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Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

4.5 190
by Erik Larson

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#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


#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.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Hampton Sides
Erik Larson is one of the modern masters of popular narrative nonfiction. In book after book, he's proved adept at rescuing weird and wonderful gothic tales from the shadows of history. Larson is both a resourceful reporter and a subtle stylist who understands the tricky art of Edward Scissorhands-ing multiple narrative strands into a pleasing story…Dead Wake…is an entertaining book about a great subject, and it will do much to make this seismic event resonate for new generations of readers.
Publishers Weekly
With a narrative as smooth as the titular passenger liner, Larson (In the Garden of Beasts) delivers a riveting account of one of the most tragic events of WWI. The fact a German U-boat sank the Lusitania off the coast of Ireland in May 1915 is undisputed, so Larson crafts the story as historical suspense by weaving information about the war and the development of submarine technology with an interesting cast of characters. He expertly builds tension up to the final encounter. An unanticipated sequence of events put the Lusitania in the path of Capt. Walther Schwieger’s U-20, and he didn’t hesitate to open fire. The Lusitania’s captain, the capable and accomplished William Thomas Turner, did everything in his power to avert the catastrophe, but fate intervened, taking the lives of 1,195 passengers and crew members, including 123 Americans. Despite the stunning loss of life, President Woodrow Wilson held firm to American neutrality in the war, at least in 1915. Larson convincingly constructs his case for what happened and why, and by the end, we care about the individual passengers we’ve come to know—a blunt reminder that war is, at its most basic, a matter of life and death. Illus. Agent: David Black, David Black Literary Agency. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
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."

"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."

"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."
—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.”

"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."
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

Library Journal
★ 02/01/2015
When veteran captain William Thomas Turner accepted the pinnacle position within Cunard Steamship Company, commander of the RMS Lusitania, he never imagined the danger that lay ahead. Bestselling author Larson (In the Garden of Beasts; The Devil in the White City) traces the liner's final voyage by intertwining narratives of Turner with those of notable passengers such as Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat, trailblazing architect Theodate Pope, and suffragette Margaret Mackworth. Hardest to shake are descriptions of impulsive Captain Schwieger and his disheveled German crewmates torpedoing vessels, reveling in the shrill of explosions; and imposing British spymaster Blinker Hall stealthily monitoring Schwieger's U-20 as it discreetly, or so it thought, hunted targets. Rounding out the primary cast are a trio of political players: an ambitious Kaiser Wilhelm, a disciplined Winston Churchill, and an infatuated (and ergo distracted) Woodrow Wilson. Using archives on both sides of the Atlantic, Larson describes the Lusitania's ominous delayed departure and its distressing reduced speed. He vividly illustrates how these foreboding factors led to terror, tragedy, and ultimately the Great War. VERDICT 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. [See Prepub Alert, 9/8/14.]—Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-11-20
Larson (In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, 2011, etc.) once again demonstrates his expert researching skills and writing abilities, this time shedding light on nagging questions about the sinking of the Lusitania on May 7, 1915."Lucy," as she was fondly known, was one of the "greyhounds," ships that vied for the Blue Riband award for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. A gem of the Cunard fleet, she drew the cream of society, and life aboard was the epitome of Edwardian luxury. The author works with a broad scope, examining the shipping business, wartime policies, the government leaders and even U-boat construction. More fascinating is his explanation of the intricacy of sailing, submerging and maneuvering a U-boat. Gaining position to fire a torpedo that has only a 60 percent chance of exploding belies the number of ships sunk. Throughout the voyage, many omens predicted disaster, especially the publication of a German warning the morning of sailing. The British Admiralty had broken the German codes and could track the whereabouts of submarines, particularly the deadly U-20. They knew that six U-boats left base during the last week of April, and three ships sank in the same channel the week before the Lusitania. The admiralty had decided to open a safer northern channel to merchant shipping but hadn't directed the Lusitania to use it. Larson explores curiosities and a long list of what ifs: If the Lusitania had not been late in sailing, if the fog had persisted longer, if the captain hadn't turned to starboard into the sub's path and if that one torpedo hadn't hit just in the right spot, the Lusitania might have arrived safely. An intriguing, entirely engrossing investigation into a legendary disaster. Compared to Greg King and Penny Wilson's Lusitania (2014), also publishing to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the sinking, Larson's is the superior account.

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Dead Wake

The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

By Erik Larson

Random House LLC

Copyright © 2015 Erik Larson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-307-40886-0



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.


Excerpted from Dead Wake by Erik Larson. Copyright © 2015 Erik Larson. Excerpted by permission of Random House LLC, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet 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.

Brief Biography

Seattle, Washington
Date of Birth:
January 1, 1954
Place of Birth:
Brooklyn, New York
B.A., University of Pennsylvania, 1976; M.S., Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, 1978

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Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 190 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The amount of research Erik Lawson did for this book is obvious in the details . If you like fast paced and edge of your seat non-fiction , this is a must read . Even his footnotes are interesting . I learned more about "The Great War" before the U.S.A. entry than I did in high school . I would recommend this book to anyone , only one small part about an autopsy might be too graphic for younger readers
PJtheEMT4 More than 1 year ago
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania  by Erik Larson is a poignant dramatized story of the sinking of the Lusitania of WW1.  This vivid drama gives not only the historical details of this pivotal event, but the emotional behind the scenes  drama that you will not read in history books.  I was so engrossed in the tory, especially the powerful account of the ship's demise.  Following the stories of multiple  voices gives the reader a unique omnipotent view of the overall picture.  This is especially moving during the account of the ship's sinking.  Going beyond a simple news paper-esque account, the author, Erik Larsen shares the intimate thoughts and emotions of the passengers as they face death.  A young boy with measles is separated from his pregnant mother in the commotion and panic as the ship is sinking.  His last horrific memory of the event is the haunting image of his mother giving birth in the cold see.  The traumatic image haunts him all the remaining days of his life.  Though the words are few, and the image is recounted in a single sentence, the emotional significance is beyond what the modern reader can imagine.  Another young mother traveling alone with her children finds herself torn between saving her infant daughter is the ship's daycare room or her toddler son sleeping alone in the bunk of her cabin. In a panic, she hands her daughter off to a stranger; next time she sees the stranger, he is scrambling onto a lifeboat- alone! The reader can only imagine the mother's grief and pain in those last moments before the ship goes under.  I found myself gripping the book tightly, hanging onto each word, reliving the horrors of those passengers and their last moments.  AT times I was reminded by the cinematic version of the Titanic- the scramble to get to lifeboats and lifejackets, the panic and the separation of families and parents from their children. Larsen is a talented writer that handles the facts as well as drama in this world changing event.  The sinking of the Lusitania- a bit of history that may occupy only a few lines to a few paragraphs in a history book, is retold moment by moment in extraordinary detail, in this 359 page book.  A number of references are included in the end as well as an index for those students and historians that may wish to use this book as a source in a research paper.  This is a must have for any WW1 or history enthusiast. As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Crown publishers for the purpose of writing this review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A truly stunning book!! Erik Larson masterfully braids together the stories of the passengers and crew of the Lusitania, the U boat captain, the British Admiralty, and  U.S. President Wilson in this fascinating book.  This is one of those books that I did not want to put down and zipped through it in record time because it is so well written.  It kept my interest from beginning to end.   I recommend this book highly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Larson is the master of having you experience historical events through the eyes and voices of those who lived through them. In Dead Wake, he rapidly switches from the stories of the passengers on the Lusitania, to that of the captain of the ship, to that of the U-boat captain who sank the ship. Little details help remind the reader that all the participants were real people each with their own individual quirks. As the book progresses, tension mounts (even though one already knows the ultimate outcome). A great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow! One of those can't stop reading, totally neglect your husband and kids until you finish kinda book. Loved every page.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As he has in previous books, Mr. Larson deepens our understanding of an historical event that we may have thought we understood. In this case, he places the sinking of the Lusitania in context, showing both the liner's occupants and the U-Boat's crew, the events that led to the sinking, and the results. (No, the U.S. did NOT enter WWI either solely because of the sinking or immediately thereafter.) This is not historical fiction, but history - and very compelling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Going way beyond the facts of history, Erik Larson enriches this book with personal stories that make you feel as if you are there. This is a fast-moving presentation of the historic event through the eyes of the people who experienced it -- including the U-Boat Captain that launched the torpedo. Couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Larson hits it out of the park. I read this book on a cruise, which made it even more meaningful. Larson is a master at the genre narrative nonfiction. Highly recommended.
Bozemandick More than 1 year ago
Erik Larson is a master story teller. Truth is stranger than fiction, and Dead Wake proves that adage again. Behind the actual story with its unbelievable fatal human errors is a subtle theme of aristocratic arrogance--an "unsinkable ship" sailing into troubled waters, protected by nothing more than huge egos. Knowing the outcome just heightens the suspense till the tragedy becomes all too real. It's hard to put it down, and we wish it had just ended differently.
plumguy More than 1 year ago
The story flows smoothly and deliberately; just like both subject vessels the Lusitania and U-20. The U-boat needs to compensate for the loss of three thousand pounds of mass after launching a torpedo.   Little details such as this float throughout the story like flotsam and jetsam. A great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The level of detail that the author is able to put together from obviously relentless research is completely amazing. I've loved everything since Devil in the White City and believe that he gets better with every publication
SneedUrn More than 1 year ago
Having loved Erik Larson's previous books (ISAAC'S STORM, THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, THUNDERSTRUCK, IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS) I was really looking forward to his recounting of the Lusitania disaster. There are many things to admire-his description of newsreel footage of the final departure is mesmerizing, the way some of the passengers are depicted both alive and dead and life onboard a German U-boat is given to us in a remarkably vivid way, but I never felt that sense of discovery that Larson gave us with his previous books. This felt like we were getting a retell of a story that has been told before with some new information here and there but no feeling afterwards of revelations. Of course, it may be difficult to top books like WHITE CITY or THUNDERSTRUCK, which recounted stories in connection with major events that I had never thought possible, but Larson's writing still pulls you in and this book is never dull-far from it. I just hope with his next book he chooses a subject that I never had heard of or one that I wish would be written about.
TreborMA More than 1 year ago
Erik Larson's "Dead Wake" is another in a long list of really excellent historical books that tell a story as well as document facts. The detail and personal insight expressed by Mr. Larson bring this somewhat misunderstood event into a new understanding. The accuracy based on obvious extensive research, for me, made this book an extremely quick read- it was really tough to put down. As in all the other Erik Larson books I have read, "Dead Wake" takes a long-passed incident and refreshes it with the intensity of a recent news event. The result is a very personal and sad recounting of both the predator and prey involved in one of history's most sinister acts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book and I'm glad I read it! So much of what I learned in high school history class.just wasn't right. How can this be, something is written and then no one checks the facts? I wish this author could write all high school history books because then kids would LOVE it! I'm now very excited to read some of Erik's other books. Thanks for making history engaging and exciting to read!
vikingkim More than 1 year ago
I've read another book on the Lusitania, seen documentaries, and I have met the owner (there is an owner) of the Lusitania wreckage, so I felt I had a pretty good background going in to Dead Wake. I really enjoyed it, and did learn new things! I got the Nook edition, and wonder where all the pictures are? Erik Larson's descriptions are wonderfully vivid, but no pictures to accompany them? Is this just the case in the Nook edition? I found the film he described of the Lusitania leaving NY on You Tube, so that was really exciting. I only give four stars instead of 5 due to lack of photos. They would have really added to my experience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story. Reminds me of Walter Lord's "A Night To Remember" about Titanic sinking. All it lacks is some photos, of the ship, passengers, crew, etc. Maybe also diagrams of the ship so you can picture where things are happening. Biggest disappointment is the author's signature in the signed edition. His signature is horrible, just a loop and a line across the page. Impossible to tell even what letters they are. Why can't people make their signatures even halfway legible? B&N shouldn't bother having authors sign if this is what they do. That was a big reason I ordered the book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While at times the detail seemed a bit technical for me, I found this book to be a solid, engaging look at a tumultuous time in history.
rifleman280 More than 1 year ago
absolutely one of the best books I ever read about accounts that would lead America into world war one Eric Larson combines personal accounts of passengers along with personal accounts of the commanders of the Lusitania and the commander of U 20 the sub that sank the great ship survivors accounts make this a must read for history books if I could give this a 5+ rating I would great great great is all I can say
Anonymous 3 months ago
Anonymous 5 months ago
This is my 3rd book by Mr Larson and he just intertwines multiple view points on the same historic moment with such coolness and flawlessly, I have purchased a couple more books he has authored.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Yet again this writer has taken a story that could be boring and brought it to life. Such a great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An interesting historical perspective
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BeckyMcF More than 1 year ago
Excellent nonfiction reading--like reading a very long newspaper article! This book caught my eye in 2015 when it came out, because of the title and cover. When I read the blurb on the back, I decided it was going to be going to be too depressing for my reading, so I ignored it. A year later, my book club chose it for one of our few nonfiction selections. I am glad that happened, because it was a well-crafted book written by a serious journalist. Even though I knew the dire outcome of the Lusitania, I had trouble stopping my reading. The stories of the boat, the people on the boat, world events, and the u-boat were fascinating. I actually found myself flipping to the notes section in the back to find out where Erik Larson got his information. The 2 maps were well-used by me! I plan on reading another Erik Larson book. Dead Wake is not just the story of a sea disaster. It is a story of the destructiveness and evil of war. World War 1 should have been the War To End All Wars.
Go4Jugular More than 1 year ago
Who would think that a book about a maligned ambassador to pre-WWII Germany and his family would be of interest? History has not treated William Dodd well, and the events of the novel precede the of course fascinating, and so exhaustively documented, drama of the actual war period. Nevertheless, this is another wonderful effort from Erik Larson, who seems to excel at taking seemingly minor events, initially appearing unrelated, and weaving them into a well-told and engaging story. This tale will inform the reader of the evolution of cultural and societal changes in Germany as the leaders of that country moved it, and the world, toward WWII. This book sat on my bookshelf for too long before I ventured to start it; the best thing about the delay being that I've now realized he should be on my buy-as-soon-as-published list, and so next up is his recently released "Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania". Can't wait!