The city of Buffalo is rarely the backdrop for any book, fiction and non-fiction alike, yet in John Smolens’ The Anarchist: A Novel published in 2009, it indeed becomes center-stage in this historical-fiction depiction of what could be described as America’s first 9/11 period.

 The turn of the 20th century is described as an era in which a growing friction emerged between the well-off and the poor. This enables communists, socialists, and anarchists to attempt breaching the societal gap by either changing the form of government or in the case of anarchists, destroy the governing system all together.

This is the premise to the novel, as forces of anarchy battle with the law.

The story unfolds with President William McKinley visiting Buffalo during its hosting of the Pan-American exhibition, the eventual site of his assassination, being shot September 6th, 1901 (died September 14, 1901). In an attempt to quell the insurgency and bring justice to McKinley’s murder a mystery must be solved, and deal-making between the law and the lowest members of society is necessitated.

The story is written through the perspectives of the anarchists, the lawmen, as well as McKinley himself and his immediate entourage.

An entertaining read about a time and place rarely treated.