Trial by Fire: A Devastating Tragedy, 100 Lives Lost, and A 15-Year Search for Truth

In only 90 seconds, a fire in the Station nightclub killed 100 people and injured hundreds more. It would take nearly 20 years to find out why—and who was really at fault.

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.

Trial By Fire is the heart-wrenching story of the fire’s aftermath because while the fire, one of America’s deadliest, lasted fewer than two minutes, the search for the truth would take twenty years.


My thoughts:  This story about a tragedy in a club back in 2003 really got to me once I started reading it. I don’t know how you could read it and not be affected by it, really. It is so well-researched and told that you almost feel a part of things as you read along. I couldn’t help but feel for both the owners of the club, the brothers, but also the victims, those who got out, the ones who were injured and survived, the ones who perished; and the families of all of them. There was a lot to this story, it wasn’t so cut and dried and I found it fascinating. I plan to do more reading on it as I plan to find some of the other books that are mentioned about it in this book. I’ve already seen the video that was captured that night it happened by pure happenstance, and it was horrifying to see it after reading the book. It’s totally haunting to watch anytime, knowing that 96 souls died in that space, with 4 more losing their battle in the hospital later.

I highly recommend this for anyone wanting to learn more about this famous case, perhaps ready for a fresh perspective, or interested in this type of non-fiction book.  Just be warned that it is very heavy subject matter if you are of delicate nerves.  Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, the author Scott James, and publisher for my unbiased review.




Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books  – 384 pages
Publication:  Oct 27th, 2020
My rating:  5/5 Stars


The Author– SCOTT JAMES is the bestselling author of the novels The Sower and Soma, finalist for the national Lambda Literary Award for debut fiction, under the pen name Kemble Scott. With his weekly eponymous San Francisco column for The New York Times, James found stories that drew coverage from other national and international media, including The New Yorker, The London Times, The Guardian, and many more. He’s been honored with three Emmy Awards for his work in television news. He lives in San Francisco, and is co-founder of The Castro Writers’ Cooperative, known as The Coop, a co-working space for Bay Area writers.


10 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW (ARC) ~ Trial by Fire

  1. This was an awful tragedy. Oddly one of the brothers/co-owners was a local reporter in Boston at the time, and at first he was reporting on it/then they pulled him off the story. As it turns out, my grandmother was in rehab/hospital for falling in her garden/complications and my folks met one of the survivors and her family, out in the family/room/lounge. A woman Gina, a few years older than I, she had just started dating this guy & went to the Great white concert with him, & I’m not sure he survived. Per my mum’s request, I ended up doing what online research I could, to connect her with attorneys doing the class action lawsuit against the night club for not meeting the fire laws/standards/fire exits/capacity, etc. She was in therapy/recovering & overwhelmed with tryng to see about legal help, so I typed it all out and my mother passed it along/on a visit–I never knew what happened to her. They dedicated a park a few years back on the former site of the destroyed night club.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the wonderful comment Dena. Gina Russo credits fiancee Fred Crisostomi with saving her life that night in the fire. He got her as close to the exit door as he could, and gave her one huge final push towards the exit door outside. Gina turned back to look for him and all she could see were people on fire. Then everything went black. Sadly, Fred perished in the fire along with dozens of other people. Gina was badly burned, but managed to survive. She wrote a book that I’m also hoping to read and review, titled “From the Ashes, Surviving the Station Nightclub Fire”. Right now I’m reading the book “Just a Thought Away” by Michael Ricardi, another survivor. I’m still doing more research as I find more books on this, I can’t seem to get enough of this story. I truly wish the best for everyone affected by it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure. I hope you do, I’d like to know what you think of it. I’m still reading books written by survivors of it, and researching things online. It’s kind of addicting. Thank you for the comment.


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