Wicked River by Lee Sandlin
The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild

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Synopsis

From award-winning journalist Lee Sandlin comes a riveting look at one of the most colorful, dangerous, and peculiar places in America’s historical landscape: the strange, wonderful, and mysterious Mississippi River of the nineteenth century.
 
Beginning in the early 1800s and climaxing with the siege of Vicksburg in 1863, Wicked River takes us back to a time before the Mississippi was dredged into a shipping channel, and before Mark Twain romanticized it into myth. Drawing on an array of suspenseful and bizarre firsthand accounts, Sandlin brings to life a place where river pirates brushed elbows with future presidents and religious visionaries shared passage with thieves—a world unto itself where, every night, near the levees of the big river towns, hundreds of boats gathered to form dusk-to-dawn cities dedicated to music, drinking, and gambling. Here is a minute-by-minute account of Natchez being flattened by a tornado; the St. Louis harbor being crushed by a massive ice floe; hidden, nefarious celebrations of Mardi Gras; and the sinking of the Sultana, the worst naval disaster in American history. Here, too, is the Mississippi itself: gorgeous, perilous, and unpredictable, lifeblood to the communities that rose and fell along its banks.
 
An exuberant work of Americana—at once history, culture, and geography—Wicked River is a grand epic that portrays a forgotten society on the edge of revolutionary change.




From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Lee Sandlin

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Lee Sandlin is the author of Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild and reviews books for The Wall Street Journal. His essay "Losing the War" was included in the anthology The New Kings of Nonfiction. He lives in Chicago.
 
Published October 19, 2010 by Vintage. 368 pages
Genres: History, Travel, Education & Reference, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Sandlin provides some John McPhee–like detail about geology and riverine history, and also examines the human history of the region: the American Indian presence, the arrival of the flatboat-keelboat culture (and tales of one early flatboater, Abraham Lincoln) and the rise and fall of the steamboat.

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Publishers Weekly

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In this love song to the Mississippi river, Chicago journalist Sandlin winds through mythology and history, from the early 19th century, when the Chippewa peopled its banks, to the metamorphosed post-Civil War river culture.

May 02 2011 | Read Full Review of Wicked River: The Mississippi...

The Wall Street Journal

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To write about the Mississippi as he does, the author has first had to master the river of books about the river, most of them truly obscure.

Nov 27 2010 | Read Full Review of Wicked River: The Mississippi...

Star Tribune

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Sumptuous writing and fascinating tales of the days when life on the Mississippi was rough and wild.

Oct 23 2010 | Read Full Review of Wicked River: The Mississippi...

Bookmarks Magazine

Drawing on an array of suspenseful and bizarre firsthand accounts, Sandlin brings to life a place where river pirates brushed elbows with future presidents and religious visionaries shared passage with thieves—a world unto itself where, every night, near the levees of the big river towns, hundred...

Oct 11 2010 | Read Full Review of Wicked River: The Mississippi...

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