The brilliant and disturbing 100-year history of modern terrorism and car bombs—the ubiquitous weapon of urban mass destruction
On a September day in 1920, an angry Italian anarchist named Mario Buda exploded a horse-drawn wagon filled with dynamite and iron scrap near New York’s Wall Street, killing 40 people. Since Buda’s prototype the car bomb has evolved into a “poor man’s air force,” a generic weapon of mass destruction that now craters cities from Bombay to Oklahoma City.
In this provocative history, Mike Davis traces the its worldwide use and development, in the process exposing the role of state intelligence agencies—particularly those of the United States, Israel, India, and Pakistan—in globalizing urban terrorist techniques. Davis argues that it is the incessant impact of car bombs, rather than the more apocalyptic threats of nuclear or bio-terrorism, that is changing cities and urban lifestyles, as privileged centers of power increasingly surround themselves with “rings of steel” against a weapon that nevertheless seems impossible to defeat.
What People Are Saying
“A brilliant antidote to official history, allowing us to understand how the weak have fought back, ingloriously, against the onslaught of the strong.” John Pilger
“Mike Davis follows the evolution of the car bomb from the Balkans to Palestine, Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Lebanon and, of course, Iraq.” New York Times
“Davis, long-time chronicler of apocalyptic terror, has done it again: he has made me scared … The brilliance of Davis’s story is undeniable.” Times (London)
“Davis creates a fascinating genealogy that raises chilling questions about the future of terrorism.” Atlantic
“Brilliantly terse … Davis writes with icily suppressed fury.” Guardian
“Brilliant … Buda’s Wagon escorts us with a savage sarcasm from the first-known instance of the art … to present-day Gaza and Iraq.” Harper’s
“A short and fascinating history of the car bomb.” London Review of Books
“A serious, disturbing and pessimistic book that resonates with widespread contemporary terrors … An excellent analysis of the arrogant miscalculations, cruelties and sometimes wanton stupidity of various governing elites.” Times Literary Supplement
“Buda’s Wagon is an elegant proof that terrorism, however it is earned out, is ultimately a tactic rather than an ideology." Bookforum
“Riveting, a whirlwind survey of the car bomb’s historical hot spots.” Time Out New York
“Brings home in unsparing terms the bloody past and the even bloodier future of the car bomb.” Pittsburgh Post Gazette
“Davis’ book moves quickly, painting a bone-chilling portrait of just how easy it has become to attain the information needed to build a car bomb and deploy it.” Time Out Chicago
“Products like iPods, brands like Coca-Cola and pop stars like Michael Jackson aren’t the only currency of globalization. As Mike Davis points out in this swift, grimly readable little book, weapons are too.” Houston Chronicle
“Buda’s Wagon reveals a grave and fundamental misperception by the administrators of global policy, who fail to see the car bomb for what it is: a symptom of our own excesses.” American Book Review
“Entrancing.” Denver Post
“Fascinating.” San Diego Union-Tribune
About the Author
A former meatcutter and long-distance truck driver, Mike Davis has taught urban theory at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, was a fellow at the Getty Institute, and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. He is the author of Prisoners of the American Dream and City of Quartz. He was born in Fontana, a suburb of Los Angeles, and now lives in Pasadena.