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Author Archive: "David Grann"

Trial by Fire

To close my week of blogging on my new book The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, I wanted to touch on one last story that is in the collection. It's about a man named Cameron Todd Willingham, who was sentenced to death for allegedly setting a fire that killed his three children. Based on the testimony of arson investigators, the case seemed airtight. But Elizabeth Gilbert, a school teacher who gets to know Willingham, begins to reinvestigate the case, unearthing a series of systemic failures, from the reliability of the arson evidence to the veracity of a jail-house informant. The story explores not only the question of whether an innocent man was executed; it also delves into the friendship between Gilbert and Willingham. Gilbert recalled of the moment before Willingham was executed, "All that time, I thought I was saving Willingham, and I realized then that he was saving me."

I want to thank Powell's again for giving me the opportunity to blog this week about my new book, and for those who want to read what others are ...

List of Top Crime and Mystery Books of All Time

I've written each day about my new book The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, which contains a dozen stories about mystery and intrigue. So today I thought I would list ten of my favorite crime and mystery books of all time (both fiction and nonfiction), which I look to for inspiration.

In no particular order, they include:


Journey to the Center of the Earth

When reporting I'm often drawn into unfathomable places. For my first book, The Lost City of Z, I wound up in the heart of the Amazon, even though I hate camping and am terrified of snakes. For many of the stories in my new book, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, I ended up in equally unfamiliar places: hunting a giant squid, in the middle of a cyclone off the coast of New Zealand; crisscrossing the European countryside on the trail of an imposter. But perhaps the place that most surprised me, which I describe in one of the stories, was the secret world under New York City . Hundreds of feet beneath the ground, sandhogs are racing to build an intricate maze of water tunnels before the older water tunnels, which are badly damaged and leaking, collapse, leading to cataclysmic disaster.

These water tunnels go as deep as the Chrysler Building is high and span thousands of feet. The newest water tunnel has been under development since 1969, and was initially billed as "the greatest nondefense construction project ...

The Strange Death of a Sherlock Holmes Fanatic

The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession is released today. And I thought I'd try to talk about one of the stories in the collection each day this week to give readers a better sense of what they might find.

The first story — and the one from which part of the title of the book is drawn — is about the world's greatest Sherlock Holmes scholar who was found dead in mysterious circumstances. He had spent years obsessively trying to track down a missing trove of letters, diary entries, and manuscripts written by Conan Doyle, the creator of Holmes. The archive was estimated to be worth nearly four million dollars, and was essential to Green and other scholars who wanted to write a definitive biography of Conan Doyle. Green believed the archive had been stolen, and as he investigated the case he warned friends that he was being followed and in danger . Soon after, he was found garroted in his apartment.

The mysterious death led members of Sherlock Holmes clubs and amateur sleuths ...

Blogging “The Devil and Sherlock Holmes”

I'm the author of The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, and my new book The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession is being published this week by Knopf Doubleday.

I'm excited to be blogging (something I've never done before) this week at Powell's about the new book and things related to it. It contains a dozen true stories. Although Holmes is the subject of just one of them, about the curious death of the world's foremost Holmes expert, all 12 contain elements of intrigue. Many of the protagonists are sleuths: a Polish detective trying to determine whether an author planted clues to a real murder in his postmodern novel; scientists who are stalking a sea monster; an arson investigator who is attempting to prove that a father about to be executed for setting a fire that killed his children may be innocent; and a con man who suddenly suspects that he may be the one who is being conned. ...

The Lost City of Z

As a reporter, I nearly always write about the living: people I can talk to, spend time with, accompany on their adventures. Even when a subject refuses to speak with me, or has recently passed away, there are people from his or her world who are alive and can fill my notebooks with anecdotes and descriptions. But in writing my first book, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, about the legendary British explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett, I faced an obstacle I had never confronted: a dead subject — indeed, a subject who had vanished more than 80 years earlier.

Fawcett was the last of the great Victorian explorers who ventured into blank spots on the map with little more than a machete, a compass, and an almost divine sense of purpose. After nearly two decades of exploring the Amazon, he had concluded that the world's largest jungle concealed an ancient kingdom, which he had named, simply, the City of Z. Captivating the imagination of millions around the world, Fawcett set out in ...

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