Trial by Fire by Scott James
Release Date: 27th October 2020
Publisher: St Martins Press
Genre: Adult, Non-fiction
All it took for a hundred people to die during a show by the hair metal band Great White was a sudden burst from two giant sparklers that ignited the acoustical foam lining the Station nightclub. But who was at fault? And who would pay? This being Rhode Island, the two questions wouldn’t necessarily have the same answer.
Within 24 hours the governor of Rhode Island and the local police commissioner were calling for criminal charges, although the investigation had barely begun, no real evidence had been gathered, and many of the victims hadn’t been identified. Though many parties could be held responsible, fingers pointed quickly at the two brothers who owned the club. But were they really to blame? Bestselling author and three-time Emmy Award-winning reporter Scott James investigates all the central figures, including the band’s manager and lead singer, the fire inspector, the maker of the acoustical foam, as well as the brothers. Drawing on firsthand accounts, interviews with many involved, and court documents, James explores the rush to judgment about what happened that left the victims and their families, whose stories he also tells, desperate for justice.
A few years ago I watched the recording of the Station House Fire in Rhode Island. It is still to this day
one of the most devastating things I have ever seen. In the recording, you can see the nightclub go up in
flames within 90 seconds, and all the people who are trapped inside. I wouldn’t recommend looking it up,
however on a personal level it really impacted me and I am now much more careful when in crowded
venues and I always make sure I know where the fire exits are.
I spotted Trial By Fire when it popped up on Netgalley and I knew I had to request it. The video
fascinated me, and I wanted to know more about what happened in the days, months, and years
following the tragedy.
Trial By Fire does a fantastic job of covering what happened to various victims after the event, and it also
goes on to cover the court cases of those responsible. I think the author covered all of this very
respectfully. I found the entire book very engrossing, and I was never bored or thinking that I had heard
all of this before. It was absolutely heart wrenching to read (or listen, in my case) about how the
community was directly or indirectly affected by this tragedy, and also infuriating to hear about the steps
that were skipped that led to this event happening.
I would recommend this non-fiction book to everyone, if you think you can handle the tragic subject
matter. I think it’s so, so important to remember the victims of the fire, and also to learn more about how
the USA and Rhode Island handled fire safety, and how fire measures have since changed.