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Erik Larson returns to LI for two book talks on ‘Dead Wake’

Erik Larson, who grew up in Freeport, returns

Erik Larson, who grew up in Freeport, returns to Long Island to discuss his new book, "Dead Wake." Credit: Benjamin Benschneider

Though he was born in Brooklyn and now lives in New York, author Erik Larson spent his formative years in Freeport, and attended Freeport High School. Now his bestselling book “Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania” (Broadway Books) is the “Long Island Reads” selection for 2017, bringing Larson back for a talk at Freeport Memorial Library on April 7. He’ll also discuss the book at LIU Post in Brookville on April 23; tickets go on sale Saturday, April 1. Libraries in Nassau and Suffolk will hold related book discussions, lectures and readings throughout April.

“Dead Wake” is the gripping account of the sinking of the British passenger liner by a German submarine in 1915, during World War I. In a telephone conversation, Larson — whose other books include “The Devil in the White City” and “In the Garden of Beasts” — discussed what brought him to this dramatic story.


What drew you to the story of the Lusitania?

I was interested in maritime disasters, but I did not see this as an obvious project, since there was so much out there on it. But when I started reading, I realized I didn’t know a lot about the whole story. For example, the role of the captain of the U-20 submarine, Walther Schwieger, the “serial killer” of the story, if you will.


There is an element here of a true crime story set at sea.

It was important to be able to build up suspense; I was able to wear my Alfred Hitchcock hat. I knew they [the Lusitania and the U-20] were going to meet in the Irish Sea, and that there was going to be a bad end.


Your book mixes politics, war and espionage with shipboard melodramas such as budding romances among the passengers. Was this part of the story’s attraction?

Yes, by telling these stories, I wanted to give readers passengers to hold hands with.


What are you working on now?

My next project is on Churchill during the Blitz called “The Splendid and the Vile.” It’s a different approach to Churchill, what I call “Downton on Downing,” looking at his family, wife, daughters, son, unsung characters and members of Churchill’s secret circle.


UPDATE: All tickets for the Freeport event on April 7 have been taken. 

WHAT Erik Larson discusses “Dead Wake”

WHEN | WHERE Friday, April 7, at 7 p.m. Freeport Memorial Library, 144 W. Merrick Rd.

INFO All tickets, which were free, have been taken in advance, 516-379-3274,

WHAT Erik Larson discusses “Dead Wake”

WHEN | WHERE Sunday, April 23, at 2 p.m. Hillwood Recital Hall, LIU Post, Brookville

INFO Free (tickets available beginning April 1),

For more information on “Long Island Reads” events at libraries in Nassau and Suffolk, go to

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