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 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.
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.
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 (www.redanglespanish.com). He’s reading 52 books this year. He’s behind schedule.
19. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson
20. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Categories: Libro 52 Challenge