Erik Larson’s newest blockbuster is “Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania.” This in-depth account of the tragic loss of this magnificent ocean liner on May 1, 1915, is filled with historically accurate details about the people who lost their lives, the survivors, the British Admiralty high command, and the captain of Unterseeboot-20.
Larson has a talent for making dry historical events come alive. Even though the reader knows the outcome of this voyage, you become so invested in the lives of the passengers that you somehow hope that events will reverse themselves.
As the author leads the reader through the decisions that led to the sinking of the ship, he lays out the errors made by those in command at the British War Office. Leading historical leaders of the time, especially Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill, are leading players in this disaster.
His accounts of the last desperate minutes of this voyage from the moment Captain Walther Schwieger fired the one torpedo that sank this enormous ship, to the efforts of the passengers and crew to survive are unbelievably dramatic. Erik Larson’s text, supported by more than fifty pages of footnotes, point to his thorough research. But his ability to take that research and humanize it makes this a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile book.