Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania Hardcover – Mar 10 2015
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Finalist for the Washington State Book Award — History/General Non-fiction
A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book of 2015
A St. Louis Post-Dispatch Best Book of 2015
A Miami Herald Favorite Book of 2015
BookTrib's Best Narrative Nonfiction Book of 2015
#1 History & Biography Book in the 2015 Goodreads Choice Awards
A LibraryReads Top Ten Book of 2015
A Library Journal Top Ten Book of 2015
A Kirkus Best Book of 2015
An Indigo Best Book of 2015
"Larson is one of the modern masters of popular narrative nonfiction...a resourceful reporter and a subtle stylist who understands the tricky art of Edward Scissorhands-ing narrative strands into a pleasing story...An entertaining book about a great subject, and it will do much to make this seismic event resonate for new generations of readers."
—The New York Times Book Review
"Larson is an old hand at treating nonfiction like high drama...He knows how to pick details that have maximum soapy potential and then churn them down until they foam [and] has an eye for haunting, unexploited detail."
—The New York Times
"In his gripping new examination of the last days of what was then the fastest cruise ship in the world, Larson brings the past stingingly alive...He draws upon telegrams, war logs, love letters, and survivor depositions to provide the intriguing details, things I didn't know I wanted to know...Thrilling, dramatic and powerful."
"Larson is a journalist who writes non-fiction books that read like novels, real page-turners. This one is no exception. I had known a lot about the Titanic but little about the Lusitania. This filled in those gaps... this one is pretty damned good. Thoroughly engrossing."
—George R.R. Martin
"This enthralling and richly detailed account demonstrates that there was far more going on beneath the surface than is generally known...Larson's account [of the Lusitania's sinking] is the most lucid and suspenseful yet written, and he finds genuine emotional power in the unlucky confluences of forces, 'large and achingly small,' that set the stage for the ship's agonizing final moments."
—The Washington Post
"Utterly engrossing...Expertly ratcheting up the tension...Larson puts us on board with these people; it's page-turning history, breathing with life."
—The Seattle Times
"Larson has a gift for transforming historical re-creations into popular recreations, and Dead Wake is no exception...[He] provides first-rate suspense, a remarkable achievement given that we already know how this is going to turn out...The tension, in the reader's easy chair, is unbearable..."
—The Boston Globe
"Both terrifying and enthralling. As the two vessels stumble upon each other, the story almost takes on the narrative pulse of Jaws—the sinking was impossible and inevitable at the same time. At no point do you root for the shark, but Larson's incredible detail pulls you under and never lets you go."
"Erik Larson [has] made a career out of turning history into best sellers that read as urgently as thrillers...A meticulous master of non-fiction suspense."
"[Larson] vividly captures the disaster and the ship's microcosm, in which the second class seems more appealing than the first."
—The New Yorker
"[Larson is] a superb storyteller and a relentless research hound..."
—Lev Grossman, TIME
“[Larson] proves his mettle again as a weaver of tales of naïveté, calumny and intrigue. He engagingly sketches life aboard the liner and amply describes the powers’ political situations… The panorama Mr. Larson surveys is impressive, as is the breadth of his research and the length of his bibliography. He can’t miss engaging readers with the curious cast of characters, this ship of fools, and his accounting of the sinking itself and the survivors’ ordeals are the stuff of nightmares.”
"Readers looking for a swift, emotionally engaging account of one of history's great sea disasters will find Dead Wake grimly exhilarating. Larson is an exceptionally skilled storyteller, and his tick-tock narrative, which cuts between the Lusitania, U-20 and the political powers behind them, is pitch-perfect."
—The Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Larson so brilliantly elucidates [the Lusitania's fate] in Dead Wake, his detailed forensic and utterly engrossing account of the Lusitania's last voyage...Yes, we know how the story of the Lusitania ends, but there's still plenty of white-knuckle tension. In Dead Wake, he delivers such a marvelously thorough investigation of the ship's last week that it practically begs Hollywood blockbuster treatment."
—The Toronto Globe & Mail
"Larson's nimble, exquisitely researched tale puts you dead center...Larson deftly pulls off the near-magical feat of taking a foregone conclusion and conjuring a tale that's suspenseful, moving and altogether riveting."
—Dallas Morning News
"With each revelation from Britain and America, with each tense, claustrophobic scene aboard U-20, the German sub that torpedoed the ship, with each vignette from the Lusitania, Larson's well-paced narrative ratchets the suspense. His eye for the ironic detail keen, his sense of this time period perceptive, Larson spins a sweeping tale that gives the Lusitania its due attention. His book may well send Leonardo DiCaprio chasing its film rights."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"An expertly crafted tale of individual and corporate hubris, governmental intrigue and cover-up, highlighting a stunning series of conincidences and miscalculations that ultimately placed the Lusitania in the direct path of the catastrophic strike...[Larson's] pacing is impeccable."
—The Miami Herald
"[Larson] has a gift for finding the small, personal details that bring history to life...His depiction of the sinking of the ship, and the horrific 18 minutes between the time it was hit and the time it disappeared, is masterly, moving between strange, touching details."
"In the hands of a lesser craftsman, the fascinating story of the last crossing of the Lusitania might risk being bogged down by dull character portraits, painstaking technical analyses of submarine tactics or the minutiae of WWI-era global politics. Not so with Erik Larson...Larson wrestles these disparate narratives into a unified, coherent story and so creates a riveting account of the Lusitania's ending and the beginnings of the U.S.'s involvement in the war."
—Pittsburgh Post Gazette
"In your mind, the sinking of the luxury liner Lusitania may be filed in a cubbyhole...After reading Erik Larson's impressive reconstruction of the Lusitania's demise, you're going to need a much bigger cubbyhole...Larson's book is a work of carefully sourced nonfiction, not a novelization, but it has a narrative sweep and miniseries pacing that make it highly entertaining as well as informative."
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Larson breathes life into narrative history like few writers working today."
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Now the tragic footnote to a global conflagration, the history of the [Lusitania's] final voyage... is worthy of the pathos and narrative artistry Erik Larson brings to Dead Wake...Reader's of Larson's previous nonfiction page turners...will not be disappointed. He's an excellent scene setter and diligent researcher who tells the story with finesse and suspense."
"The story of the Lusitania's sinking by a German U-boat has been told before, but Larson's version features new details and the gripping immediacy he's famous for."
"We can't wait for the James Cameron version of Erik Larson's Dead Wake."
—New York Magazine
"Larson...long ago mastered the art of finding overlooked and faded curiosities and converting them into page-turning popular histories. Here, again, he manages the same trick."
—Christian Science Monitor
"Fans of Erik Larson's narrative nonfiction have trusted that whatever tale he chooses to tell, they'll find it compelling. Dead Wake proves them right...History at its harrowing best."
—New York Daily News
"A quickly paced, imminently readable exploration of an old story you may only half-know."
—Arkansas Democratic Gazette
"We all know how the story ends, but Larson still makes you want to turn the pages, and turn them quickly. What makes the story, is that Larson takes a few main characters--the Lusitania's Captain William Thomas Turner, President Woodrow Wilson, U-boat Captain Walther Schweiger, Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat, architect Theodate Pope, and a few minor ones--and weaves them together towards the inevitable and tragic conclusion. Larson has done his research. The number of details and anecdotes that he has managed to cobble together are fascinating in themselves."
"Larson turns this familiar tale into a finely written elegy on the contingency of war."
“Larson is a master storyteller and quickens the pace as target and attackers hurtle toward their inevitable, deadly rendezvous. The suspense builds because readers care about his fully-formed characters, and it’s not always clear who will live and who will die.”
"Because Larson has such a sense of story, when he gets to the tragedy itself, the book hums along in vivid form. You feel, viscerally, what it's like to be on a sinking ship, and the weight of life lost that day. The fact that this is coming through a page-turner history book, where all the figures and details reveal an impeccable eye and thorough research, is just one of the odd pleasures of Larson's writing."
“[Larson] thrillingly chronicles the liner’s last voyage... He draws upon a wealth of sources for his subject – telegrams, wireless messages, survivor depositions, secret intelligence ledgers, a submarine captain’s war log, love letters, admiralty and university archives, even morgue photos of Lusitania victims… Filled with revealing political, military and social information, Larson’s engrossing Dead Wake is, at its heart, a benediction for the 1,198 souls lost at sea.”
—Tampa Bay Times
"Larson, an authority on nonfiction accounts, expounds on our primary education, putting faces to the disaster and crafting an intimate portrait in Dead Wake. A lover of history will get so close to the story...that it is hard not to feel as if you are on board with new friends..."
—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"In a well-paced narrative, Larson reveals the forces large and small, natural and man-made, coincidental and intentional, that propelled the Lusitania to its fatal rendezvous...Larson's description of the moments and hours that followed the torpedo's explosive impact is riveting...Dead Wake stands on its own as a gripping recounting of an episode that still has the power to haunt a reader 100 years later."
"Larson, who was once described as "an historian with a novelist's soul," has written a book which combines the absorbing tenor of fiction with the realities of history."
—The Toronto Sun
"[Larson] shows that narrative history can let us have it both ways: great drama wedded to rigorous knowledge. The German torpedoing of the great ship 100 years ago was almost as deadly as the Titanic sinking, and far more world-changing. Larson makes it feel as immediate and contingent as the present day."
—NY Mag's Vulture.com
"The bestselling author of The Devil in the White City and Thunderstruck puts his mastery of penning parallel narratives on display as he tells the tale of the sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine, building an ever-growing sense of dread as the two vessels draw closer to their lethal meeting...He goes well beyond what's taught in history classes to offer insights into British intelligence and the dealings that kept the ship from having the military escort so many passengers expected to protect it...By piecing together how politics, economics, technology, and even the weather combined to produce an event that seemed both unlikely and inevitable, he offers a fresh look at a world-shaking disaster."
—The Onion A/V Club
"An intriguing, entirely engrossing investigation into a legendary disaster."
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Factual and personal to a high degree, the narrative reads like a grade-A thriller."
—Booklist, starred review
"[Larson] has always shown a brilliant ability to unearth the telling details of a story and has the narrative chops to bring a historical moment vividly alive. But in his new book, Larson simply outdoes himself...What is most compelling about Dead Wake is that, through astonishing research, Larson gives us a strong sense of the individuals—passengers and crew—aboard the Lusitania, heightening our sense of anxiety as we realize that some of the people we have come to know will go down with the ship. A story full of ironies and 'what-ifs,' Dead Wake is a tour de force of narrative history."
—BookPage, Top Pick
"With a narrative as smooth as the titular passenger liner, Larson delivers a riveting account of one of the most tragic events of WWI...A blunt reminder that war is, at its most basic, a matter of life and death."
"Once again, Larson transforms a complex event into a thrilling human interest story. This suspenseful account will entice readers of military and maritime history along with lovers of popular history."
"Critically acclaimed 'master of narrative nonfiction' Erik Larson has produced a thrilling account of the principals and the times surrounding this tumultuous event in world history...After an intimate look at the passengers, and soon-to-be victims, who board in New York despite the warning of 'unrestricted warfare' from the German embassy, Larson turns up the pace with shorter and shorter chapters alternating between the hunted and the hunter until the actual shot. All in all a significant story. Well told."
"...the tension mounts page by page and the reading of Dead Wake becomes a very cinematic experience."
About the Author
Erik Larson is the author of five national bestsellers, including The Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts, which have collectively sold more than 6.5 million copies. His books have been published in seventeen countries.See all Product Description
From the Publisher
A Conversation with Erik Larson
Q) 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?
A) 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.
Q) You provide a harrowing, moment-by-moment account of the Lusitania’s sinking. What helped you most in terms of your ability to re-create that event in real time?
A) The most valuable tools were depositions and other first-person accounts given soon after the sinking. These provided a rich timeline of events: the peace and good cheer aboard ship as the Irish coast appeared in the distance, the moment of impact, and the truly macabre and disconcerting things that followed, as parents made cruel choices and passengers confronted the decision of whether to jump, get in a lifeboat, or stay aboard. These events, juxtaposed against details about the U-boat’s voyage as revealed in the War Log of its captain, Walther Schwieger, and in secretly intercepted telegrams, helped me create a real-time sense of growing dread and danger.
Q) What was the most surprising or affecting thing you learned in the course of your research?
A) Easily the most moving moment was when I was granted special access by the University of Liverpool to examine a collection of morgue photographs taken soon after the disaster. I was not permitted to photograph or otherwise reproduce the images, for obvious reasons. But the photographs really brought home to me something that tends to get lost in the historiography of the event—that it was first and foremost a deeply tragic event that subjected two thousand men, women, and children to unimaginable horror.
Q) You’ve called DEAD WAKE a maritime Devil in the White City. Why?
A) Because here was this luxurious vessel, a monument to the hubris and invention of the age, making its way through the sea, as another vessel, a German U-boat commanded by a prolific killer of ships and men, entered the same waters. It seemed to touch some of the contrasting themes that arise in Devil—the juxtaposition of good and evil, light and dark, invention and destruction.
Q) Captain William Thomas Turner ends up being blamed for the sinking of the Lusitania, by those who knew better. Why?
A) To me the answer seems pretty clear: The Admiralty had a very important secret to protect. But I don’t want to spoil the fun, so I’ll leave that for readers to discover on their own.
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Top Customer Reviews
If you thought you knew the story of the Lusitania - sunk by a German U-boat, propelling the US into WWII - then prepare to be surprised. There were so many circumstances and events on both sides of the Atlantic that set the stage for such a tragedy that it's sometimes hard to believe. If this were a fictional novel, few would ever buy into the sequence of coincidences, and even fewer would ever believe that officials could be so obtuse and callous in their decisions. If there's such a thing as destiny, then the Lusitania was certainly destined to sink. It's a story that casts an uncomfortable shadow on people like President Wilson and Winston Churchill, and an equally uncomfortable sort of light on the German U-boat commanders. It humanizes everyone, makes you regret the weaknesses and distractions of the 'good' guys, and makes you sympathize (at least a little) with some of the 'bad' guys.
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania is a story that vindicates Captain William Thomas Turner, a man who was excessively demonized and portrayed as an incompetent coward in order to isolate officials from blame, and to protect state secrets. It all comes back to those callous decisions.Read more ›
Interestingly, the narrative gives the reader both sides of the story from the point of view of the Unterseeboot-20 Captain Walther Schwieger and Captain William Thomas Turner of the Lusitania.
It is the personal stories that really make the difference in this narrative. The intimate and personal details of the passengers are haunting.
This is a story that illustrates irrevocably that `little things mean a lot' - how small occurrences come together and an unforeseen sequence of events can bring about earth shattering consequences. In his Notes Mr. Larson sets out the many seemingly inconsequential little details that made all the difference.
My only disappointment is that a story like this demands pictures, since the book had none I was forced to spend an hour looking them up on the Internet. Of special interest is the 6 minute motion picture of the passengers arriving to board the vessel at New York which can be viewed on YouTube.
The mountain of research this book must have taken in order to produce such an exhaustive work is beyond impressive. Kudos Mr. Larson.
Larson weaves a story - in this case we got 4 distinct and wonderful storylines that kept the plot fresh and fastpaced.
The sinking of the Lusitania is heartbreaking - it honestly brought me back to watching the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers - rather than picturing people jumping off the ship into the water or being pulled down - I could picture people jumping from the towers. Heartbreaking and incredible all at the same time.
One of my favourite books of the year. Highly recommended.
Most recent customer reviews
Erik Larson has a way of getting you interested in subjects you normally may pass over. His genius style of intertwined historical story telling is awesome. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Little Lamb
Dead wake: the trail of fading disturbance left by either a ship or a torpedo.
The sinking of the Lusitania is said to have been the spark that got the United States into... Read more
Great and exciting read, with integrated real-life accounts from survivors of the sinking of the Lusitania. Another great book from Erik Larson!Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
loved it. lots of detail, about events and persons. I liked the inclusion of the German u boat and its captain. both sides met in a predicted way. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer