Lethal Passage: The Story of a Gun

( 14 )

Overview

This devastating book begins with an account of a crime that is by now almost commonplace: on December 16, 1988, sixteen-year-old Nicholas Elliot walked into his Virginia high school with a Cobray M-11/9 and several hundred rounds of ammunition tucked in his backpack. By day's end, he had killed one teacher and severely wounded another.

In Lethal Passage Erik Larson shows us how a disturbed teenager was able to buy a weapon advertised as "the gun that made the eighties roar." In...

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Overview

This devastating book begins with an account of a crime that is by now almost commonplace: on December 16, 1988, sixteen-year-old Nicholas Elliot walked into his Virginia high school with a Cobray M-11/9 and several hundred rounds of ammunition tucked in his backpack. By day's end, he had killed one teacher and severely wounded another.

In Lethal Passage Erik Larson shows us how a disturbed teenager was able to buy a weapon advertised as "the gun that made the eighties roar." In so doing, he not only illuminates America's gun culture — its manufacturers, dealers, buffs, and propagandists — but also offers concrete solutions to our national epidemic of death by firearm. The result is a book that can — and should — save lives, and that has already become an essential text in the gun-control debate.

In this compelling book, centered around a devastating act of violence perpetrated by a 16-years-old boy with a machine gun, Larson not only illuminates America's gun culture — its manufacturers, dealers, buffs, and propagandists — but offers concrete solutions to our national epidemic of death by firearms.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Larson takes us past the absurd myths, past the numbing statistics, and into the face of reality.... Journalism at its highest."

— Los Angeles Times Book Review

"An artful slice of the story of what may be the greatest shame we as a nation have tried... to hide from ourselves.... Fascinating." — Chicago Sun-Times

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Wall Street Journal reporter Larson has written a new afterword to this timely study of American gun culture.
Library Journal
In this work, Larson interweaves the story of a boy and his gun (a 16-year-old who kills one teacher and wounds another with a member of the infamous MAC-10 family) with a study of the causes and effects of our gun-happy society. He admits that he has no problem with using handguns for sport or even as a last line of self-defense. But he goes on to propose a model bill calling for sweeping changes in laws governing the distribution, sale, and design of firearms. It's a pity that, by producing a reasonably balanced account of an incendiary subject, Larson will probably alienate both the pro- and antigun camps, and his bill, as he acknowledges, ``doesn't have a chance in hell of being passed.'' Highly recommended nonetheless. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/93.-- Jim Burns, Ottumwa, Ia.
Newsday
Should be required reading.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679759270
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/1995
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 226,645
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 8.03 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Erik Larson
Erik Larson has an uncanny ability to find riveting stories lurking in rarely-explored corners of American history. From the devastating hurricane he recounted in Isaac’s Storm to the exploits of a monstrous serial killer in Devil in the White City, Erik Larson is proving that a book doesn’t have to be fictional to be wildly entertaining.

Biography

Often times, truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Take the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, Illinois. The fair was the groundbreaking birthplace of such things as neon lights and the Ferris Wheel; a wonderland of futuristic technology and architecture. It was also the playground of a demented murderer who set up his very own chamber of torture within striking distance of the fair. This bizarre dichotomy of creation and destruction is what enticed Erik Larson to tell the twisted tale of the 1893 World's Fair in his fascinating fourth book Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America.

Journalist Larson's work displays a fascination with the ways various forms of violence affect every day life. His second book Lethal Passage: The Story of a Gun is an exploration of gun culture throughout American history, using a horrendous incident involving a machine-gun toting 16-year old as its uniting thread. His next book, the griping, critically acclaimed Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History, detailed one of the worst natural disasters in American history, a hurricane that hit Galveston Texas in 1900 leaving between 6,000 and 10,000 people dead. However, when Larson first encountered the story of Dr. Henry H. Holmes, he was reluctant to use it as the basis for one of his books. "I started doing some research, and I came across the serial killer in this book, Dr. H. H. Holmes," he told Powell's.com. "I immediately dismissed him because he was so over-the-top bad, so luridly outrageous. I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to do a slasher book. It crossed the line into murder-porn. So I kept looking, and I became interested in a different murder that actually had a hurricane connection, where I of course got distracted by the hurricane and wrote Isaac's Storm."

When Larson completed Isaac's Storm and began researching ideas for his next book, he began reading about the 1853 World's Fair. Hooked by the numerous colorful characters and amazing occurrences surrounding the fair, Larson decided he would use it as the subject for his fourth book. Still, he had little interest in telling a straight chronological play-by-play of the fair's creation. So, he resolved to revisit the subject that had so repulsed him prior to writing Isaac's Storm.

Dr. Henry H. Holmes was a heinous modern monster. Just west of the fair, he built the mockingly named "World's Fair Hotel" where he would torture his victims by any number of means. The grotesque hotel was equipped with its very own gas chamber, dissection table, and crematorium. As abhorrent as Holmes was, Larson could not resist the jarring juxtaposition of this remorseless killer and the fair.

The resulting book Devil in the White City is both a richly detailed history and a chilling yarn as unbelievable and spellbinding as any work of fiction. The book was both a finalist for the National Book Award and a Number 1 New York Times bestseller. It was garnered nearly universal raves from The New York Times, Publisher's Weekly, Esquire, The Chicago Sun Times, and The San Francisco Chronicle, among many, many others.

Perhaps the most awe-inspiring aspect of Devil in the White City is the fact that the book is an accurate history that also manages to be a riveting page-turner. As Larson says, "I write to be read. I'm quite direct about that. I'm not writing to thrill colleagues or to impress the professors at the University of Iowa; that's not my goal." Larson's goal was to render a fascinating story, and he succeeded admirably with Devil in the White City.

Good To Know

As entertaining as Larson's historical works are, he currently has little interest in expanding into fiction. "The research [involved in nonfiction] appeals to me," he told Powell's.com. "I love looking for pieces of things in far-flung archives -- but the beauty is that the complexity of the characters is there. You don't have to make it up."

As thoroughly detailed and well-researched as Larson's books are, it is hard to believe that he does not employ an assistant. Every detail in his books was gleaned by the author, himself.

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

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2012

    Political agenda

    I put this one up to read an account where a guy used his gun to kill an intruder in his home.

    4 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 10, 2013

    Excellent analysis but dated facts

    I found this to be a compelling, thoughtful reframing of the politically overheated gun control conversation (in fact, it does actually read as if the author is trying to engage in a conversation, backed by knowledge and an awareness of the practical realities, not hyperbole.) However, I do find the success marred by the age of the statistics in the book--it lists a 2011 publication date but most of the statistics and assessments of laws dates from the 90's. I kept wondering how/if things had changed appreciably, especially regarding the information on the regulatory environment for gun dealers and manufacturers. The afterword modestly updated it; a good prologue on the topic might have help me while reading. Still, an excellent read on a difficult topic--ignore other reviewers who denounce it as propaganda

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    propganda

    propganda

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2013

    Ayo

    Wasup da snipa here

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2013

    Fabuless

    Never put a gun to your head. People who do that is so dum. Taking your one life , how is that going to help you. You have people who love you to much to see you die. It makes alot of sence

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2013

    Read this review

    I dont know why people whant to kill them selves i get it if u have a bad back round or are geting bullyed but u can over come that u dont have to kill urself if u are hopeless u can tun to god and tell people whats happining it saved me

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2013

    Bad

    Dont even bother reading it

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2011

    :)

    This book is very inspiring, and not for one second did i stop reading ------- i suggest EVERYBODY to download this book

    0 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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