A Blazing Gilded Age

A Blazing Gilded Age

Episodes of an American Family and a Volatile Era

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
508 Pages
Reviewed on 06/15/2014
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Rich DiSilvio is an award-winning author of both fiction and non-fiction. He has written articles on history, politics, art and music, which have appeared in magazines and is the author of several books.

Rich has worked on projects for historical documentaries, including Killing Hitler, James Cameron’s The Lost Tomb of Jesus, The War Zone series, Return to Kirkuk and Operation Valkyrie, as well as on cable TV shows, including Celebrity Mole, Blood Ties, Tracey Ullman's State of the Union, The Man Show and Monty Python: Almost the Truth.

For a full bio and portfolio, please visit: http://www.richdisilvio.com

    Book Review

Reviewed by Patsy Glans for Readers' Favorite

In A Blazing Gilded Age, by Rich DiSilvio, readers are transported into the world of men who were ahead of their time in the 19th century. Vanderbilt, J.P. Morgan, Edison and Teddy Roosevelt were determined to make their mark on history and would lie, cheat, and even bribe politicians to make it happen. The people who worked hard, long hours for very little pay are the real heroes; they worked in coal mines, built the impressive buildings, and held down other jobs to support their families. Marc Wozniak, along with his father and brother, worked in one of the coal mines. There had been explosions due to faulty equipment and the lack of proper training, which led to his father dying in the mine. It would take Marc most of his life to bring down the major players and finally make conditions safer for the workers.

In A Blazing Gilded Age, Rich DiSilvio has written not only an entertaining story, but he has given readers an insight into history through his excellent research on the men of the 19th century. He brings to life the story of America through stories of those who helped build and define it. A Blazing Gilded Age brings to light all the struggles and victories of the workers who defined a generation. I learned a great deal from this well-researched, informative and entertaining book. I would recommend this book to all readers, especially teachers looking for an entertaining way for their students to explore a critical time in our history.

Michael Gandolfo

A Blazing Gilded Age is a must read for anyone with even a mild interest in American history but the story itself is so entertaining and exciting that everyone will enjoy it. Readers will connect with the story's well developed characters and they will walk away from this novel with a clear vision and understanding of this crucial era in the life of our country. I highly recommend A Blazing Gilded Age as a novel that provides readers with both, entertainment and education, in ample doses.

Jack Iaci

Awesome book! R. DiSilvio writes a little like Alfred Hitchcock with twists and turns. I could not put down. An exciting mixture of history and fiction telling a story of a Polish/Italian family the Wozniaks' and their trials and tribulations of working for a controlling, ruthless, coal mine owner Archibald Huxley during the late 1880's through the turn of the twentieth century. Many historical characters are brought into the story including six presidents, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, Harrison, McKinley and T. Roosevelt, plus other well known historical figures like J.P. Morgan, Nicolas Tesla, Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, George Westinghouse, Aaron Montgomery Ward, etc. Rich DiSilvio has a great style of writing and adds suspense that captures the reader.

Ben Furman

A Blazing Gilded Age -- The TV Series?

A Blazing Gilded Age by Rich DiSilvio fits perfectly with the country’s renewed interest in its past. The popularity of movies such as Lincoln and TV series that deal with America’s fight for independence, WWII, the Manhattan Project is reflective of this thirst to connect with our past – to discern what it took for our ancestors to stack up nation’s building blocks.

Through the eyes of the Wozniak family that endures and overcomes both the physical and mental challenges of the of 19th century coal industry, DiSilvio allows us to see a part of “what it took” to accomplish this monumental task.

A keen director would find a gem in DiSilvio’s informative take on an extraordinary time that began the country’s trek to greatness, warts and all.

Steve Painter

Readers will not be disappointed in this epic and sweeping saga of historical fiction. It is set in the late nineteenth century, from 1870 to 1900, about the same time as the beginning to midway through the second industrial revolution.

The story centers around a family, the Wozniaks, who are a poor coal-mining family trying to achieve success in the fast-paced era in which they live. Their unbelievable struggles are revealed in the book, as well as our country's societal problems at the time. Many will find these issues familiar in our 21st century: Corporate greed, political corruption, and income inequality, to name a few. Here, you get a front-row seat on a thrilling ride through an exciting historical period that dealt with a good many of the issues we face today.

It's easy to find books on the wealthy of this age, but this effort by Rich DiSilvio goes beyond the glitz and glamour of the monied class to reveal the very real struggles that millions faced during this incredible period in history. Buy the book, get strapped in, and enjoy this epic journey into the past.

Rick Friedman

What a magnificent book!!! As soon as I started it, Rich DiSilvio's prose immediately grabbed me.

The opening scene in the coal mine is so very touching and disturbing. When one thinks of the Gilded Age, one thinks of the Morgans, the Vanderbilts, yet this brilliantly written historical novel shows the other side— the millions of people, many of them children, who labored in horrific and dangerous situations, and many dying so that the Tycoons could live like kings and the Industrial Revolution could transform America.

In a very real sense, Mr. Disilvio shows in a truly brilliant manner the "Rust"...human rust stained by blood, that was the real power behind the "Gilded" age. James Jones, who wrote FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, was an Army grunt, and very much wanted his books to be from the perspective of those enlisted grunts like himself, not the famed generals who took credit and little personal risk. A Blazing Gilded Age is very much the same—the reader is exposed to those who do not have Libraries and Foundations named after them, yet played a far more vital role, and a dangerous, deadly and fruitless role in the Industrial Revolution that made America the superpower it became. It is about time!

I also loved the fact that sprinkled throughout the novel are historic figures, Teddy Roosevelt, Mark Twain, James Garfield, Tesla and many others. These figures burst to life thanks to the narrative skills of a terrific writer. A very important book to read.

Linda Munro

This novel took quite some time, reading it amongst other books for a class I am taking, but this book took the longest time because I felt compelled to research a great deal of what the author had written.

I did not do this because I didn’t believe in the historical aspects of this novel, I did so because there were obscure facts and conversations throughout the book that I wanted to check for accuracy. I was determined to locate a flaw in the historical research; after all, the conversations held in this novel were just simply too believable; but, I am happy to state, accurate.

The story begins with a poor Polish immigrant family, whose lives have been forever changed due to shoddy and inept safety measures in a Pennsylvania coal mine (late mid 1800s) and leads the reader from that point in time through Theodore Roosevelt’s Presidency.

It also takes the reader through the lives of four brothers, through disability and a family’s shame, through a life filled with the bittersweet. It is an absolute awesome read and makes me desperate to get my hands on DiSilvio’s other novels. This is definitely a 5 star book.


Rich DiSilvio shows again his talent as a writer in A Blazing Gilded Age: Episodes of an American Family and a Volatile Era. It is an amazing book, well-written, well-paced, with good characters and a plotline that allow us to emerge in the 19th century America.
The Wozniak family will lead us into the dark pages of American history when the immigrants’ dreams are shattered so easily and the USA is not always the land of opportunities. Rising to the top is not easy and violence becomes part of the world in order to reach the top. Wozniak family meets with some of the most important historical figures from the 19th century: from Theodore Roosevelt to Mark Twain, from J.P. Morgan to Buffalo Bill, they all make an appearance that allows us the readers to have a better understanding of this historical period.
DiSilvio’s puts in full display his amazing story-telling skills showing a remarkable portrait of the USA, filled with historical details. Highly recommended!

Robin Surface

This was an interesting book and the author did a good job of sprinkling lots of real historic characters and settings throughout. He also did a good job of letting the reader connect with the characters emotionally. The story is set in an interesting time, when the country was growing by leaps and bounds and the poor were the ones who bore most of the growing pains.

The main character, Mark, is interesting and well-developed. It was interesting to see the character go from child to man of the family and the author did a nice job making him seem realistic.

The story flows nicely and it is a quick read, even though it has a lot of pages.

Fans of historical fiction will definitely enjoy this book. Even if you're not a history buff, the plot and characters are both well written and will keep your interest.

Billy O.

“There will always be the winners who see it as Golden, and the whiners who will vilify it as Gilded.”

These are the words of Archie Huxley— owner of the mine where the men from the Polish Wozniak family hit the daily grind when they push through life as an immigrant family in pre-industrial America—while he is talking to President Garfield.

DiSilvio has an extraordinary ability to talk the language of the people who were living in that violent, cruel and aversive age - you can almost feel that you are among the life fighters who often rely on the law of the shotgun and are exposed to the wrath of the powerful.

This is a remarkable portrait of the way the U.S. was built and raised to the top of the world. If you had some illusions, let me break them for you - you don’t rise to the riches in a nice way - so, expect a lot of violence. Even if DiSilvio’s talent for potent language would have been lost in a screenplay, I imagine it would be spectacular to see all that action, conflict and drama in a movie plot. Great characters, deep and relatable, fill this book. Starting from Marc (Marcus), Ted (Tasso) and Stan (Stanislaw), the three Wozniak brothers, who, despite their differences, demonstrate what is a strong family, to the sociopathic Huxley, they make a terrific, memorable story.

Marc is the one who is the strong foot of the family and who typically saves everyone from trouble. As the family tries to create their American dream, Marc turns out to be a clever polymath who uses his smarts to progress. From children mine laborers the brothers manage to get their own Tasso Coal company. But, there are deaths, rape, excruciatingly hard work, the worst mine explosions and an incredible description of a death penalty performed by electrocution along the way.
To illustrate the times in a charming way, famous Americans like JP Morgan and President James Garfield, as well as Czech historical figures like the composer Antonin Dvorak and the Polish Nobel Prize winner Marie Skłodowska Curie, are woven into the saga.

Amazing story!

Rachel Horon

The Blazing Gilded Age is a powerful work of historical fiction. It weaves the plight and struggle of immigrants in search of their American Dream with the greed and corruption of some of the wealthy men who brought the nation through the Industrial Age.

It is more than the Haves and the Have Nots. It is also the policies in Washington, the literature and authors that inspired people, and the racism toward the Blacks as well as the European and Asian immigrants.

The research is so good that one can feel like they were actually there when a coal mine explodes or the president is shot. Sometimes it is easier to ignore the struggles that happened over 100 years ago, but this book reminds us how far our nation has come and what challenges we still face. The novel is raw with emotion and holds nothing back.

Chelsey McQuitty

If you want to see history come to life through the written word then this is the book for you. The author has a way of channeling such a pivotal time in our history while showing how taxing it was on the people who actually helped build the country up. His references are amazing and the way the story is written feels like it could have been told from someone who actually lived during this time.
My favorite aspect is how he points out the greedy taking so much from the country when it is really built on the poor man’s back. This really holds true today, which shows if we don’t know history we are doomed to repeat it, or just keep living it.
If you love historical novels or a story about an underdog then this is the book for you. You will be drawn in by the plot and will leave feeling closer to those who lived during this time period.

JoJo Maxson

Rich DiSilvio has a unique way of bringing history to life. In A Blazing Gilded Age, Rich takes the era of the 19th century while America is just getting off her feet in the industrial world. We are just becoming a self supporting country and many mistakes are being made along the way.

This novel centers on a cold-hearted coal mine owner, whose self importance and arrogance is slowing wrapping a noose around his neck. While a young man, Marc, (the protagonist) is now learning what it will take to be the man of the family since the mines took his father’s life.

Although this book is fictional, there are many historical facts and characters that give this book an exceptional bonus. My favorite part of this book is when Archibald Huxley met Mark Twain. Rich keeps Mark Twain in character with a quick wit and simple understanding.

Sky Rae

DiSilvio has written a gripping novel about America in the Gilded Age - America's transition to industrialized power in the late 19th century. And as DiSilvio illustrates, the costs were heavy indeed, especially for the poor and child workers. The Gilded Ages is not without its ironies.

The story focuses on a Polish immigrant family, the Wozniak’s, and their well-drawn plan of revenge against a greedy and evil mine owner named Archibald Desmond Huxley for the devastation he has wrought not just on their family, but on other mining famines as well.

The Blazing Gilded Age will appeal to anyone interested in history, especially American history. Any lovers of historical fiction will be thoroughly entertained by DiSilvio’s attention to detail and superb story-telling. His writing is clear and engaging, and I would add, quite compelling. The story starts out with action and a heart-wrenching event that sets up the story very well - it will have you hooked from the start. It’s a powerfully written book.

Romuald Dzemo

A Blazing Gilded Age: Episodes of an American Family and a Volatile Era by Rich DiSilvio is well-crafted story with a powerful setting, featuring the Wozniak family, poor coal miners who are working very hard to rise and live the American dream. But then Archibald Desmond Huxley, a ruthless and selfish boss makes life impossible for them and they suffer a lot of injustices. But their revenge is awesome.

I enjoyed the historical references, the social and cultural commentaries, and the personages like Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, Nikola Tesla, Mark Twain, and many others. The story is written in beautiful prose and readers will be pulled in by the strong and exciting writing, the intelligent dialogues and the gripping plot. The characters feel real and readers will easily connect with most of them. This was an enjoyable read.

Julius Z.

I love fictional stories within historical events and characters, when done right, it’s an amazing achievement, just like this one, it’s a complete hit.

Burning with ambition yet bleeding with injustice, this is a unique story that no one should really miss!


I’m a huge fan of Rich DiSilvio’s work, and I love the way he combines history and fiction to create drama and also to illustrate periods and events of historical importance. He does this brilliantly in A Blazing Gilded Age.

We get the epic sweep of the journey of the Wozniak family—which would be enough for fiction lovers alone—and we also get a feel for the Gilded Age, complete with its sense of progress and creativity along with the inevitable turbulence and corruption.

I loved DiSilvio’s take on Teddy Roosevelt, and his portrayal really made the man come alive. This book is a must-have for lovers of historical fiction!

Donald J Bongiovi

For a long time I have not been a reader of fiction, preferring instead history and biography. So for me, Rich DiSilvio's "A Blazing Gilded Age" was a perfect reintroduction to the world of fiction. His exquisite interweaving of the compelling saga of the Wozniak family with well known figures from our American history drew me in from the start and kept me intrigued to the end. Any reader, whether a fan of fiction or non-fiction, will find this book a must-read and enjoy it as much as I did.

Brady Zimmer

DISilvio delivers an adventurous tale of a family struggling to face the hardships of living in the great Gilded Age of United States. Throughout the historical fiction, the reader rides alongside the protagonist, Marc, as he helps his family overcome impoverished conditions in post-Civil War Pittsburgh to achieve his version of the American Dream.

DiSilvio's rich knowledge of American, Greek, and European history is mirrored on the pages, as Marc is introduced to famous and notorious figures of American history. Furthermore, passages of Roman and Greek mythology are layered in the text, providing further evidence that DiSilvio is well-fit to draw from his extensively educated background.

The story quickly begins, and the audience begins to not only know the characters, but become attached to them. As a strong theme of family and pride in heritage begin to take hold, it is easy to engage each character individually with a strong sense of relation and compassion. 'A Blazing Gilded Age' is one story not soon forgotten, and easily reverted back to; whether for a quick lesson in history, or for a light read on the beach!

Gary Higley

The story, intertwined with history and historical figures was very entertaining. It was a proverbial rags to riches story for a guy like Marc to go from working in the dangerous coal mines as a boy to hobnobbing with the national elite. Rich DiSilvio brings to life fictional characters and puts them into the lives of historical icons and events.
You forget, because of the rich dialogue, that the Wozniak's are a representation of what an immigrant family faced during this time period. It is a true rags to riches story that symbolizes everything America had to offer to those willing to work hard. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested and enjoys how our country evolved into the land of opportunity that continues today.

Mary Yoder

I laughed , I cried , I held my breath with an open mouth.

What a great story , keeping me on the edge of my seat.

An exciting read!

Dorch Odem

Just finished, great book, couldn't put it down. Great historical references as well. Don't miss this one, worth the time to read.

Greg Harrington

A Blazing Gilded Age is very unique and interesting book. Mr. DiSilvio has cleverly joined a struggling but heroic fictional family with historical titans to create a very entertaining novel. The result is a great read following the challenges and successes of a Polish/Italian immigrant family while at the same time getting re-introduced to an under-appreciated and by most measures and all too forgotten period in our country's history.

Mr. DiSilvio brings this period back to life with his smooth and crisp writing style to present us with a dynamic book. My only suggestion would be for some equally clever person to take the bold move and adapt his book into a television mini-series. I highly recommend this book.

Claudio N. Crivici

I spend a lot of time traveling and I read fiction to relax. After reading thousands of books I often forget a title and buy the same paperback that I read two years earlier. I am not senile - its just that all the books sound the same and when they are not unique they all tend to be memorable for 15 minutes.

I started looking for books that would entertain and educate at the same time.

DiSilvio is a master at weaving history with a story that allows the reader to experience a time and culture that was both cruel and transcending. The Gilded Age not only brought forward technology but also represented a tremendous leap in laws, politics, and progressive social movements.

Read A Blazing Gilded Age and you will walk away with an appreciation of how technology continues to shape our social reforms yesterday and tomorrow. I am looking forward to the authors next lesson as I am truly a fan of his spin on history.