Friday, March 20, 2015

by Erik Larson

According to the New York manager of the Cunard line, the Lusitania was the safest boat on the sea. She was also the fastest. No submarine could get near her. It was built to be speedy. With this in mind, this luxurious ocean liner took off from New York on May 1, 1915, carrying 1,959 passengers and crew and sailed to its destination of Liverpool. That morning, newspapers had written warnings from Germany that they should be careful as they would be sailing through a war zone. The passengers, though, were quite at ease. They put all of their trust in Captain William Thomas Turner who had already commandeered the Lusitania in previous voyages plus other ships. These passengers also assumed that they would be escorted through dangerous waters by the British Navy so there was nothing to fear or be anxious about.
Unfortunately, the Admiralty wasn't really that focused on the Lusitania to send escorts. But British intelligence was extremely interested in Walter Schwieger. He was the captain of Unterseeboot-20 and he had quite a record of torpedoing neutral boats. So without telling anybody, this particular unit of intelligence tracked Schwieger's U-boat. And Schwieger set his sights on the Lusitania.
Erik Larson is always the author that must be paid attention to. Every time one of his books is published, you have to grab it fast. Dead Wake is no exception. Larson is so dedicated to detail. His descriptions of both the outside and the inside of the Lusitania, the myriad of characters that were involved, what a submarine looks like within, the machinations of a torpedo, is riveting reading. Of course, there's the drama that draws you in and, of course, the tension.
There are no photographs in the book, but they are really not necessary. (You can always find them on the Internet.) Larson's writing keeps your attention constantly and it's a fast read (three days for me). There have been other books written about the Lusitania, but Larson discovered new information that has never been revealed before. The research was massive.
So, if you're a Larson fan, get a hold of this book. You won't be disappointed.
Highly recommended.