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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

'Tasty' history from a gifted writer


“I'm very perverse. If someone tells me I have to read a book, I'm instantly disinclined to do so.” Erik Larson

I first encountered Larson’s page-turning works when I read The Devil in the White City, winner of the 2004 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime.  Written about the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and a series of murders there at that same time, the book is gripping  -  one of many in that category by this gifted author.

Born on this date in 1954, Larson started writing as a journalist after being inspired by the award-winning movie All the President's Men, adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning book about Watergate.  And while he’s been a feature writer for major publications like The Wall Street Journal (where he was nominated for a Pulitzer for his own investigative reporting) and Time, where he is a contributing writer, he started far more humbly.

His first newspaper job was with The Bucks County Courier Times in Levittown, PA, where he wrote about murder, witches, environmental poisons, and other "equally pleasant" things.  But like his books, his stories were hard to ignore and attracted larger publications and audiences.  Today, his works regularly appear in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's and Time.

As for his books, he’s had winner after winner.  In the Garden of Beasts (based on the diaries of the mid-1930s U.S. Ambassador to Nazi Germany), and Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania are “must reads” for all who enjoy what I like to call “very tasty history.”    
A musician, too, Larson said his writing is “sort of” inspired by music.         
“I don't listen to music when I write, but I do turn on appropriate music when I read portions of my manuscripts back to myself - kind of like adding a soundtrack to help shape mood.”


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