Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Book Review: Dead Wake

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Erik Larson

I spotted at least one review that described Dead Wake as a novel. It's not; it's thoroughly researched and well-supported non-fiction. Nonetheless, it reads very much like a thriller. In fact, I kept thinking of Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal. As in the novel, there are two parallel plotlines counting down to zero hour, where they meet. And, also as in the novel, knowing how it comes out does nothing to spoil the suspense.

The other thing I kept thinking, more soberingly, was: "9/11". Not for the specific events, but for the psychological impact.

This isn't an academic book. Larson doesn't have a thesis to propound, or an axe to grind, or a startling new revelation. What he has--and he himself says as much--is a terrific story, with tremendous pacing and a (mostly) solid handle on a large cast of characters ... and it's all true.

The obvious non-fiction parallel to Dead Wake is Walter Lord's A Night to Remember, about the Titanic. That's a great book, to be sure, but since I've mentioned Walter Lord I can't help giving a plug to his Incredible Victory--the one book that did the most to turn me into a history reader.

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