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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Devil and the White City -- A Roadtrip Audio Post

Whoa! I'm late coming to this one, I know -- Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City was pubbed in 2003 and here I am posting after I listened to it on audio on our trip home from Texas. It was one of two picks we made to get us through the fifteen hour drive to Austin (then San Antonio) and back home (yeah, we pulled into our drive at 2:30 this morning and I'm totally beat!). After all, whether you choose to drive the highways of New Mexico or Oklahoma, there's a lot of dead air space between Colorado and South Central Texas (or Louisiana as is usually the case), so we go in for the LONG audio books.

I chose Devil for a couple of reasons: one, because the book's been of interest to me since it came out, but I'm really picky when it comes to nonfiction. Two, because Tony Goldwyn is the narrator. I'm actually not big on audios -- I prefer to read at my own pace (but would actually like if I could get some audios read by the authors themselves). Narrator is a big deciding factor for me if it's actually someone I recognize. I like Goldwyn and figured he'd be nice to listen to (and he was).

The book, if you're one of the last people left (like me) who hasn't read it yet, is about the Chicago World's Fair and the serial killer H.H. Holmes. Mike wasn't a huge fan of the tie in between the two and said he'd have preferred the book be focused more on one or the other, but I thought it was fascinating. First, you have the massively, seemingly ridiculous and impossible undertaking of putting together the world's fair. I can't honestly see an event of this magnitude coming together ever again -- but it would be kind of cool if it did. Then, you have this serial killer who by all accounts is incredibly creepy and insane! The man built a freak show, torture chamber filled mansion in the middle of Chicago and is thought to have killed anywhere between 9 and 100-200 people! It's a who's who of name dropping -- even the Pinkertons were called in to investigate and Holmes sold his own confession to Hearst.

Some say that Holmes was America's first serial killer. It's amazing that he was able to get away with what he did for so long. And truly, the man was a psychopath to rival the worst I've heard of. Both of us (Mike and myself) would have liked more on Frank Geyer, and since the audio we found was abridged, I'd like to go back and read the actual book to see if there's more to his story as well. The end of the book was especially disturbing, even if it is a bit of a strange connect the dots game regarding the deaths of those surrounding Holmes.

At this point, I'd like to fit Larson's other books into the TBR somewhere. Thunderstruck would probably be my next choice seeing as how it's about Crippen, but Isaac's Storm, about the hurricane that destroyed Galveston in 1900, or the new one, In the Garden of Beasts, both sound equally interesting.

Ah well, I'm working on Good Omens as we speak (Mike's been on me to read it for years now) and trying to recover from our little vacation :) Oh, and if you're interested, rumor has it Devil rights have been sold and Leonardo DiCaprio has expressed interest in playing Holmes.

1 comment:

Kay said...

Becky, I totally agree that an interesting audiobook is a must for that drive. It's not much to look at for sure. Pretty here in the Austin area (well, not so much now, but usually with more rain) and pretty where you started. In between, ehhh, not so much!

My book group read and discussed this one a year or so ago. Very, very interesting, I thought. Thanks for sharing your experience.