Nearly a year ago, in July 2012, I described Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America as “a masterly word-picture that tells an incredible story that just happens to be true.”
Today, I can enthusiastically say the same of Larson’s Thunderstruck, which tells two fascinating stories that unfolded and became inextricably linked in the early part of the 20th century: Guglielmo Marconi’s unrelenting determination to corner the global wireless-telegraphy market, and Hawley Harvey Crippen’s nearly successful attempt to conceal a murder as brutal as any that Londoners had seen since those committed two decades earlier by Jack the Ripper.
What I admire about Larson is the incredible amount of detail he provides about these characters and their circumstances, which in turn reveals the amount of research he did, mostly by examining archival collections and reading previously published historical accounts. What I appreciate even more is how he organizes and presents all that information, which in many respects is the craft of storytelling.
Larson is a magnificent narrator who offers his readers a wealth of historical context and, occasionally, a bit of subtle, wry humor — just enough to remind us that while we’re learning a great deal from his writing, we’re reading it, presumably, for pleasure.
To me, Larson’s books (at least the two that I’ve read to date) are as entertaining as they are fascinating. I’ve found myself recommending them often and will continue to do so (as I am here).
I encourage you to learn more about Erik Larson and his work at eriklarsonbooks.com.
— David Brensilver