Erik Larson certainly knows how to craft a great story from a blend of fictional elements and historical fact. His writing style, known as narrative or literary nonfiction, has been used to great effect not only in our first reading, Isaac’s Storm (1999), but also in other works by him, such as The Devil in the White City (2003) and Thunderstruck (2006).
Larson’s interest in history can be traced back to his studies in Russian culture and history at the University of Pennsylvania where he received his undergraduate degree. Yet he notes, “I'm not a historian; I’m a writer who tries to find stories and bring them to life.” Larson developed his writing skills at Columbia University, earning a graduate degree from the School of Journalism in 1978.
Quoted by Writer in September of 2003, he states, “I love trying to capture atmosphere, landscape, events, in prose. I love sinking into the past. What I’m trying to do for my readers is allow them to just fall into another time, and ideally not emerge until the book is done, with a changed sense of the past.” He attributes his literary influences to Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and Leo Tolstoy, among others.
Erik Larson lives in Seattle, Washington, with his wife and three daughters. Mornings are dedicated to writing, either on a computer or legal pad, but he knows when to quit – around noon!
For further information on narrative nonfiction as a literary form or to read an interview with Erik Larson, click on the link to The University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication webpage.
TIP: For biographical information on Erik Larson or other authors, go to Bernardsville Public Library’s webpage http://bernardsvillelibrary.org/ and click on the online resources link which will take you to a Wilson Web biography database. That is where I found most of my information for this article.