The Story of the Man Who They Said Caused the Flood
Released December 24, 2007: Did James Scott really cause a destructive levee break during the Great Midwestern Floods of 1993, or was he an easy scapegoat for a town raging at its devastation?
From Publishers Weekly Starred Review:
Pitluk, a contributor to Time magazine (Standing Eight: The Inspiring Story of Jesus El Matador Chavez), vividly brings to life the Great Midwestern Floods of 1993, when the town of West Quincy, Ill., was devastated, and the possible miscarriage of justice that ensued. After a levee failed, suspicions focused on local troublemaker James Scott, then 24, who a dozen years earlier had helped set fire to a school. Scott was eventually convicted in the levee break and sentenced to life under an obscure state statute of intentionally causing a catastrophe. Pitluk does a superb job of bringing all his characters to life, including Scott, his beleaguered parents and police detective Neal Baker, who had Scott in his sights after seeing what he thought was a suspicious interview with Scott on TV. The case against Scott appears weak, in Pitluk’s account, relying mostly on his alleged admissions to unreliable witnesses, and there was compelling expert testimony that the levees could have broken without human help. Pitluk also indicates that the town’s antipathy toward Scott was a large factor in his conviction. Most readers will come away believing that Scott was railroaded, the victim of his own big mouth and his community’s desire to find a scapegoat.