Imagine, if you will, being the first American ambassador to Hitler’s Germany. You arrive with your family in Berlin, initially enchanted with all the pomp surrounding the handsome young officers, only to slowly discover the horrors that are occurring under your nose and being largely ignored by the rest of the world.
In reading Erik Larson’s latest book, “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Berlin,” you won’t have to imagine this scenario. Larson, the master of narrative nonfiction, chronicles the experiences of William Dodd, the real-life ambassador, who in 1933 found himself in just that situation.
Reading more like a novel than historical nonfiction, “In the Garden of Beasts” takes us along as the Dodds discover exactly what the Reich’s agenda entails. We are able to get a glimpse into the minds of Goebbels, Göring, and others in the Nazi elite, as he depicts the rise of Hitler’s regime.
Widely acclaimed for his previous efforts, including “The Devil in the White City,” Larson has also been a staff writer for the Wall Street Journal, and a contributing writer for Time magazine.
Now, his travels will bring him to Newport Beach, as he readies himself to speak at the Newport Beach Public Library as part of the “Library Live” series.
Larson will appear at the Central Library on Thursday, Sept. 13, from 7-8:30 p.m. Tickets for the event are free, however donations will be accepted at the door, with a suggested donation amount of $10. Reservations are highly recommended, as seating is limited to 200 attendees.
At the event, Larson will both sign books and speak about his body of work. His other works include:
- “Isaac’s Storm,” which tells the story of a hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast of Texas in 1900, killing over 10,000, and the titular weatherman – Isaac Cline, who believed no storm could seriously damage the area.
- “The Devil in the White City” is a No. 1 New York Times bestseller telling the story of the architect who directed construction of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and the serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims. The architect, Daniel Burnham, guided the building of a vast fantasyland, illuminated by tens of thousands of Edison’s new electric lights and dominated by the giant wheel of the French engineer Ferris. The killer, Dr. H. H. Holmes, built a macabre lair to do his killing, complete with an acid vat, dissection table, and crematorium.
- “Thunderstruck” is the tale of how the lives of Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the wireless, and Hawley Harvey Crippen, a notorious British murderer, intersected during one of the most gripping criminal chases of all time. We not only get to follow along on the trans-Atlantic chase, we also get to meet one of the pioneers of modern forensic science.
Larson has also penned two books with a more journalistic slant.
- In “The Naked Consumer,” he explores just how far companies will go to “spy” on consumers and follow their purchasing trends.
- “Lethal Passage” sets out to discover where the guns come from that end up in the hands of the street criminals who use them to wage urban warfare. The book follows one gun in particular, as it lands in the hands of a Virginia schoolboy, who used it to kill his teacher, and how a malfunction in the gun kept this incident from turning into a gruesome mass-murder.
As a by-product of conducting research to write these books, Larson has become a well-traveled individual, with many unique experiences from which to draw his world-view. This has made him not only a skilled writer, but a singularly engaging speaker as well, and I urge you not to let this opportunity to soak up his wisdom pass you by.
For more information on the event, visit nbplfoundation.org. For more information on Erik Larson, please visit www.eriklarsonbooks.com.