Libro 19 + 20/52 :: Thunderstruck by Erik Larson + In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

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I went on a true crime binge over the past few weeks.

The similarities in these 2 books mean you get a two-fer-one Libro 52 update….



If I told you about a famous author writing a book set in the early 1900’s with 2 converging storylines, one being a historic creation and the second about a murderer who almost gets away with the perfect crime… you’d say, “Yeah. I know that book. The Devil in the White City.”



You’d be nearly right.

Same author.

Same era.

Same general tandem storylines.


The Devil in the White City, author Erik Larson’s 2003 effort, has seen a modicum of success.


2.3M copies in print.

A boatload of awards.

Optioned as a movie starring some chump named Leo.



It’s done OK.


The Devil in the White City is a superb book that chronicles two storylines: the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and the emergence of a serial killer in the same town. Each chapter alternates between the two stories. Each are strong enough to stand on their own.


Why am I praising Larson’s Devil when this post is about Thunderstruck?


Because Thunderstruck is like a cheap Devil knockoff. Larson appeared to try to recreate his fantastic Devil success through his own personal literary Mad Lib, this one involving wireless telegraphy.

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Bottom Line: It’s sad because Thunderstruck is a good read… but it’s a wicked Catch-22.


If you’ve already read The Devil in the White City, you’ll constantly be thinking about the ridiculous similarities in Thunderstruck. (And you’ll constantly be thinking about how much better that book is Thunderstruck.)


And if you haven’t read Devil, then I’d tell you to read that book first.

It’s much better than Thunderstruck.




While writing The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson struggled with serial killer H.H. Holmes. So Larson turned to the classic work in the true crime novel genre: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.


Unfortunately this book selection recently became topical. Philip Seymour Hoffman, who played Capote in the eponymous movie for which he won an Oscar, has been in the news recently for a trip to rehab for sniffing heroin. I wish him luck – he’s a great talent.



As for the book In Cold Blood, I was so blown away. I immediately dialed up the movie Capote. The film was excellent too. It answered the main question I held while reading the book: “How on earth did Capote capture such detail – in conversations, travel, murderous premeditation – in writing this brilliant book?”


I’ll let you learn the answer with this prescription: Read the book In Cold Blood and then watch the movie, Capote.

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Bottom line: Unless I had some contrarian mudslinging to chuck at In Cold Blood, my personal ramblings wouldn’t be very valuable.


And I don’t.

This book is awesome.



Bradley Hartmann is El Presidente at Red Angle ( He’s reading 52 books this year. He’s behind schedule. 


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LIBRO 52 Challenge YTD

1. Kennedy/Nixon by Chris Matthews

2. Poke the Box by Seth Godin

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn 

NA. Buy-In by John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead

4. Education of an Accidental CEO by David Novak

5. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

6. Blood, Brains and Beer by David Ogilvy

7. Lyndon Johnson :: Master of the Senate by Robert Caro

8. 1776 by David McCullough

9. To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink

NA. Profiles In Courage by JFK*

10. Write It When I’m Gone by Tom DeFrank

11. FDR by Jean Edward Smith

12. The Cluetrain Manifesto by Locke, Searls, Weinberger + Levine

13. One Click by Richard Brandt

14. Persuasive Presentations by Nancy Duarte

NA. James K. Polk by Walter Borneman

15. The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw

16. The Illustrious Dead by Stephan Talty

17. The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

18. Adventures of Johnny Bunko by Dan Pink

19. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

20. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Categories: Libro 52 Challenge

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18 replies


  1. Libro 21/52 :: Ctrl Alt Delete by Mitch Joel « the red angle
  2. Libro 22 + 23/52 :: Down & Dirty Pictures by Peter Biskind + Makers by Chris Anderson « the red angle
  3. Libro 24/52: Tales From Q School by John Feinstein « the red angle
  4. Libro 25/52: The Business of Belief by Tom Asacker « the red angle
  5. Libro 26/52: 18 Minutes by Peter Bregman « the red angle
  6. Libro 27/52: Drive by Dan Pink « the red angle
  7. Libro 28/52 :: Enough by John Bogle « the red angle
  8. Libro 29/52 :: Contagious by Jonah Berger « the red angle
  9. Libro 30/52 :: Lexicon by Max Barry « the red angle
  10. Libro 31 + 32/52 :: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman + A Very Short Tour of the Mind by Michael Corballis « the red angle
  11. Libro 33/52 :: The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton « the red angle
  12. Libro 34 + 35/52 :: Choose Yourself by James Altucher + The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzwieg. « the red angle
  13. Libro 36/52 :: Inside The Box by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg. « the red angle
  14. Libro 37 + 38/52 :: The Power of Less by Leo Babauta + Wild by Cheryl Strayed « the red angle
  15. Libro 39/52 :: Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier. « the red angle
  16. Libro 42/52 :: Black Irish by Stephan Talty « the red angle
  17. Libro 43/52 :: The Firm by Duff McDonald « the red angle
  18. Libros 44-50 :: The final chapter of the Libro 52* Challenge. « the red angle

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