Blum specializes in nonfiction narrative showcasing explosive periods in U.S. history, as in the Edgar Award–winning American Lightning
(2011). His latest focuses on the period before WWI, when German saboteurs
in the U.S. attempted to use bombs and even biological weapons, hoping to weaken the country enough to keep it from entering the war on the side of the Allies. The hero of the piece is New York Police Inspector Tom Tunney
, who thwarted many of the plots and captured numerous enemy agents in New York. One problem common to books of this kind is that the author tries to make everything relate to the plot, sometimes pulling the rug out from under the reader in the process. For example, the opening describes a bomb plot aimed at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City
, prompting the reader to think, “Wow! I didn’t know the Germans did that.” We learn later that Blum is only setting the scene of an unstable era, and that the plot was actually the work of anarchists, not Germans. A bit hyped but still intriguing. –Connie Fletcher
’s riveting and perturbing Dark Invasion
…is well-researched and written, and it maintains a fairly high level of suspense, which is difficult to bring off in a book about historical events.” (Wall Street Journal
“Dark Invasion…will move you to the edge of your seat with the facts alone, but the author’s suspenseful detective-mystery narrative is what keeps you there.” (USA Today)
“wonderfully gripping…cleverly crafted tension.” (Washington Post)
“Blum briefs us on early homeland security with tales of German terrorists, including military officers, a germ-warfare expert, a Harvard prof and a document forger.” (New York Post, “Required Reading”)
“History is all about retelling tales that need telling. In Dark Invasion, Howard Blum has rescued a batch of compelling ones and woven them into grim, fascinating remembrance.” (Dallas Morning News)
“…throws light on the war of espionage and terror Germany waged against the U.S. in 1915.” (Vanity Fair)
“a spy thriller of the first order….Dark Invasion is another page-turner that is compelling…. [Blum] has a remarkable talent for both uncovering history’s most inexplicably forgotten stories…and for writing non-fiction paced like a big-budget thriller.” (Daily Beast)
“Sounds like a pretty good espionage thriller…In fact, it’s nothing less than authentic—albeit long-forgotten—American history, brought to vivid life…Dark Invasion reminds us…that ‘the past is never past’.” (Life.com)
“Terrifically engaging and pertinent tale of the New York City bomb squad that foiled German terrorist plots against the United States at the outbreak of World War I.… Instructive, yes, but also as engrossing as good detective fiction.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“Compelling … a grim, fascinating remembrance.” (Columbus Dispatch)
“Blum’s narrative of America’s first exercise in homeland security is a worthwhile page-turner, combining the best features of a police procedural and a spy novel with a firm base in verifiable events.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Howard Blum’s story of the sinister and scary German terror attacks on America 100 years ago reads more like a LeCarré novel than a meticulous reconstruction of history.. This is a terrific spy story.” (Cokie Roberts, author of Founding Mothers)
“Dark Invasion is a must-read for lovers of suspense and anyone who wants to understand how the basis of our homeland security system was born.” (Tom Reiss, New York Times bestselling author of The Black Count and The Orientalist)
“A suspense-filled tale, Dark Invasion uncovers a fascinating corner of history when courageous New York City police officers fought insurmountable odds to defend America against sophisticated German saboteurs at the start of World War I.” (Ronald Kessler, author of The Secrets of the FBI and In the President's Secret Service)
“In his gripping and expertly crafted narrative, Blum demonstrates that the best stories are true. Told in the great tradition of spy thrillers, Dark Invasion is the startling tale of German secret agents operating in the United States.” (Scott Miller, author of The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century)
“I read Dark Invasion without stopping. It is a well-researched and exceedingly well-written account of a pre-World War I series of terroristic attacks on the United States, in this case perpetrated by Germans. It is full of good stories and characters.” (Norman Stone, award-winning author of The Eastern Front: 1914-1917 and World War One: A Short History)
“This is a wonderful story, with a cast of characters out of a Cecil B. DeMille epic, told in a style that is lucid, lyrical, even electric. Narrative history at its very best.” (Joseph J. Ellis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of FOUNDING BROTHERS and AMERICAN CREATION, on American Lightning)
“Howard Blum has given us a fascinating–and hugely entertaining–glimpse into early 20th-century America.…And–eat your hearts out, novelists–it’s all true.” (John Steele Gordon, author of EMPIRE OF WEALTH: THE EPIC HISTORY OF AMERICAN ECONOMIC POWER, on American Lightning)
“Blum…writes a gripping epic of a sordid terror plot and murder most foul …. [He[ makes great use of short chapters and episodic shifts that both prevent tedium and compel the reader forward through each twist and turn.” (Library Journal (starred review))
“The author’s eye for scene-setting and subtle explication perfectly mimics a Griffith-style camera. Blum is at his best…. Unfailingly entertaining.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review), on American Lightning)
From the Back Cover
What happens when German spies collaborate to unleash a campaign of terror upon America at the start of World War I?
In the summer of 1914, New York Police Department captain Tom Tunney is preoccupied by Manhattan's raging gang rivalries and has little idea that, halfway around the world, a much more ominous threat to the city is brewing. As Germany teeters on the brink of war, its ambassador to the United States is given instructions to find and finance a team of undercover saboteurs who can bring America to its knees before it has a chance to enter the conflict on the side of the Allies.
At the page-turning pace of a spy thriller, Dark Invasion tells the remarkable true story of Tunney and his pivotal role in discovering, and delivering to justice, a ruthless ring of German terrorists determined to annihilate the United States. Overwhelmed and undermatched, Tunney's small squad of cops was the David to Germany's Goliath, the operatives of which included military officers, a germ warfare expert, a gifted Harvard professor, a bomb technician, and a document forger. As explosions leveled munitions plants and destroyed cargo ships, particularly in and around New York City, pan- icked officials talked about rogue activists and anarchists—but it was Tunney who suspected that these incidents were part of something bigger and became determined to bring down the culprits.
Through meticulous research, Blum deftly reconstructs an enthralling, vividly detailed saga of subterfuge and bravery. Enhanced by more than fifty images sourced from global archives, his gritty, energetic narrative follows the German spies—with Tunney hot on their heels—from the streets, harbors, and warehouses of New York City to the genteel quads of Harvard, the grand estates of industry tycoons, and the steps of the U.S. Capitol. The New York Police Department's breathtaking efforts to unravel the extent of the German plot and close in on its perpetrators are revealed in this riveting account of America's first encounter with a national security threat unlike any other—the threat of terrorism—that is more relevant now than ever.
About the Author
Howard Blum is the author of the New York Times bestseller and Edgar Award winner American Lightning, as well as Wanted!, The Gold Exodus, Gangland, and, most recently, The Floor of Heaven. Blum is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. While at the New York Times, he was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. He lives in Connecticut and is the father of three children.