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Water to the Angels : William Mulholland, His Monumental Aqueduct, and the Rise of Los Angeles
by Les Standiford


Overview -

The author of Last Train to Paradise tells the story of the largest public water project ever created--William Mulholland's Los Angeles aqueduct--a story of Gilded Age ambition, hubris, greed, and one determined man who's vision shaped the future and continues to impact us today.  Read more...


 
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More About Water to the Angels by Les Standiford
 
 
 
Overview

The author of Last Train to Paradise tells the story of the largest public water project ever created--William Mulholland's Los Angeles aqueduct--a story of Gilded Age ambition, hubris, greed, and one determined man who's vision shaped the future and continues to impact us today.

In 1907, Irish immigrant William Mulholland conceived and built one of the greatest civil engineering feats in history: the aqueduct that carried water 223 miles from the Sierra Nevada mountains to Los Angeles--allowing this small, resource-challenged desert city to grow into a modern global metropolis. Drawing on new research, Les Standiford vividly captures the larger-then-life engineer and the breathtaking scope of his six-year, $23 million project that would transform a region, a state, and a nation at the dawn of its greatest century.

With energy and colorful detail, Water to the Angels brings to life the personalities, politics, and power--including bribery, deception, force, and bicoastal financial warfare--behind this dramatic event. At a time when the importance of water is being recognized as never before--considered by many experts to be the essential resource of the twenty-first century--Water to the Angels brings into focus the vigor of a fabled era, the might of a larger than life individual, and the scale of a priceless construction project, and sheds critical light on a past that offers insights for our future.

Water to the Angels includes 8 pages of photographs.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780062251428
  • ISBN-10: 0062251422
  • Publisher: Ecco Press
  • Publish Date: March 2015
  • Page Count: 336
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Historical - General
Books > Technology > Civil - Dams & Reservoirs
Books > Technology > Environmental - Water Supply

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2015-01-26
  • Reviewer: Staff

Standiford (Last Train to Paradise) takes on and defends (despite claims that the book is merely factual) the controversial and steadfast William Mulholland, who developed and oversaw the seemingly impossible construction of an aqueduct from Owens Valley to Los Angeles in the early 20th century. The development of a Los Angeles water system that enabled and responded to the city’s quick growth is deeply entwined with the politics of the era and allegations of corruption, though this book does not do the topic justice. Standiford admits this is “not a work of traditional scholarship,” but something he chose to do for the sake of the general reader. Yet the book is confusingly organized, with a tangential, but attention-grabbing, first chapter (which features a dam that broke, flooding a valley and killing hundreds at the end of Mulholland’s career); unusual juxtaposition of anecdotes; and an overall conflict in its premise—is it a biography of Mulholland or the story of the aqueduct? Pacing is also unfortunate, as the book lags in its unnecessarily long description of the building of the aqueduct and doesn’t pick up again until the end. What could have been an intensely interesting affair unfortunately lacks detail richness and fails to cohere. (Mar.)

 
BookPage Reviews

The key to the rise of L.A.

Los Angeles would not exist as the sprawling, highly populated global center it is today were it not for one man. At the turn of the last century, William Mulholland, a civil servant self-educated in the ways of water engineering, all but willed Southern California’s future when he masterminded one of the greatest engineering projects of all time: the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

Bringing massive amounts of water south to this day, this monumental achievement was wrapped in controversy from the start, and in our more conservation-oriented age, there is still resentment about how Los Angeles “stole” the water of the central Owens Valley, dooming that rural area to an arid fate. Still, even Mulholland’s critics concede that the colorful Irish immigrant was a visionary who shaped the way that precious water is controlled not only in California, but also throughout the West.

Mulholland’s story has been told before, but perhaps never so compellingly as Les Standiford tells it in Water to the Angels. Newly arrived in California, Mulholland began working for the water department as a well- and ditch-digger, but impressed the company president with his unvarnished candor and knowledge. Mulholland’s single-minded mission was to bring water to L.A., and, unlike many others, he never made a penny from the project beyond his public salary.

Standiford expertly weaves the internecine drama behind the building of the aqueduct with a modern inquiry into its legacy (and even touches upon the movie Chinatown, which used the bones of the story but played fast and loose with the facts). Water to the Angels leaves little doubt that the forward-thinking Mulholland was as original as the city he birthed.

 

This article was originally published in the April 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews