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Thunderstruck by Erik Larson - Excerpt

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson - Excerpt

Ratings:

3.63

(633)
|Views: 79,576|Likes:
A true story of love, murder, and the end of the world’s “great hush”

In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the interwoven stories of two men—Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication—whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.

Set in Edwardian London and on the stormy coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Thunderstruck evokes the dynamism of those years when great shipping companies competed to build the biggest, fastest ocean liners, scientific advances dazzled the public with visions of a world transformed, and the rich outdid one another with ostentatious displays of wealth. Against this background, Marconi races against incredible odds and relentless skepticism to perfect his invention: the wireless, a prime catalyst for the emergence of the world we know today. Meanwhile, Crippen, “the kindest of men,” nearly commits the perfect crime.

With his superb narrative skills, Erik Larson guides these parallel narratives toward a relentlessly suspenseful meeting on the waters of the North Atlantic. Along the way, he tells of a sad and tragic love affair that was described on the front pages of newspapers around the world, a chief inspector who found himself strangely sympathetic to the killer and his lover, and a driven and compelling inventor who transformed the way we communicate. Thunderstruck presents a vibrant portrait of an era of séances, science, and fog, inhabited by inventors, magicians, and Scotland Yard detectives, all presided over by the amiable and fun-loving Edward VII as the world slid inevitably toward the first great war of the twentieth century. Gripping from the first page, and rich with fascinating detail about the time, the people, and the new inventions that connect and divide us, Thunderstruck is splendid narrative history from a master of the form.

To read more about Thunderstruck or Erik Larson please visit Crown Publishing Group at www.crownpublishing.com
A true story of love, murder, and the end of the world’s “great hush”

In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the interwoven stories of two men—Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication—whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.

Set in Edwardian London and on the stormy coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Thunderstruck evokes the dynamism of those years when great shipping companies competed to build the biggest, fastest ocean liners, scientific advances dazzled the public with visions of a world transformed, and the rich outdid one another with ostentatious displays of wealth. Against this background, Marconi races against incredible odds and relentless skepticism to perfect his invention: the wireless, a prime catalyst for the emergence of the world we know today. Meanwhile, Crippen, “the kindest of men,” nearly commits the perfect crime.

With his superb narrative skills, Erik Larson guides these parallel narratives toward a relentlessly suspenseful meeting on the waters of the North Atlantic. Along the way, he tells of a sad and tragic love affair that was described on the front pages of newspapers around the world, a chief inspector who found himself strangely sympathetic to the killer and his lover, and a driven and compelling inventor who transformed the way we communicate. Thunderstruck presents a vibrant portrait of an era of séances, science, and fog, inhabited by inventors, magicians, and Scotland Yard detectives, all presided over by the amiable and fun-loving Edward VII as the world slid inevitably toward the first great war of the twentieth century. Gripping from the first page, and rich with fascinating detail about the time, the people, and the new inventions that connect and divide us, Thunderstruck is splendid narrative history from a master of the form.

To read more about Thunderstruck or Erik Larson please visit Crown Publishing Group at www.crownpublishing.com

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Publish date: Sep 25, 2007
Added to Scribd: May 09, 2011
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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Copyright © 2006 by Erik LarsonAll rights reserved.Published in the United States by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of theCrown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.www.crownpublishing.comThree Rivers Press and the Tugboat design are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.Originally published in hardcover in the United States by Crown Publishers,an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.,New York, in 2006.Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataLarson, ErikThunderstruck /Erik Larson.Includes biographical references and index.1. Crippen, Hawley Harvey, 1862–1910.2. Murderers—England—London—Biography.3. Murder—England—London—Case studies.4. Murder—Investigation—Great Britain—Case Studies.5. Telegraph, Wireless—Marconi system—History.I. Title.HV6248.C75L372006364.152'309421—dc222006011908ISBN: 978-1-4000-8067-0Printed in the United States of America
Design by Leonard Henderson
10987654321First Paperback Edition

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kirstiecat reviewed this
Rated 4/5
I didn't ever read Larson's most famous work, Devil in the White City even though it exploded onto the Chicago literary scene in quite a pronounced way but I guess it was also highly criticized for embellishments. This novel didn't seem nearly as publicized as the former and so I'm not sure if it faced the same amount of criticism. There is a list of references at the back for the information and I would gander to say that if didn't 100% meet the criteria for nonfiction, it was at the very least creative nonfiction for the most part and realistic fiction for the remainder. I could make up a few more genres if given a couple of hours and a bottle of gin but you get the idea, right?


Anyhow, sometimes I really like looking at events of the past from well before I was born because they remind me to be grateful for how much progress has been made with technology and, in some senses liberalism. I mean, really, if I had to read by candlelight, couldn't dye my hair without being considered a harlot, and didn't have radio or awesome Brit tv to watch, what a drag my every day would be! Everyone says life was safer back then, too, but I guess those folks have never heard of Jack the Ripper. But, on the other hand, this was before the atomic bomb....set mainly in England around the turn of the century-early up to mid 1900s, this book really delves into the development of wireless communication from greater and greater distance. Larson speaks of Marconi and his contemporaries-Oliver Lodge, Preece, and Ambrose Fleming. Marconi was getting wireless communication sent across greater and greater distances despite many perils. At the same time, Edison and Tesla were also busy on their own advances but this gets much more into what was happening in England. It also explores some of the overall psyche from apothecaries to the spiritualism that people believed in, thinking they could truly communicate with the dead. There was less science and more superstition with some inventors at this time.

On the other hand, I am always struck by how over the last few centuries we seem just as fearful and racist about foreigners. That comes about a little here..even Marconi, an Italian, is looked at as inferior and subject to mistrust because he's not British. Perhaps Britain and America have more trust with the Italians now but we certainly mistrust many foreigners in a way that doesn't necessarily indicate progress and seems worrisome, especially considering for instance the Arizona situation-though that's quite a digression in my own thoughts obviously.

The text alternates between Marconi and a relationship gone sour between an apothecary Doctor (Crippen) and his wife, a failed opera/vaudeville/variety performer who continually spends their money and makes him her utter fool.


***semi spoiler but I mean hey it's history here***

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this novel is the way Larson pairs the story of Marconi's developments with the capture of the unlikely criminal of Dr. Crippen, tried, found guilty and executed for murder and the way his capture is made possible by Marconi's wireless invention, making it viable to industry as well for seemingly the first time. It really is interesting the way these things come together and allows Scotland Yard to be successful in tracking down Crippen.

A year and a half later, Titanic occurs and, although Marconi is supposed to be on it, he decides to take a different ship. Wireless communication was also used on that one, albeit perhaps a bit too late for so many.
bookworm12_1 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Just as he did in The Devil in the White City, Larson blends the nonfiction story of a murder with the relevant scientific or cultural events happening at the time. When Belle Elmore mysteriously moves to America and then passes away, her friends and family members are more than suspicious. Her husband, Hawley Herbert Crippen, becomes the focus of the inquisition, but just as soon as the police focus their attention on him he disappears. Guglielmo Marconi’s timely invention of the wireless telegraph comes into play when the captain of the SS Montrose recognizes the fugitive aboard his ship. I’m always intrigued by Larson’s books. He finds murders and happenings that might not be well-known but that are thrilling. I would say that this one is much slower than Devil, but it’s still interesting. A murder mystery and the political world of invention are intertwined in an amazing way. I often forget that advances in technology can affect our lives in unexpected ways. BOTTOM LINE: If you loved Devil in the White City then don’t miss this one. In my opinion it’s not quite as enthralling, but I still love the mix of education and murder mystery. 
ectopicbrain reviewed this
Rated 3/5
I didn't think this was as good as "Devil in a White City". While credit must be given to the Marconi wireless for capturing the "murderer", the threads of the story don'y hold together as well.
gbelik_1 reviewed this
Larson tells the tale of Marconi and his promotion of wireless messaging and the murderer Crippen who murdered his wife and cut her into pieces. The two stories are unrelated until the end of the book,when wireless plays a part in Crippen's discovery and capture, but each in itself was an interesting story.
albert_borucki reviewed this
Rated 4/5
In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson alternates between the gruesome details of the murder and dismemberment of Belle Elmore and the development of the “wireless” telegraph by Guglielmo Marconi which is ultimately used as a means of capturing Belle’s husband, Hawley Herbert Crippen, the alleged murderer. There are no parallels between the two stories, but Mr. Larson weaves a masterful story from the two disparate narratives. The stories ultimately intersect when the captain of the SS Montrose, bound for Canada, sends a message via wireless that eventually alerted Scotland Yard to the whereabouts of one of their most wanted fugitives. Marconi’s story is an illustration of Thomas Edison’s adage that “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration” or in Marconi’s case, perseverance. It is a tale similar to that of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Crippen’s story, on that other hand, is a tale of love gone bad. The prisons and cemeteries are full of similar stories. Like a adroit juggler, Mr. Larson keeps both narratives moving at a crisp pace and brings both stories to satisfying conclusions.
bacreads reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Erik Larson's writing makes history really come alive. As in Devil in the White City, he intertwines two stories that seem to have no connection until they meet at the end of the book. The perserverence of Marconi to accomplish is goal was a part of history that seems to be glossed over. Perhaps because I am not English, I was totally unfamiliar with the murcer case. Larson's research and attention to detail allows the reader to become immersed in the time period of Thunderstruck. Highly recommended.
vapops reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Once again the author writes a work with two separate story lines. This time the new technology of wireless communication played a part in the resolution of the crime. Other than that the two stories had little to do with each other apart from the time period and local.Very well written - easy to read - informative
switchknitter reviewed this
Rated 3/5
Overall this was a pretty good book. The murder mystery was a good one, and the tale of Marconi's development of radio technology was gripping. It got a bit dull in places, but for the most part I enjoyed it.
graffitimom reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Fascinating read of murder and invention. The sections about the murder and those involved held my interest, but the information about Marconi fluctuated from being interesting to being a bit too dry. Overall, I enjoyed the book and the insight it gave to the time period and the effect of wireless communication at the turn of the twentieth century.
splinfo reviewed this
Rated 4/5
The interwoven story of two men – Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of ‘wireless’ communication. Rich with historical detail, the interconnected tale becomes apparent near the end at which time the pace increases. By the author of 'In the Garden of Beasts.'

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