Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Publication Date: March 10, 2015


EL_Death_WakeOn Friday, May 7, 1915 a German U-Boat sunk the RMS Lusitania. [easyazon_link identifier=”0307408868″ locale=”US” tag=”rabidreaders-20″]“Dead Wake”[/easyazon_link] tells the true story and political machinations and personalities behind the tragic event nearly 100 years ago.


Larson is a broad stroke kind of historian. He takes in the landscape of an era and boils it down to one tragic event. Everything, from the top ties together from Winston Churchill’s drive to involve the United States in the war, to the German plot to make a power move on the level of killing a score of innocent families with children. Larson said in an interview that he was permitted a rare look at morgue photos and was struck by the countless number of pictures of men, women and children highlighting the tragic loss of human life. Larson emphasizes the majesty of the great ship known as “a floating village in steel.”

Despite the personal impact of the pictures on Larson, readers should not expect the personal story. Many of the books I’ve read about the Lusitania have focused on the stories of the passengers, crew and those that died on that terrible day. While Larson’s style is active, he chooses to focus on the behind the scenes machinations of the hierarchy and the crossing of the great ship. While there is mention of the lives after this terrible event, their telling seems a bit off-hand.

While the broad scene makes the book, it is also in part where it falls down for this reader. [easyazon_link identifier=”0307408868″ locale=”US” tag=”rabidreaders-20″]“Dead Wake”[/easyazon_link]  is a very well researched story and there is something of an overload of information. We go from Herbert Hoover to Winston Churchill to Submarine Warfare. The broad strokes are interesting but I’d be lying if I said that it was all engaging and felt important to the story of the Lusitania. In writing classes they tell you to approach a subject as though the reader has stepped from a 100-year-sleep underground and knows nothing of what you’re telling them, but in the real world, humans who will choose this book from a shelf have some sort of general knowledge base. Not everything need be explained and when it is, it drags the flow to an awkward stop. Larson’s retelling of the British capitalization of this terrible event is nothing short of masterful.

Much is already known and has been written about the sinking of the Lusitania and its loss of 1,000+ lives. While its hard to bring a fresh approach, Larson manages that unique voice in a wealth of information. Larson brings the event to the forefront of the eve of its 100-year-anniversary in a way that is eminently readable. Readers interested in World War I history will find [easyazon_link identifier=”0307408868″ locale=”US” tag=”rabidreaders-20″]“Dead Wake”[/easyazon_link]  a jewel box of information.

Read an excerpt and pick up Dead Wake by Erik Larson today on:

Amazon U.S. Amazon U.K. Amazon Canada


Erik Larson is an American journalist and historian. He is the author of several nonfiction books and Edgar Award for nonfiction crime writing. He also was a finalist for a National Book Award.

For more information about Erik Larson and his work, visit his website.  You can connect with him on Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter @exlarson.

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