or the early 1900s. It’s just that the thumbnail summary didn’t really entice me. I’m grateful that a handful of rave reviews convinced me to read it. The characters are truly intriguing. The plot keeps moving with every passing twist and turn. The author even serves up an enlightening dose of fascinating history. The book has inspired me to add Walter’s “Beautiful Ruins” to the bulging list I referred to earlier. I’ve sat here for a few minutes, thinking to myself, “But I can’t give 'The Cold Millions' five stars – the highest tier on the ratings totem pole.” My inner voice provided a terse but convincing reply: “Why not?”
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LibraryThing member lisapeet
This was a thoroughly enjoyable combination of setting, period, and historical period—the IWW labor wars in the first decade of the 20th century in the Pacific Northwest—with two itinerant Irish American brother running up against bosses, corrupt cops, and anarchist double-crossers. The pace
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was good, the writing very nice, and even though it was a boys' tale, there were a few fine kickass women characters as well, including real-life labor agitator Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and the fictional, wonderful Ursula the Great, who does a burlesque act with a live puma and moves up in the world from there. The teenage protagonist, Ryan Dolan, is terribly sweet, too.
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LibraryThing member MM_Jones
Well researched fictionalized account of the free-speech riots of 1909-10 in Spokane. The story uses real historical characters and events to portray the brutal conditions leading to and resulting from labor organizing.
"Fiction is the lie through which tell the truth" Camus
LibraryThing member Beamis12
At this time when our democracy is once again being threatened, Walters takes us back to 1909, and the fight for free speech, income equality and the right to make an honest, fairly paid living. The comparisons between then and now are palpable.

Gig and Rye are brothers, Rye only 16, as orphans Gig
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feels responsible for his younger brother and does his best to keep him safe. In Spokane, where this novel takes place this proves difficult, there is change coming, hard-fought change, and it is hard to stay in the sidelines. These two characters are wonderfully drawn, as are the other important characters in the book. Elizabeth Hurley Flynn is a young woman, a real person from the past, who takes up this fight as well as others. She is a tempest in a storm, a whirly gig and takes on men much older than she. She along with many fight for workers rights, free speech in a corrupt town, where the income disparity is on full display.

This is an historical novel, an adventure story, a story of many lossess and few wins. A story of humanity, highlighting the debt we owe those who came before, those who stood up and fought for what they believed was right. We need more of those now. The authors note was informative and appreciated.

"they killed the world and called it progress."

"cruelty and hope should never be served together."

"All people except this rich cream, living and scraping and fighting and dying, and for what, nothing, the cold millions with no chance in this world."

ARC from Edelweiss.
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LibraryThing member msf59
“...I slipped the porter a buck for a whiskey, then another when the train slowed the last five miles, forest, foothills, farms, and finally, Spokane.
I couldn't believe how the syphilitic town had metastasized. Smoke seeped from twenty thousand chimneys, pillars to an endless gray ceiling. The
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city was twice the size of the last time I'd hated being there. A box of misery spilled over the whole river valley.”

“Books that hadn’t been cracked since they were shelved. Give money to a monkey and he’ll fill his cage with bananas. Give the same money to a dim American and he’ll build a show library every time.”

It begins in 1909, in the rough and tumble town of Spokane, WA. The Dolan brothers, Rye and Gig have been jumping freight trains, finding day work and any trouble they can stir up. Things begin to shift, when Rye, the youngest is drawn to a young, pregnant union organizer named Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. The brothers then find themselves in a tumultuous and ugly, union battle, with Gig landing in jail and Rye mixing it up with some very dangerous characters.
I have been a fan of Jess Walter for many years. His last book, Beautiful Ruins was an absolute joy to read and he returns here, after a long absence and delivers his best book. Something Steinbeck would have admired. The writing and story-telling is stellar, throughout, populated with indelible characters, that stick with you long after you finish the last perfect sentence. Walter has also done an immense amount of research, sprinkling in a few real life characters, including Flynn. This his love letter to his hometown. Bruises and all.
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LibraryThing member gbelik
This was a great story with memorable characters, both real and fictional. It's set in Spokane in the early 20th century, which was quite a boom town at time time. I enjoyed the setting and the historical information as well as the plot.
LibraryThing member Beth.Clarke
Such great characters!!! I would never guess that a book written about workers in the early 1900s would be interesting, but here we are. Rye is young and impressionable, and he's smart and thoughtful. I cheered for him from start to finish along with the other cast of characters. The women are
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fierce and independent. What a gem!
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LibraryThing member nancyadair
In 1909, the cold millions,"living and scraping and fighting and dying," with no chance in this world, are countered by the cold millionaires in their palatial, golden homes who dole out thousands to secure their privilege.

Migrant workers sheltered in open fields as they drifted between cities,
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looking for work. The police cleared out the vagrants. The working men were lured by union organizers of the Industrial Workers of the World, promising to give workers a fair deal and a voice by taking power out of the hands of capitalist bosses.

The rise of unions was met with hostility, their leaders vilified as anarchists and revolutionaries who recruited discouraged workers into an expendable army.

The rich didn't want to level the playing field. They sold the dream of opportunity, the chance to rise into wealth like they had.

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps originally meant to do the impossible. We hear about the few who started with nothing and built empires. And of the 1% who now control the bulk of money, many unconcerned about the cold millions who exist outside of the mythic American Dream.

Jess Walter's novel tells the story of Gig and Rye, sons of Irish immigrants who have died, the boys become migrant workers. Pawns in the system, they had to pay money for information on who is hiring; after a while they were fired and once again had to pay money for information on who is hiring...

Gig is a Wobblie. When Rye sees him arrested at a peaceful demonstration of unionists, he is moved to join the protest. East Coast union organizer Elizabeth Gurley Flynn arrives to raise money to hire Charles Darrow to defend Gig and the five hundred workers wrongfully imprisoned and inhumanly treated. Rye becomes a symbol--the sixteen-year-old orphan abused by the police.

Rye is also courted by the richest man in town, Lemuel Brand, to spy on Gurley. Brand hires Dalveaux to stop the next union meeting, rolling out a speech about the "dangers of socialism--East Coast agitators--immigrant filth--concerned mine owners and business leaders--real Americans--jail full of vermin--mayor's hands tied--in support of police--moral responsibility--commercial interests--future in balance--last stand of decency--". Rye and Gurley are to be stopped.

One man to a boat. We all go over alone. The lesson comes early in the novel. Cops and killers, detectives and anarchists, wealthy men deciding everything in a back room, and Gurley--Rye knew them all. Each tried to be in charge of his own life. Rye outlasted them all, partly because of Gig's sacrifice, and partly because he found work and a family that took him in. Rye wasn't alone in the boat, after all. He was lucky. He won a few battles, and Gurley said that was all one could hope for in this life.

The Cold Millions is about the rise of the unions; it is historical fiction that makes past places and people come alive; it is a family drama that will tug at your heartstrings. The writing is fantastic. And best of all, it is a mirror flashing light on timeless social and personal conflicts.

I purchased a book.
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LibraryThing member banjo123
It was fun to read a book set in Spokane. This is the story of 2 brothers during the IWW labor struggles in the 1900's, and includes Elizabeth Gurley Flynn as a character. It's well-written, plotted, and really takes you into a different world.

I heard Walter interviewed for the Portland Bookfest.
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He took inspiration from the book from his grandfather's stories. One point that he made was that there are certain times in history, when if you are living through them history is sort of in control; and also how you respond to history reveals your character. He pointed to the labor struggle of the early 1900's as such a period, and also our current historical period as another.
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LibraryThing member bookchickdi
One of the books I always recommend is Jess Walters' novel Beautiful Ruins. Set in 1962, it tells the story of a young man working to keep his family inn open on the beautiful Italian coast of the Ligurian Sea. He dreams of Hollywood, and when an American movie star shows up in a boat, their lives
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become intertwined. It's one of the most perfectly constructed novels I have ever read.

His latest novel, The Cold Millions, drops the reader into 1909 Spokane, Washington where many lives converge. Gig and Ryan Dolan are young Irish immigrants who hop trains and try to find any kind of job they can. They come up against job agencies who take financial advantage of men like the Dolans, police who don't like these "bums" sleeping outside, and uber-wealthy businessmen, like mine owner Lemuel Brand, who uses his money to take every advantage he can to stay powerful.

Tired of being taken advantage of, Gig gets involved with union organizers and gets thrown in jail, along with 500 other men, after a big protest. Ryan turns to famed union speaker Elizabeth Gurley Flynn to help him get his brother out of jail. Flynn sees that she can use young Ryan to gain sympathy and money for the cause of protecting and promoting the union.

Ryan also turns to vaudeville performer Ursula, who is romantically involved with both Gig and Lemuel Brand. Brand is a man who uses everyone in his orbit, pitting people against each other, having loyalty to none.

Once again, Walters' carefully constructs a fascinating world, again weaving real people into his fictional narrative (Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were in Beautiful Ruins), like Flynn and labor lawyer Fred Moore. I loved the sibling relationship between Gig and Ryan, it felt so grounded in reality. The dichotomy of Ursula using her femininity to get what she wanted, while Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was harangued because she "acted more like a man" works so well here.

One might think that reading about union organizing in 1909 has no resonance in 2020, but as I was reading, all I could think was wow, these things are still happening today. Wealthy men want to control society to benefit themselves only, women who don't act in a matter that is considered docile are ridiculed, people at the bottom of the economic rung are scorned, and eventually when people have had enough, they will protest against injustice.

The Cold Millions is a brilliant book to get lost in, that makes you think that maybe we will make it out of these troubled times as apparently they have always been with us in one form or another. I give Cold Millions my highest recommendation.
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LibraryThing member jillrhudy
Dark and gritty yet hopeful, Walter's novel set at the height of the labor movement in Spokane boasts both rich characterization and seamless changes in perspective, two rare attributes in fiction that I always appreciate. I would not classify it in the new coinage "unputdownable," but dark and
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gritty is not my usual wheelhouse and I can't find any flaws, so it gets 5 stars.
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LibraryThing member Hccpsk
Jess Walter’s Cold Millions has something for every reader: historical fiction, literary references, intrigue, romance, humor, and Walter’s sharp writing. In the early 1900s, 16-year-old Ryan “Rye” Dolan followed his older brother Gig out west after their mother died, and their rail riding
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finds them partially settled in Spokane, WA. They survive as floaters--day workers--and Rye spends most of his time trying to keep Gig sober and out of trouble. The plot really picks up as Rye gets involved with the IWW, and Walters does a great job of weaving together real people and events with his fictional characters. In an age replete with plotless “character-driven” books where young adults don’t manage to gaze at anything beyond their navels, Cold Millions manages to build characters through a great story with Rye at the center. The slow and slightly confusing start should not deter anyone from reading one of the better books of 2020.
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LibraryThing member Gwendydd
This book tells the story of labor riots in Spokane in 1909-10. Some of the characters, such as Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, actually existed, and a lot of the events actually happened. The book mostly focuses on two brothers, Gig and Rye. They're poor laborers, trying to make their way in the world.
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Gig is the older brother, and he's an idealistic union agitator. Rye is naive in the worst and best sense of the word - despite the tough life he's lived, he thinks the best of everyone and fails to see how much danger he's in. The events of the book come close to dashing his spirit, but his optimism survives.

Walter handles the mix of fact and fiction expertly: the characters all feel very real, the extensive historical research is unobtrusive, and the storyline is satisfying. The writing is excellent - you genuinely care about the characters, and it's hard to put the book down. The story builds to a well-crafted climax that is both surprising and inevitable.

Some of the characters are a little too black-and-white, and there's very little moral grey area - the bad guys are all totally bad and totally unsympathetic (the exceptions being a policeman who gets one POV chapter where his criminal actions are justified with sheer stupidity, and a private eye who does some morally questionable things that ultimately help the good guys).

This book is also a commentary on current events. Rye reflects on what it is like to be swept up in historical events, and how sometimes you don't have total control over your own actions because you are caught in the tide of events that are bigger than you. The powerful rich guys who want to suppress the working class so they can make more money are the bad guys, but when people help each other, they can overcome that suppression and be successful.
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LibraryThing member jphamilton
After reading Jess Walter’s newest novel, The Cold Millions, you will not be surprised to learn that he lives in Spokane, Washington and knows well its rich labor history. This book has an engaging and clever story, some wildly colorful characters, and it all moves through Spokane’s oftentimes
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violent labor history of the early 1900s. This was when the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies to many) flooded the streets—and eventually the jails—in an attempt to break a corrupt system of kickbacks between employment agencies and crew bosses, a system where everyone fed like hogs at the trough of graft, while workers got rough jobs for a short time.

The novel’s characters use every larger-than-life nuance of that word character. The Dolan brothers, Gig and Rye, come from Montana and are very different from each other. The sixteen-year-old Rye is looking for a steady income and a home as he figures out who he is. The older brother, Gig, chases women, enjoys the tenderloin district, while also fighting for union men getting a fair shake, as they battle the corrupt police and the big money controlling things from behind the scenes. Gig has read just enough Nietzsche and Rousseau to be dangerous.

When the two brothers are arrested, Rye’s young age becomes public knowledge, and efforts are made to eventually free him. Along the way, Rye becomes drawn to a nineteen-year-old feminist and activist, the fearless Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who butts heads with most everyone and got him freed. (Flynn was an actual rabblerousing historic figure, a communist, and eventually one of the founders of the A.C.L.U.) There’s also the dramatic Ursula the Great who’s a vaudeville singer who performs with a cougar in a cage. I loved the side story of how the once-ferocious bear she once performed with ruined the act when it fell in love with Ursula. Ursula introduces the brothers to something much more dangerous than her cougar, a mining magnate who’s got his fingers into everything. One last character, Del Dalveaux, is a detective working for that magnate, and Walter cleverly weaves him throughout the storyline.

The book is about conflict and the harder edge of life. Sullivan, the head of the police, is a major factor when it comes to knocking heads together and attempting to keep things from constantly boiling over and threatening the status quo, as the working man and the moneyed interests are battling. Though certainly not original, a question that really struck me in this book of magnates, socialists, communists, corruption, and idealists, was the following question. Is it enough to win the occasional battle, even if you cannot win the war? Social progress is always frustrating, but it’s fundamental to what many of us aspire to be.

With this book, Walter has blended actual historical events and people with his novel, and it’s a curious work. I don’t mean the fictional side is shortchanged whatsoever, the novel’s characters are completely fleshed out and very engaging as they struggle with their lives. Though I’ve always been drawn to stories of class warfare, I found myself split between the loves and losses of the main characters, and the history itself, but the ending was both very clever and stunning. Altogether, this novel wasn’t as satisfying as his previous novel, Beautiful Ruins, was to me, but very few books are.
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LibraryThing member sparemethecensor
The writing was fine, but I didn't care for the storytelling approach, given some characters are historical figures.
LibraryThing member alanteder
Wobblies in Washington
Review of the Harper Books hardcover edition (Oct. 2020)

The Cold Millions is an epic family saga that mostly takes place in the years 1909-1911 in Spokane, Washington State, USA. That time period may sound limiting for an 'epic', but there is a closing epilogue that takes it
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much further into the 20th century.

The story centres around the brother duo of Gig and Ryan Dolan, two orphaned Irish immigrant sons on the tramp in the western United States. 24-year old elder brother Gig is bedeviled by his wandering ways and a predilection for alcohol. 16-year-old Ryan is protective of his brother and hopes to somehow make a life for them both. The brothers are swept up in the Spokane Free Speech Movement in November 1909 organized by the Industrial Workers of the World, also known by their nickname The Wobblies.

Author Jess Walter does an excellent job of incorporating the true-life story of the Wobblies in Washington and introduces several fictionalized real-life characters into the plot, with the teenaged worker organizer Elizabeth Gurley Flynn chief among them. Various fictional mining millionaires, police, wobblies, detectives and anarchists fill in the cast. There is a major plot twist about half-way through which turns things quite murderous and suspenseful.

I read The Cold Millions as part of a Book of the Month subscription to Parnassus Books First Editions Club. My continued thanks to Liisa, Martin and family for that excellent gift!
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LibraryThing member brangwinn
To me, not only was this a book about the free speech riots involving the Wobblies (International Workers of the World), it also is a parallel to events today. Combining fictional characters with read characters. Although I was a big confused in the beginning chapters with introduction to the
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fictional characters, the storyline soon fell into place as Rye and Gig Dolan, orphans forced into the lives of tramps and their involvement in the IWW movement. It’s a novel filled with empathy for men who can’t get ahead and are constantly outmaneuvered by men with money. Jess Walters shows, again, his versatility in writing fiction.
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LibraryThing member carolfoisset
Interesting characters but at times I found the story line dragging. Epilogue made the book for me.
( I did love Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins)
LibraryThing member lauralkeet
In the early 20th century the Pacific Northwest was booming, driven by the railroads and lumber. People flocked to the area in hopes of prosperity. Some became wealthy, but most were lucky to eke out a living while subjected to poor labor conditions. Things eventually came to a head with attempts
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to organize under the International Workers of the World.

The Cold Millions tells this story through events that took place in Spokane, Washington in 1909. Ryan “Rye” Dolan leaves home at 16 to join his brother Gig, who has established himself as an eloquent speaker for the labor movement. The movement attracts support from national figures like Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who went on to found the ACLU. The brothers are soon taking part in a protest. The police come down hard, partly out of vengeance for the recent murder of an officer, and Gig lands in prison. Elizabeth enlists a reluctant Rye in her cause, and at the same time Rye tries to curry favor with a wealthy businessman in hopes of securing Gig’s release. He finds himself caught up in a complicated web of corruption, and struggles to determine whom he can trust. He loses some of his idealism and begins to question whether Elizabeth’s efforts will be successful, as well as his role in the unionization campaign.

This novel was chock full of surprising plot twists and memorable characters, with a denouement that neatly tied up the loose ends and an afterword describing the author’s research process and delineating fact from fiction. I enjoyed this and it piqued my interest in learning more about the history of this time and place.
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LibraryThing member maryreinert
Set in SpoRane and other parts of the Northwest, this is a rollicking historical novel filled with colorful characters. Rye, just turning 17, leaves the Midwest after all his family has died. He searches in Washington for his charming brother Gig, who is there attempting to find his fortune. The
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mines are thriving businesses as is the attempt to organize the workers into Unions. Gig becomes involved with the IWW which is the most radical and is arrested. Rye does everything he can to obtain release for his brother.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (a real historical person) is only 19, is pregnant, but is totally fearless in her attempts to organize and energize the workers. Ursula the Great is a vaudeville singer who performs with a live cougar. Both of these women become important in the lives of the two brothers.

Cold hearted killers, a wealthy businessman, and an old Indian are also important players in this interesting novel set in an area not usually the topic of historical fiction. A good read!
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