Erik Larson is the author of four New York Times bestsellers, including In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, which hit #1 and remained on the printed list for 35 weeks. It was published in Britain, France, Italy, Poland, Australia and a number of other countries. Movie rights were optioned by Universal Studios and Tom Hanks' Playtone. Erik's book The Devil in the White City remained on the Times' hardcover and paperback lists for a combined total of over three years. It won an Edgar Award for nonfiction crime writing and was a finalist for a National Book Award; the option to make a movie of the book was acquired in November 2010 by Leonardo DiCaprio.
Erik's research has taken him to far-flung locales, and down innumerable strange alleys. For his 2006 bestseller, Thunderstruck, Erik traveled to London, Munich, Rome, Nova Scotia, and Cape Cod, as he sought to chronicle the strange intersection in the careers of Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of wireless, and Hawley Harvey Crippen, England's second most-famous murderer (after Jack the Ripper). To broaden his understanding of Marconi and his roots, Erik studied Italian; he achieved an elementary grasp of the language while developing an advanced appreciation for Italian red wines.
Erik also wrote Isaac's Storm, published in September 1999. In addition to becoming an immediate Times bestseller, the book won the American Meteorology Society's prestigious Louis J. Battan Author's Award. The Washington Post called it the "'Jaws' of hurricane yarns."
Erik graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied Russian history, language and culture. He received a masters in journalism from Columbia University. After a brief stint at the Bucks County Courier Times, Larson became a staff writer for The Wall Street Journal, and later a contributing writer for Time Magazine. He has written articles for The Atlantic, Harper's, The New Yorker, and other publications.
Larson lives in Seattle with his wife and three daughters. Numerous beloved rodents are buried in his back yard.
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A Conversation with Erik Larson about Dead Wake
You often write about fascinating events in history that most of us have never before heard of, but much is already known about the Lusitania. What made you decide to write about its last crossing?
The Lusitania, like the Titanic, is just such a compelling story, and I felt I could do it in a way that no one else had. I was drawn by the prospect of using the vast fund of archival materials available on the subject to produce a real-life maritime thrillerthings like code books, intercepted telegrams, even some extremely passionate love letters between Woodrow Wilson and the woman he fell in love with after his first wife had died. It became for me an exploration of the potential for generating suspense in a work of nonfiction. Plus, I knew the one hundredth anniversary of the disasterMay 7, 2015was just over the horizon. Further, I'd wager that just about everything that people know or think they know about the Lusitania is just flat-out wrong. Certainly that was the case with me. The sheer wrenching drama of the event pretty much took my breath away.
What does the phrase "dead wake" mean, and why is it particularly appropriate as the ...
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