Floodpath: The Deadliest Man-Made Disaster of 20th-Century America and the Making of Modern Los Angeles (Hardcover)

The Deadliest Man-Made Disaster of 20th-Century America and the Making of Modern Los Angeles

By Jon Wilkman

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 9781620409152, 336pp.

Publication Date: January 5, 2016



Just before midnight on March 12, 1928, the St. Francis Dam, a twenty-story-high concrete structure just fifty miles north of Los Angeles, suddenly collapsed, releasing a devastating flood that roared fifty-four miles to the Pacific Ocean, destroying everything in its path. It was a horrific catastrophe, yet one which today is virtually forgotten.

With research gathered over more than two decades, award-winning writer and filmmaker Jon Wilkman revisits the deluge that claimed nearly five hundred lives. A key figure is William Mulholland, the self-taught engineer who created an unprecedented water system, allowing Los Angeles to become America's second-largest city, and who was also responsible for the design and construction of the St. Francis Dam.

Driven by eyewitness accounts and combining urban history with a life-and-death drama and a technological detective story, "Floodpath "grippingly reanimates the reality behind L.A. noir fictions such as the classic film "Chinatown." In an era of climate change, increasing demand on water resources, and a neglected American infrastructure, the tragedy of the St. Francis Dam has never been more relevant.

About the Author

Jon Wilkman is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. His television series Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood was named one of the year's top ten programs by the New York Daily News and the Wall Street Journal, and nominated for three Emmy Awards, including writing. Wilkman also is the author, with his late wife, Nancy, of two books about Los Angeles. He is currently at work on a documentary on the St. Francis Dam disaster.