The Infernal Machine: A True Story of Dynamite, Terror, and the Rise of the Modern Detective (Hardcover)

The Infernal Machine: A True Story of Dynamite, Terror, and the Rise of the Modern Detective By Steven Johnson Cover Image
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“A fast-burning fuse of a book, every page bursting with revelatory detail.”—ERIK LARSON

A sweeping account of the anarchists who terrorized the streets of New York and the detective duo who transformed policing to meet the threat—a tale of fanaticism, forensic science, and dynamite from the bestselling author of The Ghost Map

Steven Johnson’s engrossing account of the epic struggle between the anarchist movement and the emerging surveillance state stretches around the world and between two centuries—from Alfred Nobel’s invention of dynamite and the assassination of Czar Alexander II to New York City in the shadow of World War I.
April 1914. The NYPD is still largely the corrupt, low-tech organization of the Tammany Hall era. To the extent the police are stopping crime—as opposed to committing it—their role has been almost entirely defined by physical force: the brawn of the cop on the beat keeping criminals at bay with nightsticks and fists. The solving of crimes is largely outside their purview.
The new commissioner, Arthur Woods, is determined to change that, but he cannot anticipate the maelstrom of violence that will soon test his science-based approach to policing. Within weeks of his tenure, New York City is engulfed in the most concentrated terrorism campaign in the nation’s history: a five-year period of relentless bombings, many of them perpetrated by the anarchist movement led by legendary radicals Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman. Coming to Woods’s aide are Inspector Joseph Faurot, a science-first detective who works closely with him in reforming the police force, and Amadeo Polignani, the young Italian undercover detective who infiltrates the notorious Bresci Circle.
Johnson reveals a mostly forgotten period of political conviction, scientific discovery, assassination plots, bombings, undercover operations, and innovative sleuthing. The Infernal Machine is the complex pre-history of our current moment, when decentralized anarchist networks have once again taken to the streets to protest law enforcement abuses, right-wing militia groups have attacked government buildings, and surveillance is almost ubiquitous.

About the Author

Steven Johnson is the bestselling author of thirteen books, including Enemy of All Mankind, Where Good Ideas Come From, How We Got to Now, The Ghost Map, and Extra Life. He’s the host and co-creator of the Emmy-winning PBS/BBC series How We Got to Now, the host of the podcast The TED Interview, and the author of the newsletter Adjacent Possible. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and Marin County, California, with his wife and their three sons.

Praise For…

“Dynamite, cops, anarchists—what more could you ask for? With narrative élan, Johnson tells the story of how an ‘infernal’ invention forever disrupted our political world. It’s a fast-burning fuse of a book, every page bursting with revelatory detail.”—Erik Larson, New York Times bestselling author of The Splendid and the Vile

“[An] action-packed history. . . . At the center of the narrative are Russian-Jewish immigrant radicals Alexander Berkman. . . . and Emma Goldman [his] sometime lover. Full of rousing speeches, feverish conspiracies, and tearful leave-takings, their soap opera-like story gives the book a romantic sheen. . . . Johnson’s entertaining true crime picaresque coalesces around the resonant irony of anarchists who dreamed of a stateless society getting crushed by an evermore powerful surveillance state. . . . The result is a captivating saga of vehement political passions quelled by cold technocracy.”Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Johnson's vivid, eye-opening history chronicles epic labor-movement battles, terrorist bombings
failed and tragic, backlash against immigrants, love affairs, undercover operations, courtroom dramas, and prison life in a fast-paced narrative rich in cinematic moments and resonance.”Booklist, starred review

“Drawing parallels with contemporary acts of terrorism and governmental abuses of power in monitoring citizens, Johnson makes history part of an ongoing story we all need to consider. Smart, accessible, and highly readable.”Kirkus Reviews

Product Details
ISBN: 9780593443958
ISBN-10: 0593443950
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: May 14th, 2024
Pages: 368
Language: English