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One of Chicago Tribune’s Best Books of the Year So Far • “A bravura performance by one of America’s greatest storytellers.”—NPR
“Churchill’s lessons of resilience and his style of steady-handed leadership are essential to the state of mind of American readers.”—Vanity Fair
On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally—and willing to fight to the end.
In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports—some released only recently—Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela’s illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the advisers in Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” to whom he turns in the hardest moments.
The Splendid and the Vile takes readers out of today’s political dysfunction and back to a time of true leadership, when, in the face of unrelenting horror, Churchill’s eloquence, courage, and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together.
That August, a strange, prolonged heat wave gripped the nation and killed scores of people in New York and Chicago. Odd things seemed to happen everywhere: A plague of crickets engulfed Waco. The Bering Glacier began to shrink. Rain fell on Galveston with greater intensity than anyone could remember. Far away, in Africa, immense thunderstorms blossomed over the city of Dakar, and great currents of wind converged. A wave of atmospheric turbulence slipped from the coast of western Africa. Most such waves faded quickly. This one did not.
In Cuba, America's overconfidence was made all too obvious by the Weather Bureau's obsession with controlling hurricane forecasts, even though Cuba's indigenous weathermen had pioneered hurricane science. As the bureau's forecasters assured the nation that all was calm in the Caribbean, Cuba's own weathermen fretted about ominous signs in the sky. A curious stillness gripped Antigua. Only a few unlucky sea captains discovered that the storm had achieved an intensity no man alive had ever experienced.
In Galveston, reassured by Cline's belief that no hurricane could seriously damage the city, there was celebration. Children played in the rising water. Hundreds of people gathered at the beach to marvel at the fantastically tall waves and gorgeous pink sky, until the surf began ripping the city's beloved beachfront apart. Within the next few hours Galveston would endure a hurricane that to this day remains the nation's deadliest natural disaster. In Galveston alone at least 6,000 people, possibly as many as 10,000, would lose their lives, a number far greater than the combined death toll of the Johnstown Flood and 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.
And Isaac Cline would experience his own unbearable loss.
Meticulously researched and vividly written, Isaac's Storm is based on Cline's own letters, telegrams, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the hows and whys of great storms. Ultimately, however, it is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets nature's last great uncontrollable force. As such, Isaac's Storm carries a warning for our time.
Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium.
Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.
The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. Erik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.
To find out more about this book, go to http://www.DevilInTheWhiteCity.com.
Erik Larson, New York Times bestselling author of Devil in the White City, delivers a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power.
The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Nazi Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.
A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.
Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming--yet wholly sinister--Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.
A true story of love, murder, and the end of the world’s “great hush.”
In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the interwoven stories of two men—Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication—whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.
Set in Edwardian London and on the stormy coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Thunderstruck evokes the dynamism of those years when great shipping companies competed to build the biggest, fastest ocean liners; scientific advances dazzled the public with visions of a world transformed; and the rich outdid one another with ostentatious displays of wealth. Against this background, Marconi races against incredible odds and relentless skepticism to perfect his invention: the wireless, a prime catalyst for the emergence of the world we know today. Meanwhile, Crippen, “the kindest of men,” nearly commits the perfect murder.
With his unparalleled narrative skills, Erik Larson guides us through a relentlessly suspenseful chase over the waters of the North Atlantic. Along the way, he tells of a sad and tragic love affair that was described on the front pages of newspapers around the world, a chief inspector who found himself strangely sympathetic to the killer and his lover, and a driven and compelling inventor who transformed the way we communicate.
From the bestselling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania
On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack.
Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.
It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love.
Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.
In Lethal Passage Erik Larson shows us how a disturbed teenager was able to buy a weapon advertised as "the gun that made the eighties roar." The result is a book that can -- and should -- save lives, and that has already become an essential text in the gun-control debate.
With a new afterword.
"Touches on all aspects of the gun issue in this country. Gives great voice to that feeling...that something real must be done." --San Diego Union-Tribune
"One of the most readable anti-gun treatises in years." --Washington Post Book World
Something is amiss at the Hotel Angeline, a rickety former mortuary perched atop Capitol Hill in rain-soaked Seattle. Fourteen-year-old Alexis Austin is fixing the plumbing, the tea, and all the problems of the world, it seems, in her landlady mother’s absence. The quirky tenants—a hilarious mix of misfits and rabble-rousers from days gone by—rely on Alexis all the more when they discover a plot to sell the Hotel. Can Alexis save their home? Find her real father? Deal with her surrogate dad’s dicey past? Find true love? Perhaps only their feisty pet crow, Habib, truly knows. Provoking interesting questions about the creative process, this novel is by turns funny, scary, witty, suspenseful, beautiful, thrilling, and unexpected.
Em 1º de maio de 1915, com a I Guerra Mundial chegando a seu décimo mês, um luxuoso transatlântico, decorado como um palacete inglês, saiu de Nova York com destino a Liverpool, levando um número recorde de bebês e crianças. Era surpreendente que os passageiros estivessem tão tranquilos, já que os mares ao redor da Inglaterra tinham sido declarados zona de guerra pela Alemanha e havia meses os U-boats alemães levavam terror ao Atlântico Norte. Mas o Lusitania era um dos maiores navios “galgos”, e seu capitão, William Thomas Turner, acreditava piamente no cavalheirismo de guerra que por um século evitara que navios civis fossem atacados.
No caminho para Liverpool, porém, uma série de forças, algumas imensas e outras dolorosamente pequenas — arrogância, segredos, um nevoeiro —, convergiu na rota do Lusitania e de um submarino alemão, culminando em uma das maiores tragédias da história.
Esse episódio é contado de forma impressionante por Erik Larson numa narrativa cheia de glamour e suspense, que revive momentos de figuras célebres da época, como a arquiteta pioneira Theodate Pope e o presidente dos Estados Unidos Woodrow Wilson. O leitor é convidado a visitar os quartos compartilhados da segunda classe e a Sala 40, um misterioso departamento do Almirantado inglês, percorrendo fragmentos que capturam o drama e a carga emocional de um acidente cujo significado mais profundo foi obscurecido pelo tempo.
“O relato de Larson do naufrágio do Lusitania é o mais lúcido e cheio de suspense já escrito.”The Washington Post
Ma c’è un’altra città, oscura e demoniaca, che si è andata costruendo parallelamente nel ventre del paese; una città tirata su da un unico uomo nel silenzio dello scantinato del suo albergo, cadavere su cadavere, omicidio dopo omicidio. Per tutta la durata dell’Esposizione, Henry Howard Holmes, «l’assassino più folle e depravato dell’Ottocento», ha infatti continuato a uccidere: il suo hotel, «il Castello», da cui sono passati nei mesi della fiera centinaia di turisti, è un intricato dedalo di stanze e corridoi che nascondono scannatoi, camere di tortura e forni crematori.
Un capolavoro di perversione, sorretto unicamente dal fascino di un uomo che, con la sua avvenenza e i suoi modi calmi e diretti, è riuscito a ingannare un’intera comunità: dai numerosissimi creditori alle giovani donne che continuavano a venire da lui cercando lavoro, per poi scomparire per sempre.
Con la stessa prosa esatta e potente de Il giardino delle bestie, Erik Larson ricostruisce la storia di queste due città – la città della speranza e quella della morte – e dei due uomini che le hanno erette. Il diavolo e la città bianca è l’affresco di un momento storico elettrizzante in cui, a pochi passi da Buffalo Bill e Thomas Edison, si aggiravano le illusioni e gli incubi di un’America ingenua e inconsapevole.
«Quando una storia vera può fare piú paura della finzione».
The New York Times
«Un libro avvincente, che cattura tutto lo spirito di un’America in corsa verso la modernità».
Independent on Sunday
«Il diavolo e la città bianca sprizza cosí tanta vitalità che si ha paura che possa prendere vita tra le nostre mani».
Yorkshire Evening Post
Sessantaquattro anni, snello, gli occhi grigio-azzurri e i capelli castano chiaro, nel 1933 William E. Dodd è un rispettabile professore di storia all’università di Chicago, con una certa notorietà per i suoi scritti sul Sud degli Stati Uniti e la sua biografia di Woodrow Wilson.
Fervente democratico jeffersoniano, a suo agio soltanto negli ambienti frugali della sua piccola fattoria di campagna, Dodd ha una moglie, Mattie, e due figli: William Jr – Bill – e Martha, la prediletta. Ventiquattro anni, i capelli biondi, gli occhi azzurri e un sorriso radioso, Martha ha un’immaginazione venata di romanticismo e un atteggiamento cosí civettuolo, da avere già acceso la passione in molti uomini.
La vita di questa famiglia americana, a detta di tutti felice e unita, muta radicalmente nel giugno del 1933. Mentre siede alla sua scrivania all’università, Dodd riceve una telefonata da Franklin Delano Roosvelt, il presidente degli Stati Uniti, che gli annuncia la sua intenzione di nominarlo a capo della rappresentanza diplomatica americana a Berlino.
Dodd è tutto fuorché il candidato modello per un simile incarico. Non è ricco, non è politicamente influente e non appartiene nemmeno alla cerchia degli amici di Roosvelt. Certo, ha conseguito un dottorato a Lipsia e conosce il tedesco, ma nulla piú.
Tuttavia, per Roosvelt è un ambasciatore perfetto per un paese che, tra la crisi economica dilagante e un altro rovinoso anno di siccità, rappresenta per l’America soltanto una seccatura: la seccatura di un miliardo e duecentomila dollari, debito che Berlino ha contratto con gli Stati Uniti, e che Hitler si mostra sempre meno propenso a voler saldare.
Ed è cosí che, al loro arrivo, William e Martha Dodd si ritrovano ad attraversare una città addobbata di immensi stendardi rossi, bianchi e neri; a sedere negli stessi caffè all’aperto frequentati dalle SS in uniforme nera; a passare davanti a case con balconi traboccanti di gerani rossi; a fare acquisti nei giganteschi empori della città, a organizzare tè, aspirare le fragranze primaverili del Tiergarten, il parco principale di Berlino; ad avere rapporti sociali con Goebbels e Göring, in compagnia dei quali cenare, danzare e divertirsi allegramente; finché, alla fine del 1934, accade un evento che smaschera la vera natura di Hitler e del potere a Berlino, la grande e nobile città che agli occhi di padre e figlia si svela per la prima volta come un immenso Tiergarten, un giardino delle bestie.