While its refracted, nonlinear narrative centers on early progressive fights, The Cold Millions feels timed perfectly to this moment of stark income inequality, where the crevasse between billionaires and workers widens and activism increases ... Swelling with empathy for the underdogs (but never too preachy), Walter’s novel reveals people caught in the enormous sweep of history as they strive to better their circumstances ... I haven’t encountered a more satisfying and moving novel about the struggle for workers’ rights in America.
There’s an election next week that will mark the climax of an exhausting, dramatic year, but if you have the time and head space to read new-release fiction, it would be well spent on The Cold Millions ... It’s a tremendous work, a vivid, propulsive, historical novel with a politically explosive backdrop that reverberates through our own ... Walter is a Spokane native, and he captures both the depth and breadth of this moment in his hometown’s history ... gives us the grand tour, with a bounty of crime and intrigue and adventure anchored by an unforgettable ensemble cast ... About half of the novel is narrated in the third person from Rye’s point of view, but Walter brings in a multitude of first-person voices to bring the world roaring to life.
Jess Walter has fashioned his eighth novel, The Cold Millions, out of the free speech riots that erupted in Spokane, Wash., in the early years of the 20th century ... Walter dramatizes the melee and its aftermath with a lively cast of characters both invented and real ... Walter’s latest novel is more hybrid beast than those earlier books: not quite fiction and not history but a splicing of the two, so that the invented rises to the occasion of the real and the real guides and determines the fate of the invented ... The Cold Millions ends as a eulogy for a certain kind of man: white, fair-minded, nonideological, inclined toward the sidelines. Had Walter inserted a time machine into his book after all, and flown Rye to the current year, it’s hard to imagine even someone so innately neutral looking on passively as history comes for him, too.
... expansive, beguiling ... In Flynn, Walter has found a sublime heroine: outspoken, brave, and beautiful, too. She takes on Spokane’s brutal and corrupt establishment with the kind of bravura that makes us yearn for her to time-travel to our era ... Walter does a masterful job of using historical events and characters to draw parallels with what we face today, but the greatest triumph of The Cold Millions is how it mines literary realism but remains optimistic even in the face of tragedy. It’s a thrilling yarn that simultaneously underscores the cost of progress and celebrates the American spirit.
Walter’s empathy for these characters is palpable ... Walter is a superb storyteller. His plot rolls on at a steady pace. His ear for dialogue, whatever the character, is acute. He knows when to amp up the prose with a telling metaphor ... All of Walter’s virtues have been on display in his previous novels. In the meantime, his gift for satire, previously put to good use in Zero and in Beautiful Ruins, partially a spoof of Hollywood inanities, has been set aside.
In 2012, Jess Walter’s breakout bestseller, Beautiful Ruins, brought movieland hilariously and brilliantly to life ... But now, with his new novel, The Cold Millions, Walter attempts to bring that same verve to the pitiless realm of Spokane, Wash., in 1909 ... The Cold Millions is a work of irresistible characters, harrowing adventures and rip-roaring fun ... Walter’s new tragicomedy about this moment of American history is one of the most captivating novels of the year.
In The Cold Millions, Walter tries another mixed genre, the Western historical novel, and shows he is a master at investigating the 'hobo' world of 1909 ... The book is uneven, however, and falls short of the romanticism of Beautiful Ruins ... Walter has devised some fantastic set pieces ... all enlivened by Walter’s vivid writing. A reader can feel the rails rattling under the trains that thunder through the mountains. A new life, the 20th century, is roaring into being ... Forget the book’s shortcomings; it’s good to have Jess Walter back.
...informed by intensive, ardent research and reverence for his home city; consider this book a train ticket to a past time and place. In addition to boldly voiced characters and dramatic suspense, in this century-ago tale of labor rights and wealth inequality readers will find plenty of modern relevance.
Some of the dialogue is heavy on vernacular not found in Webster’s or any other dictionary: “rustle boxer,” “batty-fanged,” “jangle girls.” But Walter uses the slang ably, in such a context that the reader understands its meaning despite the unfamiliarity. It’s high praise for any writer to be mentioned in the same sentence with McGuane and, in that spirit, one might say Walter’s use of lingo is as good as [Thomas] McGuane’s in the short story 'Cowboy' ... [a] marvelous story by an author now ensconced, rightfully, in the highest rank of American novelists.
Four chapters end with minor characters dying mid-thought, leading the reader to wonder fundamentally what they are supposed to be ... It may be unfair to compare Millions to the singular Ruins, but the book at times left me wanting the same richness in detail about the place as it devoted to the people. I wanted more of a tour of Spokane as it was in 1909. The burlesque club, courthouse, Chinese Quarter, Little Italy — they all seem a little cardboard compared to the Italian cliff-side towns of Ruins. Then again, anything would ... But the mosaic of stories add a richness to an American moment that shows how everyone, even we cold millions, are a part of history. And that’s a most welcome lesson as we face the unknown future of next week and beyond.
... the background [Walter] creates manages to convey the romance and adventure of a Western — and of those cherished family tales ... Walter is mining the same seam as Fitzgerald in his examination of the gulf between rich and poor ... Walter has given himself an ambitious task, not least in knitting together an origin story for his city from fragments and inventions. But the most joyful storytelling hits you in the form of first person accounts that are inserted into the main narrative ... With its rebellion against inequality and debates about capitalism, there are clear echoes from 1909 to the US today. Incitement to riot, dreadfully topical since the assault on the Capitol last month, also gets a look in. But The Cold Millions offers more: a study of individuals living, willingly or unwillingly, through tumult.
In its lefty political bent and hybrid cast of real and made-up characters, The Cold Millions is reminiscent of the work of John Dos Passos and E.L. Doctorow. It even gestures to the grand European canvases by Stendhal and Flaubert spotlighting young men caught in political and personal whirlwinds. The Cold Millions, however, eschews the metadramatic self-consciousness that marks novels like The Book of Daniel and Ragtime.Instead, Mr. Walter’s style of historical fiction owes something to exciting midcult yarns by Kenneth Roberts, Herman Wouk and Howard Fast—tellers of big stories about the past (Northwest Passage, The Winds of War, Spartacus) who wanted to honor the forgotten foot soldiers of history.
Reading Jess Walter’s new novel, The Cold Millions, might be the most fun I’ve ever had with a history lesson ... fairly bursts with energy, adventure, humor, pathos and irresistible characters. Packed into its bravura storytelling is a closeup look at some of the most dangerous days of the labor movement in the United States and at some of the real people who drove it ... this big-hearted book is populated by an array of memorable characters who bring a slice of American history to vibrant life.
The Cold Millions, published at last, could hardly be more different that Beautiful Ruins, although it’s still recognizably a Jess Walter novel ... The Cold Millions often feels like a Western, a story set in a distant time in a remote and alien place ... But to publish a novel this political and this deeply concerned with income inequality at this particular point in history is to beg comparisons between Rye’s day and our own.
The fact that the same author has written books as wildly different and all as transporting as The Zero (2006), The Financial Lives of the Poets (2009), Beautiful Ruins (2012), and now this latest tour de force is testimony to Walter’s protean storytelling power and astounding ability to set a scene, any scene ... We have heard that Jess Walter writes nonstop: Seven days a week, 365 days a year. Please, never stop.
...superb ... a splendid postmodern rendition of the social realist novels of the 1930s by Henry Roth, John Steinbeck, and John Dos Passos, updated with strong female characters and executed with pristine prose. This could well be Walter’s best work yet.