“Barylick has created a modern cautionary tale that will take your breath away.”—Publishers Weekly
The definitive book on The Station nightclub fire on the 10th anniversary of the disaster
On February 20, 2003, the deadliest rock concert in U.S. history took place at a roadhouse called The Station in West Warwick, Rhode Island. That night, in the few minutes it takes to play a hard-rock standard, the fate of many of the unsuspecting nightclub patrons was determined with awful certainty. The blaze was ignited when pyrotechnics set off by Great White, a 1980s heavy-metal band, lit flammable polyurethane “egg crate” foam sound insulation on the club’s walls. In less than 10 minutes, 96 people were dead and 200 more were injured, many catastrophically. The final death toll topped out, three months later, at the eerily unlikely round number of 100.
The story of the fire, its causes, and its legal and human aftermath is one of lives put at risk by petty economic decisions—by a band, club owners, promoters, building inspectors, and product manufacturers. Any one of those decisions, made differently, might have averted the tragedy. Together, however, they reached a fatal critical mass.
Killer Show is the first comprehensive exploration of the chain of events leading up to the fire, the conflagration itself, and the painstaking search for evidence to hold the guilty to account and obtain justice for the victims.
Anyone who has entered an entertainment venue and wondered, “Could I get out of here in a hurry?” will identify with concertgoers at The Station. Fans of disaster nonfiction and forensic thrillers will find ample elements of both genres in Killer Show.
Check out John Barylick's website.
Watch author John Barylick's interview
on CNN and listen to his interview on WAMC Northeast
Public Radio's Roundtable show.
Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS
Reviews / Endorsements
“In Killer Show, John Barylick sifts an abundance of clear, convincing, and frightening evidence in what is perhaps the definitive account of the Station nightclub fire. And he demonstrates that the greatest tragedy here was that it didn't need to happen.”—Boston Globe
“The fascinating book probes into every conceivable detail leading up to, during and after the fire, creating a convincing case for culpability by the rockers, their manager, the local official and the Derdarian brothers, who owned The Station and did everything they could to cut operating expenses and maximize box office, including lying to booking agents about the club’s capacity.”—Hartford Courant
“Station fire survivor Victoria Potvin Eagan says, “I kind of thought I knew everything there was to know” about the fire and the people who were in it. As the founder of the Station Family Fund and head of the Station Memorial Foundation, she fields a lot of questions about that night, and so she says, “I’ve made it my mission to know everything there is about everyone.” Barylick’s book, however, “even surprised me—there were definitely some facts I wasn’t aware of.” Eagan says four or five personal stories of survivors have been published so far, but that Barylick’s book is “very detailed ... extremely informative. And written without being sensationalized, which is what I appreciated.” She says she’s given countless interviews all over the world, and is always asked what really happened. “Next time I’m asked that question, I’m just referring them to that book.” —Providence Journal
“On February 20, 2003, the deadliest rock concert in U.S. history took place at a roadhouse called The Station in West Warwick, RI. The story of the fire, its causes and its legal and human aftermath is captured in Killer Show: The Station Nightclub Fire, America’s Deadliest Rock Concert (University Press of New England; Hardcover), the first comprehensive exploration of the chain events leading up to the fire, the conflagration itself and the painstaking search for evidence to hold the guilty to account and obtain justice for the victims. Killer Show was written by John Barylick, who for seven years was a lead attorney investigating and prosecuting wrongful-death and personal-injury cases arising from the Station fire. Throughout the book, Barylick offers multiple story arcs to demonstrate how greed and negligence sparked the horrific fire, and how courage and heroism elevated and bound together survivors, families and rescuers, alike. Part disaster story, part legal drama and part human-interest story, Killer Show offers unprecedented access and shocking detail as it lays bare the entire heartbreakingly tragic story of the Station nightclub fire. ”—Firehouse Magazine
“Much like an episode of Law & Order, this book is part action, part consequence. Written by attorney Barylick, who investigated and prosecuted the resultant wrongful-death and personal-injury cases, the first two-thirds of the story describe, in exhaustive detail, the events that culminated in a deadly 2003 fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island, during a Great White concert. The fire is described repeatedly from multiple perspectives -- and although survivors experienced the fire for scant minutes, readers will experience it for hours. The last third of the book explains the challenges that victims and their families faced in court as they sought justice as well as compensation. This search for answers is carefully researched and sprinkled with the kind of sarcasm and irreverence for the defendants one imagines stems from a deep dislike on the author's part. Gina Russo's From the Ashes retells the story from a survivor's perspective. VERDICT This jury finds Barylick guilty of crafting a precise account that will appeal to readers interested in accident reconstruction, forensics, product liability, tort law, disaster prevention, and the application of rationality to chaos.”—Library Journal
“In its concern with the cultural and surprisingly close-knit social organization of the local community this work is more than a summary of the experience. Killer Show is truly exceptional, reminding readers how risks are accumulated over time by multiple social actors pursuing their own individual pecuniary interests, how tentative and elusive the chain of causation was that made their behaviors eventually produce the disaster, and how those who paid the consequence were innocent bystanders to a tragic, risk-magnifying process.”—The Historian
“We already know the story. . . . Flip through John Barylick’s new book, Killer Show: The Station Nightclub Fire, America’s Deadliest Rock Concert, though, and you’re reminded how much you don’t know. . . . Barylick knows these facts, and he dispenses them with an attorney’s persuasive precision.”—Providence Phoenix
“A gripping story of the deadly steps that resulted in one of the most catastrophic fires of our generation. Trial lawyer Barylick writes as though he was with the victims on their perilous journey. . . . More authentically suspenseful than a Grisham novel.”—Ralph Nader
“Killer Show is as good an anatomy of this type of crime as you’re going to find. Barylick’s research and scholarship are of the highest order, and true crime fans will not be disappointed. Riveting and dramatic. Highly recommended.”—Vincent Bugliosi, author of Helter Skelter and Divinity of Doubt
“John Barylick has bravely waded through the ashes of The Station nightclub fire to meticulously chronicle the folly and greed that led to the horror. There are times you have to stop reading—the story of the fatal fire is that horrifying, infuriating, heroic and heartbreaking. Then you keep going, in awe of the survivors who have persevered and also with the hope that a heartfelt, thoroughly researched account like this will help prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.”—Dick Lehr, author of Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI and a Devil’s Deal
“Killer Show is a painstakingly researched account of the Rhode Island nightclub fire, and all the more horrifying in its completeness.”—Stewart O’Nan, author of The Circus Fire and The Odds
“The deadly recipe for catastrophic fires is so simple: unsafe construction, overcrowding, inadequate exits. Yet for some reason, humans can’t seem to learn to stop making this fatal brew. By documenting the negligence that led to the deadly Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island, Killer Show once again teaches that lesson. Read it and learn.”—David Von Drehle, author of Triangle: The Fire That Changed America
For seven years JOHN BARYLICK was a lead attorney investigating and prosecuting wrongful-death and personal-injury cases arising from The Station fire. He has practiced law in Rhode Island since 1977.