From the historic Galveston hurricane of 1900 to America’s first modern serial killer, to an intimate look at Winston Churchill during the Blitz, narrative nonfiction writer Erik Larson has a habit of bringing historical events to life in ways that put them atop best-seller lists.
On Thursday, Oct. 20, Larson will be in Greenville to deliver a talk titled “The Art of Being Fearless: What Churchill Can Teach Us about Courage, Leadership and Hope in a Time of Crisis.”
The talk will draw from Larson’s book, “The Splendid and the Vile,” published in 2020. Larson’s latest work of narrative nonfiction, and his sixth consecutive best seller, chronicles Churchill’s first year as prime minister of Great Britain, a year in which German bombs killed as many as 45,000 Britons. Larson explores how Churchill taught his citizens “the art of being fearless.” He also weaves a narrative about Churchill family dramas playing out at the same time. NPR called the book, “A bravura performance by one of America’s greatest storytellers.”
The event, at The Poinsett Club, will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a reception and book signing, followed at 6 p.m. by a talk and audience Q&A. The evening is sponsored by the American History Book Club and Forum (AHBC) and Furman University. (See below for ticket information.)
Larson graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1976. After seeing “All the President’s Men” he decided to become a journalist. He got a master’s degree from Columbia University’s journalism school, worked a short stint at a suburban Philadelphia newspaper, and found a home for a few years with The Wall Street Journal in Philadelphia and San Francisco. He left journalism in 1985, married a woman he met on a blind date, and helped raise the couple’s three daughters. He published his first book in 1994, “The Naked Consumer: How Our Private Lives Become Public Commodities.”
His breakthrough book came in 1999: “Isaac’s Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History.” The book braided a narrative about a tragic personal story of arrogance with another about the deadliest natural disaster in American history and became Larson’s first New York Times bestseller.
Next came “The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America.” The book won an Edgar Award for best fact-crime writing, was a finalist for a National Book Award, and was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. Kirkus Reviews wrote: “Gripping drama, captured with a reporter’s nose for a good story and a novelist’s flair for telling it. … Superb.”
Other best sellers followed: “Thunderstruck,” about Guglielmo Marconi and British serial killer Hawley Harvey Crippen; “In the Garden of Beasts,” about America’s first ambassador to Nazi Germany; and “Dead Wake,” about the last crossing of the Lusitania. More recently Larson produced a fictional audiobook called “No One Goes Alone,” ghost stories grounded in history.
Larson and his wife, retired neonatologist and former blind date Christine Gleason, live in a fourth-floor apartment in Manhattan. He works from an office bathed in sunlight and adorned with toys and trinkets, like a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, two monkey lamps and a tiny lemur made of straw that his daughter brought him from Madagascar. From his workspace he watches people walking their dogs to and from the park. “Some mornings,” he writes on his website, “when an ambulance happens to come by, they all howl at once. Not the walkers, just the dogs. It is a remarkable thing.”
For more information and to purchase tickets ($50 in person; $35 virtually), contact Valerie Kelley at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 864-294-3351.
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