dead wake

Dead Wake by Erik Larson 

I was of age when Titanic premiered in the theaters and was quite obsessed for - well, years, probably. During that time I learned that many of the scenes in the movie of the drama while the ship was sinking were actually derived from first hand accounts of incidents during the sinking of the Lusitania.

And that was mostly the last I thought about the Lusitania until I read Dead Wake. As Larson related the experiences of the victims in their final minutes (and for a large number of them it really was minutes as the ship sank completely within 18 minutes after being hit by a German torpedo), it was as if he were describing scenes from the Titanic movie. As in, play-by-play action. 

So if you read Dead Wake, it may all seem quite familiar but there are elements of Lusitania's destruction that elevate it above Titanic, at least in terms of storytelling and conspiratorial whispers. Survivors reported two (three, even, in some old newspaper articles I saw online) explosions aboard the ship as it was sinking but the German U-boat almost certainly only fired one torpedo which, in and of itself was extremely unlikely so sink such a massive ship so quickly. Other smaller ships with less passengers (and non-American passengers, which if you read this you'll come to understand why this was an important factor) were being escorted into Irish and English ports with warships; the Lusitania was not. You may already be familiar with the political elements surrounding this disaster, but I wasn't and I was enthralled by learning of them, so I won't spoil it for you, just in case. 

If you've read and enjoyed Larson before, you'll like this one, too. It doesn't alternate between seemingly disparate elements that are actually correlated like Devil In the White City, but as always with Larson, the narrative is thrilling is fascinating.