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From the Publisher




The Splendid and the Vile The Devil in the White City In the Garden of Beasts Thunderstruck Isaacs’s Storm Lethal Passage
An intimate chronicle of Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz—an inspiring portrait of courage and leadership in a time of unprecedented crisis. The true tale of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and the cunning serial killer who used the magic and majesty of the fair to lure his victims to their death. A dazzling account and cautionary tale set during the years before WWII. A true story weaving two men’s lives together with love, murder, invention, and the end of the world’s “great hush.” The true story of the deadliest hurricane in history. This devastating book illuminates America's gun culture – and tells the story of how a disturbed teenager was able to buy a weapon advertised as "the gun that made the eighties roar."

Description

Product Description

#1 New York Times Bestseller

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.

Review

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
LibraryReads Top Ten Book of 2015
Library Journal Top Ten Book of 2015
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."
—NPR

"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 Jawsthe 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."
Entertainment Weekly

"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."
—USA Today

"[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.” 
Washington Times

"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."
Columbus Dispatch

"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."
Newsday

"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."
People

"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."
—Foreign Policy

"Larson turns this familiar tale into a finely written elegy on the contingency of war."
—Maclean''s Magazine

“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.”
—Salon

"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."
—Flavorwire

“[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."
Buffalo News

"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."
—Publishers Weekly

"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."
—Library Journal

"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."
Florida Times-Union

"...the tension mounts page by page and the reading of Dead Wake becomes a very cinematic experience."
 —Summit Daily

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.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

A WORD FROM THE CAPTAIN

On the night of May 6, 1915, as his ship approached the coast of Ireland, Capt. William Thomas Turner left the bridge and made his way to the first-class lounge, where passengers were taking part in a concert and talent show, a customary feature of Cunard crossings. The room was large and warm, paneled in mahogany and carpeted in green and yellow, with two fourteen-foot-tall fireplaces in the front and rear walls. Ordinarily Turner avoided events of this kind aboard ship, because he disliked the social obligations of captaincy, but tonight was no ordinary night, and he had news to convey.

There was already a good deal of tension in the room, despite the singing and piano playing and clumsy magic tricks, and this became more pronounced when Turner stepped forward at intermission. His presence had the perverse effect of affirming everything the passengers had been fearing since their departure from New York, in the way that a priest’s arrival tends to undermine the cheery smile of a nurse.

It was Turner’s intention, however, to provide reassurance. His looks helped. With the physique of a bank safe, he was the embodiment of quiet strength. He had blue eyes and a kind and gentle smile, and his graying hair—he was fifty-eight years old—conveyed wisdom and experience, as did the mere fact of his being a Cunard captain. In accord with Cunard’s practice of rotating captains from ship to ship, this was his third stint as the Lusitania’s master, his first in wartime.

Turner now told his audience that the next day, Friday, May 7, the ship would enter waters off the southern coast of Ireland that were part of a “zone of war” designated by Germany. This in itself was anything but news. On the morning of the ship’s departure from New York, a notice had appeared on the shipping pages of New York’s newspapers. Placed by the German Embassy in Washington, it reminded readers of the existence of the war zone and cautioned that “vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or of any of her allies, are liable to destruction” and that travelers sailing on such ships “do so at their own risk.” Though the warning did not name a particular vessel, it was widely interpreted as being aimed at Turner’s ship, the Lusitania, and indeed in at least one prominent newspaper, the New York World, it was positioned adjacent to Cunard’s own advertisement for the ship. Ever since, about all the passengers had been doing was “thinking, dreaming, sleeping, and eating submarines,” according to Oliver Bernard, a theater-set designer traveling in first class.

Turner now revealed to the audience that earlier in the evening the ship had received a warning by wireless of fresh submarine activity off the Irish coast. He assured the audience there was no need for alarm.

Coming from another man, this might have sounded like a baseless palliative, but Turner believed it. He was skeptical of the threat posed by German submarines, especially when it came to his ship, one of the great transatlantic “greyhounds,” so named for the speeds they could achieve. His superiors at Cunard shared his skepticism. The company’s New York manager issued an official response to the German warning. “The truth is that the Lusitania is the safest boat on the sea. She is too fast for any submarine. No German war vessel can get her or near her.” Turner’s personal experience affirmed this: on two previous occasions, while captain of a different ship, he had encountered what he believed were submarines and had successfully eluded them by ordering full speed ahead.

He said nothing about these incidents to his audience. Now he offered a different sort of reassurance: upon entering the war zone the next day, the ship would be securely in the care of the Royal Navy.

He bade the audience good night and returned to the bridge. The talent show continued. A few passengers slept fully clothed in the dining room, for fear of being trapped below decks in their cabins if an attack were to occur. One especially anxious traveler, a Greek carpet merchant, put on a life jacket and climbed into a lifeboat to spend the night. Another passenger, a New York businessman named Isaac Lehmann, took a certain comfort from the revolver that he carried with him always and that would, all too soon, bring him a measure of fame, and infamy.
With all but a few lights extinguished and all shades pulled and curtains drawn, the great liner slid forward through the sea, at times in fog, at times under a lacework of stars. But even in darkness, in moonlight and mist, the ship stood out. At one o’clock in the morning, Friday, May 7, the officers of a New York–bound vessel spotted the Lusitania and recognized it immediately as it passed some two miles off. “You could see the shape of the four funnels,” said the captain, Thomas M. Taylor; “she was the only ship with four funnels.”

Unmistakable and invulnerable, a floating village in steel, the Lusitania glided by in the night as a giant black shadow cast upon the sea.

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4.6 out of 54.6 out of 5
9,638 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Douglas Ferguson
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
in other ways we cling stubbornly to outmoded beliefs which ultimately do us great harm. Read this to know more about the ...
Reviewed in the United States on May 25, 2015
Retelling a story that has been told many times already is either foolish (what’s new?) or courageous (see what’s new!). Larson successfully manages to bring a fresh perspective to a tale that I felt I knew. Dead Wake- The Last Crossing of the Lusitania is a... See more
Retelling a story that has been told many times already is either foolish (what’s new?) or courageous (see what’s new!). Larson successfully manages to bring a fresh perspective to a tale that I felt I knew.

Dead Wake- The Last Crossing of the Lusitania is a surprisingly well crafted re-telling of a known event. Despite knowing the outcome - the loss of nearly 1,200 souls at the hands of a German U-boat in the spring of 1917 - Larson keeps pulling the reader along. He does so by adopting many perspectives - those of passengers on the cruise ship, crew members on the U-boat, Woodrow Wilson in the White House to name just a few - with just the right amount of telling detail to bring the reader into the moment. Reading Dead Wake is a tutorial in early twentieth century naval architecture, morality, social manners and political history.

Larson shows how the sinking of the Lusitania was, for many, a “Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back”. Taken in isolation, this was a tragedy. Indeed, the captains of the Lusitania and the U-Boat, Cunard executives, Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill and Kaiser Wilhelm made assumptions about each other’s behaviors and interests which proved to be tragically wrong. Put in the context of the beginning of World War I, the sinking altered the course of history by dragging the United States into the conflict.

In other ways, the event was a classical tipping point. One era - the world of Victorian manners and gentlemanly wars - ended and another - the era of global modern warfare and the emergence of American leadership - began. Never again would it be safe to assume a bright line between civilian (commercial) and political (military interests).

Hanging over the Lusitania disaster is a sense of avoidable inevitability. If any one of many points along the voyage - slowing down to pick up mail, changing course to get bearings, information not transmitted from British intelligence - had gone differently the Lusitania would not have had a rendezvous with its tragic destiny. It would have steamed calmly into port. However, they didn’t go the other way and history as we now know it unfolded.

We now live in a world where we try to take lessons from this eminently avoidable disaster. Technology dependence? The Lusitania was too fast and too big to be sunk. False assumptions about the enemy? The Germans miscalculated British and American reactions. Changing social mores? The British put civilians in harms way for military purposes. For that alone, Larson’s use of history to illuminate the past to help in the present is invaluable. We had our own Lusitania disaster with 9/11. What will the next one be?

As with ether books by Eirk Larson (In the Garden of the Beasts and the Devil in the White City) the reader learns not just about the event, but about the era in which the event took place. We are nearly a century beyond the values of Victorian England and adolescent America. In some ways we have made progress, in other ways we cling stubbornly to outmoded beliefs which ultimately do us great harm.

Read this to know more about the past and to be better prepared for the future.
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WILLIAM H FULLER
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Unexpected Casualties -- Or Perthaps Not So Unexpected?
Reviewed in the United States on July 16, 2019
“Please don''t tell me that we''re going to be subjected to this kind of inept writing,” I thought, when, on page 7, I encountered “the ship was booked to . . . carry nearly 2,000 people, or ''souls'' . . . .” My suspicion deepened two pages on when I ran across a reference to... See more
“Please don''t tell me that we''re going to be subjected to this kind of inept writing,” I thought, when, on page 7, I encountered “the ship was booked to . . . carry nearly 2,000 people, or ''souls'' . . . .” My suspicion deepened two pages on when I ran across a reference to the captain''s holding “the record for a ''round'' voyage, meaning round-trip, . . .” I fervently hoped that I was not going to be subjected to parenthetical comments every few pages giving unwanted and unneeded synonyms for perfectly comprehensible words in the text, thereby utterly destroying the flow of the narrative. Thankfully, this distracting technique rapidly disappeared, a third example appearing only much later when the author felt compelled to insult his readers again by lecturing us that the forecastle of a ship often appears spelled as “fo''c''sle.” Other than these three insults to readers'' intelligence, I can levy no criticism against Dead Wake:: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, for it is an outstanding history and is otherwise written in a compelling and engaging style.

By introducing us to the captain and several passengers in the initial chapters, Larson enables us readers to become rather intimate with them and to see them as fellow beings with abilities, shortcomings, worries, loves and eccentricities. They represent the nearly 2,000 people aboard the fated ship and through them we come to care what befalls these doomed souls. We also come to view events through other eyes, those of the commander of Unterseeboot zwanzig, U-20, the submarine that launches the fatal torpedo.

Dead Wake also reaches beyond the Lusitania into the British Admiralty, and we learn something of the personalities and actions of a few significant government officials. We learn of Room 40, a precursor of Bletchley Park, the secret code-breaking operation of the government. Back in the still-isolationist United States, we see President Woodrow Wilson continuing to resist joining the far-off European war even as the bodies of U.S. citizens piled higher as Germany began more and more to disregard flags of neutral countries and to attack all shipping without exception. We wonder to what extent Wilson''s personal grief over the death of his wife and his pursuit of the affections of Edith Bolling Galt distracted him from world affairs.

We are reminded that the sinking of the Lusitania did not precipitate entry of the U.S. into World War I and that, in fact, about two years passed between those two events. An intercepted telegram from the German foreign secretary, Arthur Zimmermann, to the the president of Mexico urged an alliance with Germany and, assuming victory by the Central Powers, offered to give the states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to Mexico. (Publication of that offer in U.S. newspapers was much more the death knell of isolationist sentiment than was the destruction of the Lusitania.)

Dead Wake, in short, is an excellent history of the years leading up to the entry of the U.S. in The Great War, years in which Germany held the upper hand at sea, years in which civilian passengers died in increasing numbers before the term “collateral damage” became common, years in which perhaps—just perhaps—British naval protection of ships such as the Lusitania was intentionally weak so that a disastrous attack, should one occur, might goad the U.S. into fighting alongside Allied forces. We understand why the British Admiralty ordered the recall of the only fast ship that had begun to sail to the rescue of survivors floundering in the frigid ocean. Erik Larson regales us with the known facts and suggests the possibilities in a non-fiction history book that is as captivating as any spy-thriller novel. I cannot envision a reader willingly putting this book down once he or she has once begun it.
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Phil Seifert
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Great Historical Accounting
Reviewed in the United States on May 1, 2017
A very well researched accounting of the attack and sinking. Larson does a good job debunking some of the myths that had arisen over the years, many of which I had heard before as updated evidence came out. This is the first book I''ve read on the Lusitania in quite a... See more
A very well researched accounting of the attack and sinking. Larson does a good job debunking some of the myths that had arisen over the years, many of which I had heard before as updated evidence came out. This is the first book I''ve read on the Lusitania in quite a while, but was aware of many of the basic facts. Larson does an excellent job in tracking the movements of both the Lusitania and U-20 from the time they left their respective ports until they met off the old head of Kinsale, to give the reader a feeling of each ship''s journey. In particular, the decisions made by both Captains Turner and Schweiger that day in terms of courses and speed of each vessel that resulted in a perfect shot setup for Schweiger. Also covered are passenger stories of some aboard, wartime events that resulted in allowing passenger ships to be targeted, apparent apathy of the Wilson White House on the goings on of the war to that point and why, and aftermath of the sinking on both Captains and the war mentality. Overall, a highly informative and interesting book.
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Cathryn Conroy
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
This Is the Best Kind of Nonfiction Book: A Fact-Filled Page-Turner
Reviewed in the United States on July 21, 2019
Crescendo. That is the best word to describe this book. From page one, the story slowly builds to a crescendo that is searing, heartbreaking, tragic, and absolutely frustrating—because at so many points along the way, the sinking of the famed passenger ship... See more
Crescendo. That is the best word to describe this book.

From page one, the story slowly builds to a crescendo that is searing, heartbreaking, tragic, and absolutely frustrating—because at so many points along the way, the sinking of the famed passenger ship Lusitania by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915 eleven miles off the southern coast of Ireland could have been prevented.

Even though we all know the ending, author Eric Larson is a masterful storyteller using a novelist''s favorite tool in this nonfiction tome: Each chapter tells the tale from a different point of view, including the Lusitania''s Captain William Thomas Turner, various passengers on ship who are both famous and ordinary, the German U-boat''s Captain Walther Schwieger and his crew, the cipher decoders in Britain''s top secret Room 40, and President Woodrow Wilson, who was grief-stricken over the death of his wife but soon fell in love (as in head over heels) with another woman. In addition to the specific story of the sinking of the Lusitania, the book is a fascinating treasure trove of early 20th century culture, fashion, and mores as World War I was ramping up.

Bonus: The findings—both immediately after the sinking and decades later—of why this tragedy happened are truly shocking.

Because of Larson''s prodigious research and ability to weave a good story, readers are treated to the best kind of nonfiction book: a fact-filled page-turner.
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Sci-fi Mom
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Dead Boring
Reviewed in the United States on June 9, 2020
I don’t like to leave negative reviews. Someone else could find this fascinating and I didn’t check, but I bet there are thousands of 5 star reviews. Mr Larson did what he does best. He researched and wove facts into a narrative. So I don’t think he did anything wrong.... See more
I don’t like to leave negative reviews. Someone else could find this fascinating and I didn’t check, but I bet there are thousands of 5 star reviews.
Mr Larson did what he does best. He researched and wove facts into a narrative. So I don’t think he did anything wrong. For me, I was bored with the story. It dragged until we FINALLY got the impact. I read the book because I wanted his take on theories that the ship was carrying munitions. He says no and I believe him. If anyone could have uncovered that secret, it would be Erik Larson . I was not surprised AT ALL of the conspiracy to move the US into the war. I totally believe that the British Government did that.
So I don’t want to trash the book. I was bored by it, but this is typical Erik Larson quality.
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Craig Wood
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The final crossing of the Lusitania
Reviewed in the United States on November 19, 2019
"Dead Wake" provides an excellent telling of the May 1915 trans-Atlantic crossing of the Lusitania. On the final full day of that voyage, the ship was sunk by a torpedo fired from a German submarine off the coast of Ireland. More than 1,200 people died in the... See more
"Dead Wake" provides an excellent telling of the May 1915 trans-Atlantic crossing of the Lusitania. On the final full day of that voyage, the ship was sunk by a torpedo fired from a German submarine off the coast of Ireland. More than 1,200 people died in the disaster.

Larsen provides many interesting facts about the ship itself, its captain, crew, and passengers, as well as the political situation in the US and Europe in early 1915. It''s really a gripping narrative, told with suspense and flair. A significant chunk of the book is dedicated to the sinking itself -- the 18 minutes that elapsed from when the ocean liner was struck by the torpedo until it sunk below the surface of the sea. But events that played out in the US, the UK, and Germany also have a prominent place in the book.

Although I appreciated learning about Woodrow Wilson and the tug-of-war between pacifists and warmongers in the US, I could have done without all of the time spent on his personal relationship with his paramour, Edith Galt, who would end up marrying Wilson later in 1915. As background material it was interesting enough, but the book seemed too heavily skewed to telling the nitty-gritty of this relationship, at the expense of other events that Wilson experienced during this time.

There''s a ton of material available online about the Lusitania, and many other books written about the tragedy. "Dead Wake" will probably pique your interest on the subject, encouraging you to learn more about this seminal event in 20th century history.
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Kindle Customer
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Not the usual Eric Larson quality
Reviewed in the United States on April 26, 2018
Normally, I love Eric Larson books, but this one fell completely short. I had to force myself to finish it. Overly detailed descriptions about things that were not pertinent to the story. After the first description of the obstacles / challenges to operating a Uboat, I... See more
Normally, I love Eric Larson books, but this one fell completely short. I had to force myself to finish it. Overly detailed descriptions about things that were not pertinent to the story. After the first description of the obstacles / challenges to operating a Uboat, I got it. Understand it was a terrific feat, but he goes on and on and on about it every time he jumps back to the uboat operation. It was just as bad as a Tom Clancy novel when he describes every curve, function, aspect of a gun in his books. Anyway, if you like this type of writing, you will probably enjoy the book; me, I thought about stabbing my eyes out just so I wouldn''t have to keep going.
10 people found this helpful
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Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Acceptable but Choppy
Reviewed in the United States on August 31, 2017
I''m a big Erik Larson fan, having read Thunderstruck and Devil in the White City. I haven''t finished this book, and I''ll edit my review when I have, but so far the editing is driving me crazy--too many unnecessary (and sometimes incorrect) commas and too many... See more
I''m a big Erik Larson fan, having read Thunderstruck and Devil in the White City.

I haven''t finished this book, and I''ll edit my review when I have, but so far the editing is driving me crazy--too many unnecessary (and sometimes incorrect) commas and too many series connected with conjunctions when commas would suffice. In summary, the book''s content is stellar but it reads choppy and disconnected. I find myself rereading sentences frequently (mostly to determine what was done wrong and how I would fix it). For example, the following three examples come from the first pages of the book (numbered to match the photos):

1. So is Bernard a designer who is a member of the theater set, or a set designer for theater productions? My guess is the latter (not really a guess--I checked it), in which case the hyphen in "theater-set" is technically wrong.
2. Comma not needed between "occasions" and "while." While more a style decision than a usage problem, the style becomes annoying when it recurs with frequency.
3. The appositive, telling the reader that "souls" equals "people," is unnecessary for readers with even a rudimentary grasp of English. So it makes the writing clunkier and wordier for no good reason.

It may sound as if I don''t like the book, but I actually like the content quite a lot. My issues are more about readability and editing.

But perhaps by the end, those problems won''t bother me so much. Stay tuned.
20 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

lullaboo
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great read but painful
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 14, 2018
Deeply moving. Tension builds up as submarine and Lusitania head for the Irish Sea killing area. Life onboard the U-boat and the Lusitania described wonderfully. The sinking of the vessel is made more tragic as we have come to know the passengers. Painful for me as my...See more
Deeply moving. Tension builds up as submarine and Lusitania head for the Irish Sea killing area. Life onboard the U-boat and the Lusitania described wonderfully. The sinking of the vessel is made more tragic as we have come to know the passengers. Painful for me as my grandfather torpedoed in these waters. Had a chance to leave ship before his ship destroyed by U-boat forward gun. He lived on fruit floating in water for nine days before being rescued. But frostbite (loss of fingers and toes) killed him. Highly recommended book but all Erik Larson books a recommended read
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Len Knight
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Compelling Read on the Great Lusitania Disaster
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 21, 2019
This must be one of the best accounts of a great sea disaster that if not immediately, eventually added to the weights in the balance that affected the course of WWI and world history. The book has some of the suspense of a thriller but is a well-researched history and has...See more
This must be one of the best accounts of a great sea disaster that if not immediately, eventually added to the weights in the balance that affected the course of WWI and world history. The book has some of the suspense of a thriller but is a well-researched history and has the added fascination of detailed stories of fragments of the lives of many of the survivors (as well as of some who didn’t) including some of the main protagonists such as the captain himself. All the various threads are carefully woven together in such a way as to present a narrative of a much written-about event that will take lifetimes to excel.
2 people found this helpful
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R Helen
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Fascinating!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 10, 2015
Erik Larson is one of my favorite writers and this book is just as pleasing as his others. He is a great writer and like his other books, "Dead Wake" traces the journeys of the two main characters as they slowly come head to head. Every other chapter tracks the...See more
Erik Larson is one of my favorite writers and this book is just as pleasing as his others. He is a great writer and like his other books, "Dead Wake" traces the journeys of the two main characters as they slowly come head to head. Every other chapter tracks the movements of the Lusitania or its eventual nemesis the German submarine U20, until they finally meet up in one chapter with disastrous results. The build up is quite exciting and also, of course, quite sad. It is so hard not to want to scream at the ship and yell, "Go the other way!" The tragedy of the Lusitania is that it could so easily have been avoided. It seems that it is quite possible there was some sort of conspiracy behind its demise, although Larson never comes out and says that fully. I do find surprising, however, that, although Larson tells us about life on the Lusitania through many of its passengers, he focuses only on first and second class ones. He doesn''t speak at all about anyone in third class. And even amongst the first and second class, he gives us glimpses of only a few. I think it would have added so much if he had included even more personal stories, giving us an even richer and deeper understanding of the people involved and the lives lost on that day. Some of the most famous ones he virtually ignores. Also, so many of the passengers were just children. I would have like to know more about them. The human side of this story is so compelling. All in all, though, it is quite a good read. Definitely worth buying and it won''t take you long to go through it.
3 people found this helpful
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Changeling
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
It''s a bit like watching a disaster movie
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 24, 2018
Gripping stuff! Larson has clearly done an awful lot of research. He takes us from the quayside in Manhattan where passengers are complacently boarding Cunard''s flagship, many blithely unaware that the German Embassy has posted a warning to merchant shipping in that...See more
Gripping stuff! Larson has clearly done an awful lot of research. He takes us from the quayside in Manhattan where passengers are complacently boarding Cunard''s flagship, many blithely unaware that the German Embassy has posted a warning to merchant shipping in that morning''s papers and misguided in the belief that the Royal Navy will protect her, to the White House, where Woodrow Wilson is determined to stay out of the war in Europe and, frankly, is more interested in the potential second Mrs Wilson, to Machiavellian goings on in the Admiralty in London, to the evil of the German Empire. We all know what happened to the Lusitania. But that doesn''t make the story - and Larson''s account - any less edge-of-seat. The subject and the author certainly stirs the passions! It''s a bit like watching a disaster movie, where one knows what happens, but still can''t help willing that the end will somehow be different. And there''s an incredulity to it, as well. Surely Kaiser Bill and his cronies knew that by sinking a ship with so many US citizens on board would encourage the States to enter the war (though it wasn''t quick in doing so, even then)? The commander of U-20 patrols the waters around the British Isles sinking any unfortunate vessel that came into his sights, regardless of the neutrality of many. The German Empire seemed to be hellbent on the destruction of anything and everything (arguably, even itself). There''s a lot of controversy surrounding the sinking of the Lusitania, obviously. How could the Germans be so cruel and heartless to sink a merchant ship with nearly two-thousand innocent civilians on board? Larson reels of the figures: ''Of the Lusitania''s 1,959 passengers and crew, only 764 survived; the total of deaths was 1,195. The three German stowaways brought the total to 1,198. Of 33 infants aboard, only 6 survived. Over 600 passengers were never found. Among the dead were 123 Americans.'' But was the British Admiralty culpable? Why didn''t navy ships escort the Lusitania through the war zone? Why did one torpedo sink a ship as big as her (although the authorities persisted in claiming it was two)? Why did it only take eighteen minutes for the liner to sink? And why had the King previously asked if America would enter the war if the Lusitania was lost? In other words, was the Lusitania sacrificed to provoke the US to join the Allies? Larson''s account is compelling and stirs a lot of passions. That the U-boat crew celebrated the sinking and the German people were jubilant disgusts me. His wife later claimed that the U-boat commander was a broken man after he realised what he has done, but his later actions bely that. I am against the death penalty, but I was pleased when I read that his later command was sunk and he was lost. Equally, I am disgusted that the Admirality may have sacrificed the Lusitania and those on board for the war effort. Of course, it''s all conjecture and unlikely that we will ever know the truth, but the conspiracy theories will continue. And the ''what ifs'' are equally maddening: What if the Lusitania''s departure from New York hadn''t been delayed? What if she hadn''t stopped for two hours to pick up passengers from another ship commandeered by the Admiralty? What if she had been travelling at full speed, rather than slower to save coal? What if the fog hadn''t lifted? Indeed, the Lusitania''s sister ship, Mauretania, narrowly avoided a U-boat attack herself. So much was down to chance. In other words, a ripping yarn.
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Bobbie Cole
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Author Knew His Stuff
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 22, 2019
I loved the detail and I loved the analysis of this book. Narrative non-fiction is a genre that I really enjoy because it feels like a story but is using only evidence - nothing is invented. The author certainly had done his homework. Sometimes, such deep research can lead...See more
I loved the detail and I loved the analysis of this book. Narrative non-fiction is a genre that I really enjoy because it feels like a story but is using only evidence - nothing is invented. The author certainly had done his homework. Sometimes, such deep research can lead to a book being turgid but there was none of that here.
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An intimate chronicle of Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz—an inspiring portrait of courage and leadership in a time of unprecedented crisis. The true tale of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and the cunning serial killer who used the magic and majesty of the fair to lure his victims to their death. A dazzling account and cautionary tale set during the years before WWII. A true story weaving two men’s lives together with love, murder, invention, and the end of the world’s “great hush.” The true story of the deadliest hurricane in history. This devastating book illuminates America's gun culture – and tells the story of how a disturbed teenager was able to buy a weapon advertised as "the gun that made the eighties roar."

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Product Description

#1 New York Times Bestseller

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.

Review

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
LibraryReads Top Ten Book of 2015
Library Journal Top Ten Book of 2015
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."
—NPR

"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 Jawsthe 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."
Entertainment Weekly

"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."
—USA Today

"[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.” 
Washington Times

"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."
Columbus Dispatch

"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."
Newsday

"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."
People

"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."
—Foreign Policy

"Larson turns this familiar tale into a finely written elegy on the contingency of war."
—Maclean''s Magazine

“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.”
—Salon

"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."
—Flavorwire

“[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."
Buffalo News

"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."
—Publishers Weekly

"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."
—Library Journal

"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."
Florida Times-Union

"...the tension mounts page by page and the reading of Dead Wake becomes a very cinematic experience."
 —Summit Daily

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.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

A WORD FROM THE CAPTAIN

On the night of May 6, 1915, as his ship approached the coast of Ireland, Capt. William Thomas Turner left the bridge and made his way to the first-class lounge, where passengers were taking part in a concert and talent show, a customary feature of Cunard crossings. The room was large and warm, paneled in mahogany and carpeted in green and yellow, with two fourteen-foot-tall fireplaces in the front and rear walls. Ordinarily Turner avoided events of this kind aboard ship, because he disliked the social obligations of captaincy, but tonight was no ordinary night, and he had news to convey.

There was already a good deal of tension in the room, despite the singing and piano playing and clumsy magic tricks, and this became more pronounced when Turner stepped forward at intermission. His presence had the perverse effect of affirming everything the passengers had been fearing since their departure from New York, in the way that a priest’s arrival tends to undermine the cheery smile of a nurse.

It was Turner’s intention, however, to provide reassurance. His looks helped. With the physique of a bank safe, he was the embodiment of quiet strength. He had blue eyes and a kind and gentle smile, and his graying hair—he was fifty-eight years old—conveyed wisdom and experience, as did the mere fact of his being a Cunard captain. In accord with Cunard’s practice of rotating captains from ship to ship, this was his third stint as the Lusitania’s master, his first in wartime.

Turner now told his audience that the next day, Friday, May 7, the ship would enter waters off the southern coast of Ireland that were part of a “zone of war” designated by Germany. This in itself was anything but news. On the morning of the ship’s departure from New York, a notice had appeared on the shipping pages of New York’s newspapers. Placed by the German Embassy in Washington, it reminded readers of the existence of the war zone and cautioned that “vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or of any of her allies, are liable to destruction” and that travelers sailing on such ships “do so at their own risk.” Though the warning did not name a particular vessel, it was widely interpreted as being aimed at Turner’s ship, the Lusitania, and indeed in at least one prominent newspaper, the New York World, it was positioned adjacent to Cunard’s own advertisement for the ship. Ever since, about all the passengers had been doing was “thinking, dreaming, sleeping, and eating submarines,” according to Oliver Bernard, a theater-set designer traveling in first class.

Turner now revealed to the audience that earlier in the evening the ship had received a warning by wireless of fresh submarine activity off the Irish coast. He assured the audience there was no need for alarm.

Coming from another man, this might have sounded like a baseless palliative, but Turner believed it. He was skeptical of the threat posed by German submarines, especially when it came to his ship, one of the great transatlantic “greyhounds,” so named for the speeds they could achieve. His superiors at Cunard shared his skepticism. The company’s New York manager issued an official response to the German warning. “The truth is that the Lusitania is the safest boat on the sea. She is too fast for any submarine. No German war vessel can get her or near her.” Turner’s personal experience affirmed this: on two previous occasions, while captain of a different ship, he had encountered what he believed were submarines and had successfully eluded them by ordering full speed ahead.

He said nothing about these incidents to his audience. Now he offered a different sort of reassurance: upon entering the war zone the next day, the ship would be securely in the care of the Royal Navy.

He bade the audience good night and returned to the bridge. The talent show continued. A few passengers slept fully clothed in the dining room, for fear of being trapped below decks in their cabins if an attack were to occur. One especially anxious traveler, a Greek carpet merchant, put on a life jacket and climbed into a lifeboat to spend the night. Another passenger, a New York businessman named Isaac Lehmann, took a certain comfort from the revolver that he carried with him always and that would, all too soon, bring him a measure of fame, and infamy.
With all but a few lights extinguished and all shades pulled and curtains drawn, the great liner slid forward through the sea, at times in fog, at times under a lacework of stars. But even in darkness, in moonlight and mist, the ship stood out. At one o’clock in the morning, Friday, May 7, the officers of a New York–bound vessel spotted the Lusitania and recognized it immediately as it passed some two miles off. “You could see the shape of the four funnels,” said the captain, Thomas M. Taylor; “she was the only ship with four funnels.”

Unmistakable and invulnerable, a floating village in steel, the Lusitania glided by in the night as a giant black shadow cast upon the sea.

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