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Dead Wake The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

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May, 1915 and the most luxurious of ocean liners, The Lusitania set sail from New York for the port of Liverpool, yet one day from port she was torpedoed by a German U-boat leaving over 1,000 passengers and crew dead. Against convention, the Germans had attacked a civilian vessel but there had been warnings to any ship entering the “war-zone” the Germans had drawn around Britain. In addition were there munitions on board, were there other murky secrets at play? Erik Larson recreates that last fateful voyage and teases out the truth of what really happened.

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The Unseen Lusitania: The Ship in Rare Illustrations, Eric Sauder

Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy, Diana Preston

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. The sinking of the Lusitania in the spring of 1915 is a seemingly well-known story with clear-cut consequences. The luxury liner was sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland, and the drowning of many American passengers would later bring the USA into the First World War on the side of Britain. However, Larson has pieced together a much more complex and intimate story, alternating between the opulence of a state-of-the-art transatlantic liner and the cramped conditions of a First World War submarine as the two vessels move inevitably towards each other. He brings to life the people who were at the heart of this tragedy, especially the two captains. William Turner, on board the Lusitania, was convinced that the speed of his ship would help him elude any predators, while Walther Schwieger calmly delivered the torpedo that changed the course of history.
~ Anthony Lafferty


Dead Wake The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era's great transatlantic Greyhounds and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. He knew, moreover, that his ship - the fastest then in service - could outrun any threat. Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger's U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way towards Liverpool, forces both grand and achingly small - hubris, a chance fog, a closely-guarded secret and more - converged to produce one of the great disasters of history. It is a story that many of us think we know but don't, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour, mystery, and real-life suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster that helped place America on the road to war.

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'A fascinating, well-researched read' Kate Atkinson

About the Author

Erik Larson is a prize-winning journalist and narrative historian. His books include Isaac's Storm, Thunderstruck and In the Garden of Beasts and have combined sales of nearly 6 million copies and been published in 14 countries. His No.1 bestseller The Devil in the White City won an Edgar Award and was shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger Non-Fiction Award. He lives in Seattle.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th November 1999


Erik Larson

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