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Erik Larson biography

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Erik Larson
Photo: Mary Cairns

Erik Larson

Erik Larson Biography

Erik Larson is the author of eight books, five of which became New York Times bestsellers. His book, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, hit no. 1 on the list soon after launch. His saga of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, The Devil in the White City, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and won an Edgar Award for fact-crime writing; it lingered on various Times bestseller lists for the better part of a decade. Hulu plans to adapt the book for a limited TV series, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese as executive producers. Erik's In the Garden of Beasts, about how America's first ambassador to Nazi Germany and his daughter experienced the rising terror of Hitler's rule, has been optioned by Tom Hanks for development as a feature film.

Erik's first book of narrative nonfiction, Isaac's Storm, about the giant hurricane that destroyed Galveston, Texas, in 1900, won the American Meteorology Society's prestigious Louis J. Battan Author's Award. The Washington Post called it the "Jaws of hurricane yarns." Erik is particularly pleased to have won the Chicago Public Library Foundation's 2016 Carl Sandburg Literary Award for Non-Fiction.

He 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, Erik became a staff writer for the Wall Street Journal, and later a contributing writer for Time magazine. His magazine stories have appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, and other publications.

He has taught non-fiction writing at San Francisco State, the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, the University of Oregon, and the Chuckanut Writers Conference in Bellingham, Wash., and has spoken to audiences from coast to coast. A former resident of Seattle, he now lives in Manhattan with his wife, a neonatologist, who is also the author of the nonfiction memoir, Almost Home, which, as Erik puts it, "could make a stone cry." They have three daughters in far-flung locations and professions. Their beloved dog Molly resides in an urn on a shelf overlooking Central Park, where they like to think she now spends most of her time.

Erik Larson's website

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Interview

Erik Larson talks about Dead Wake, his non-fiction account of the 1915 sinking of the Lusitania.

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 thriller—things 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 disaster—May 7, 2015—was 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 title of your book?

"Dead wake" is a maritime term for the ...

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Books by this Author

Books by Erik Larson at BookBrowse
The Splendid and the Vile jacket Dead Wake jacket In the Garden of Beasts jacket Thunderstruck jacket
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