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Course Hero, "The Devil in the White City Study Guide," May 17, 2017, accessed September 26, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Devil-in-the-White-City/.

Erik Larson | Biography

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Erik Larson was born on January 3, 1954, in Brooklyn, New York. He studied Russian history and culture at the University of Pennsylvania and then got a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. After graduation he worked as a journalist and then published his first book, The Naked Consumer: How Our Private Lives Become Public Commodities (1992), an early exploration of how companies mine information on consumers to sell products. His next book, Lethal Passage: The Story of a Gun (1994), attempted to shed light on the problem of gun violence by tracing the history of the handgun used by teenager Nicholas Elliot in 1988 to kill one teacher and wound another.

After reading Caleb Carr's The Alienist, a best-selling historical fiction work about an 1890s serial killer, Larson was inspired to write narrative nonfiction about famous murders, embedding them in historical periods. His first account in this vein was Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History (1999), in which the murder of William Rice Marsh, founder of Rice University in Houston, Texas, intersects with a famous hurricane. His subsequent books follow this pattern, combining one or more murders and a major historical event.

Larson became aware of the serial killer H.H. Holmes when he researched Isaac's Storm. He tells Holmes's story in The Devil in the White City (2003), which merges the stories of the architects behind the Chicago World's Fair and the serial killer who operated in the fair's shadows. The book was a national best seller. It received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for best "fact crime" and was a National Book Award finalist. He followed it withThunderstruck (2006), which interweaves the stories of murderer Hawley Crippen and wireless inventor Guglielmo Marconi in Edwardian London; In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin (2011), which views Hitler's reign of terror through the eyes of American ambassador William E. Dodd and his family; and Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania (2015), in which a luxury liner and a German U-boat head toward a deadly meeting.

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