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The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed Americaby Erik Larson
An amazing history that recounts the inconceivable events surrounding the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, Larson's tale captures a time and place that vividly come to life. The central characters in this tale are Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the construction of the fair, and H. H. Holmes, a serial killer who used the popularity of the fair for his own nefarious ends. Burnham's work at overcoming the insurmountable obstacles before completing this awe inspiring project is interwoven with chapters relating to the maniacal Holmes, whose person will keep you both captivated and haunted. Breathtakingly written, this almost unbelievable history reads like the work of a highly inventive novelist.
"I was mesmerized by this book. It was a deliciously creepy read, made more creepy for being true. Several times in the course of reading it, I had to keep reminding myself that the events really happened."
"You've got to respect a book that makes you keep flipping to the back cover, double-checking that it is nonfiction. Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City seems like something from the mind of, say, Thomas Harris. But it is, in fact, true. A gruesome and gripping book....
Synopses & Reviews
"In Chicago at the end of the nineteenth century amid the smoke of industry and the clatter of trains there lived two men, both handsome, both blue-eyed, and both unusually adept at their chosen skills." So begins The Devil in the White City. And there ends all similarity between those two men. Daniel Burnham, architect of some of America's most famous structures — the Flatiron Building in New York City and Union Station in Washington, D.C., to name two — would, as director of works for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, organize a six-month fair on the shore of Lake Michigan that attracted 27.5 million visitors during one of the worst depressions in American history. Dr. H. H. Holmes, born Herman Webster Mudgett, a physician and hotelier, was meanwhile living and working in Englewood, only a short "L" ride from the fairgrounds at Jackson Park. Although no one would know it until long after Burnham's fair closed its gates, during the great event Holmes was nearby developing his enterprise as America's first urban serial killer. "You've got to respect a book that makes you keep flipping to the back cover, double-checking that it is nonfiction," Adrienne Miller admitted in Esquire. "[T]he heart of the story is so good, you find yourself asking how you could not know this already." Dave, Powells.com
Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized Americas rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fairs brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the countrys most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “Worlds Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium. Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.
The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. In this book the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before.
Erik Larsons gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.
To find out more about this book, go to http://www.DevilInTheWhiteCity.com.
"Engrossing...exceedingly well documented...utterly fascinating." Chicago Tribune
"Another successful exploration of American history....Larson skillfully balances the grisly details with the far-reaching implications of the World's Fair." USA Today
"Vivid history of the glittering Chicago World?s Fair and its dark side." New York Magazine
Includes bibliographical references (p. -429) and index.
In a thrilling narrative showcasing his gifts as storyteller and researcher, Erik Larson recounts the spellbinding tale of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.
The White City — as it became known — was a magical creation constructed upon Chicago's swampy Jackson Park by Daniel H. Burnham, the famed architect who coordinated the talents of Frederick Olmsted, Louis Sullivan, and others to build it. Dr. Henry H. Holmes combined the fair's appeal with his own fatal charms to lure scores of women to their deaths. Whereas the fair marked the birth of a new epoch in American history, Holmes marked the emergence of a new American archetype, the serial killer, who thrived on the very forces then transforming the country.
In deft prose, Larson conveys Burnham's herculean challenge to build the White City in less than 18 months. At the same time, he describes how, in a malign parody of the achievements of the fair's builders, Holmes built his own World's Fair Hotel — a torture palace complete with a gas chamber and crematorium. Throughout the book, tension mounts on two fronts: Will Burnham complete the White City before the millions of visitors arrive at its gates? Will anyone stop Holmes as he ensnares his victims?
A nonfiction blend of Ragtime and Silence of the Lambs, The Devil in the White City is Erik Larson at his best.
About the Author
Erik Larson lives in Seattle with his wife, three daughters, a Chinese fighting fish, a dwarf hamster, and a golden retriever named Molly.
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