ABOUT THE BOOK
Erik Larson discusses “In the Garden of Beasts”
With this new book, I invite you to journey to Berlin during Hitler’s first year in power, 1933, in the company of a real-life father and daughter from Chicago who suddenly found themselves transported to the heart of the city. They had no conception of the harrowing days that lay ahead. At the time, nothing was certain—Hitler did not yet possess absolute power, and few outsiders expected his government to survive. The family encountered a city suffused with energy and optimism, with some of the most striking, avant-garde buildings in the world. Its theaters, concert halls, and cafés were jammed; the streets teemed with well-dressed attractive people. But my two protagonists were about to begin an education that would change them forever, with ultimately tragic consequences.
The father was William E. Dodd, a mild-mannered professor who, much to his surprise and everyone else’s, was picked by President Roosevelt to be America’s first ambassador to Nazi Germany. His daughter, Martha, was 24 years old, and chose to come along for the adventure, and to escape a dead marriage to a New York banker. They and the rest of their family settled in a grand old house on the city’s central park, the Tiergarten—in literal translation, the Garden of Beasts.
Dodd expected to encounter the same warm citizenry he had known three decades earlier while a graduate student in Leipzig; he hoped to use reason and quiet persuasion to temper Hitler’s government. Martha found the “New Germany” utterly enthralling, totally unlike the horrific realm depicted in newspapers back home. For her, as for many other foreign visitors at the time, the transformation of Germany was thrilling and not at all frightening. Not yet.
As that first year unfolded they experienced days full of energy, intrigue, and romance—and, ultimately, terror, on a scale they could never have imagined. Their experience tells volumes about why the world took so long to recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler.
OTHER BOOKS BY ERIK LARSON
The saga of how the lives of the inventor of wireless and of Britain’s second most famous murderer (after Jack the Ripper) intersected during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time. The inventor was Guglielmo Marconi, the young Italian genius; the killer was Hawley Harvey Crippen, who murdered his overbearing wife and fled Britain with his mistress, unaware that Scotland Yard was hot on his heels. The book—an instant New York Times bestseller—brings to life a host of forgotten characters, including spirit mediums, ghost-hunting physicists, Scotland Yard inspectors, and one of the great pioneers of forensic science. The climax occurs during a trans-Atlantic chase which, thanks to the miracle of Marconi’s invention, was followed by millions of people around the world—with Crippen and his mistress completely unaware.
The Devil in the White City
Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
The No. 1 New York Times bestseller about the architect who led the construction of the great Chicago World's Fair of 1893, and the prolific serial killer who used the fair as a lure. Just blocks from the fairgrounds, the killer built a hotel of horrors equipped with an acid vat, dissection table and crematorium.
The book won an Edgar Award for best fact-crime writing, and was a finalist for a National Book Award. In November 2010, Leonardo DiCaprio acquired the rights to make a feature film based on Devil, and has stated he plans to play the role of the killer, Dr. H. H. Holmes.
A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History
At the turn of the last century, Isaac Cline, chief weatherman for Texas, believed no storm could do serious harm to the city of Galveston, a fast growing metropolis on the Gulf Coast destined for great things. In September 1900 a massive hurricane proved him wrong, at great personal cost. The storm killed as many as 10,000 people in Galveston alone, stole the city's future, and caused hurricane experts to revise their thinking about how hurricanes kill. The book won the American Meteorology Society's prestigious Louis J. Battan Author's Award. (For the record, of all my books, this is my wife's favorite--EL.)
The Story of a Gun
"When I lived in Baltimore, I became struck by the frequency of drive-by shootings involving young teens who possessed sophisticated weapons. At the time, no one bothered to find out where the guns came from. I decided to try. The result was this book, which tells the story of how a particular model of handgun, designed initially for urban warfare, became the crime-gun of choice for inner-city gangs, and how one such gun came to be in the hands of a Virginia schoolboy who used it to kill a teacher. Only a malfunction in the weapon prevented this incident from becoming one of the worst mass murders of all time.
In the course of my research, I became a federally licensed gun dealer and took lessons in shooting for self-defense. I have to say, the shooting was a lot of fun, although I was the only guy in my class and the gleeful laughter of the women around me, as they blasted away at clearly masculine targets, was just a tiny bit disconcerting."
The Naked Consumer
How Our Private Lives Become Commodities
"After receiving a sudden surge of junk mail directed at new parents—even though my wife at the time was merely pregnant—I set out to explore the lengths companies go to spy on individual consumers. It was fascinating, and a little scary. For example, I discovered one market-research firm that put human spies in stores to follow every move a shopper made, and another company that secretly commandeered viewers' televisions to show them commercials no one else got to see. The book became the subject of a PBS documentary, 'We Know Where You Live,' in which yours truly was the main character. I even got to slink around in a trench coat and lurk behind trees."