Thursday, April 19
Author Erik Larson comes to The Music Hall in May
Writers on a New England Stage welcomes
The author of The Devil in the White City
with his #1 New York Times nonfiction bestseller
In The Garden of Beasts
“By far his best and most enthralling work of novelistic history . . .
Powerful, poignant . . . a transportingly true story.” – New York Times
Tuesday, May 8, 7:30pm
Writers on a New England Stage, the celebrated author series presented by The Music Hall and New Hampshire Public Radio, presents Erik Larson on Tuesday, May 8. Mr. Larson, the author of the acclaimed bestseller The Devil in the White City will discuss his current work, In The Garden of Beasts, which has been a #1 New York Times bestseller.
About the Book
Widely acclaimed as the master of page-turning nonfiction sagas, Larson once again brings a past world alive—this time, the ominous and ever-changing realm of Nazi Berlin during Hitler’s first full year as chancellor. With its focus on the experience of an American family suddenly transported to that city, In The Garden of Beasts presents a fresh and wholly original look at the people, politics, and dazzling social life of Berlin as Hitler inexorably tightened his grip on power.
“The idea first came to me some years ago as I was reading William Shirer’s classic, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I knew Shirer had been a correspondent in Berlin in the years before World War II, but suddenly I found myself wondering what it would have been like to have experienced those dark days firsthand, without the knowledge we all now possess as to how things turned out,” said Larson.
Getting to the heart of that odd and awful time, Larson’s book tells the story of William E. Dodd, a mild-mannered history professor who, to everyone’s surprise, becomes America’s first ambassador to Nazi Germany, and Dodd’s 24-year-old daughter Martha, a flirtatious and outspoken free spirit who comes along for the adventure. Always up for fun, Martha is at first entranced by the ebullience and optimism of the “New Germany,” as well as the prospect of romance with dangerous figures, including the first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. Far more sober about his own duties, Dodd believes that he might be able to improve the behavior of Hitler’s government through reason and persuasion. But as he and Martha sit at the same outdoor cafes that the black-suited members of Hitler’s SS do, and come to know Goebbels and Göring as social acquaintances with whom they dine, dance, and joke, they also begin to see the menace that underlies the city’s beauty and vibrancy.
What surprised Larson most? “I found the complexity of the time so interesting—how the Dodds could mingle with the likes of Goebbels and Göring, and even enjoy their company at parties, and how some of Hitler’s men seemed decidedly unhappy about Nazi rule,” he said.
As evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, Dodd voices his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home and watches with alarm as Jews and American visitors are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. Though Martha is slower to change her opinion, an accumulation of disturbing encounters and events causes her to begin to question her enthusiasm for the Third Reich. As the family’s first year in Berlin reaches its end, Hitler orchestrates a horrific purge to consolidate his power, revealing his true, murderous character to both Dodd and his daughter.
Rich in atmosphere and tautly told, In The Garden of Beasts allows us to watch events unfold in real time, and speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.
Following his presentation on stage at The Music Hall, Mr. Larson will be interviewed by Virginia Prescott, host of New Hampshire Public Radio’s “Word of Mouth.” Live music will be provided by the house band Dreadnaught.
About the Author
Erik Larson, a former writer for the Wall Street Journal and Time, is the author of six nonfiction books, including the critically acclaimed New York Times bestsellers Isaac’s Storm, Thunderstruck, and The Devil in the White City, which was a #1 New York Times bestseller in both hardcover and paperback, a nonfiction finalist for the National Book Award, and a winner of the Edgar Award for fact-crime writing. The film rights to The Devil in the White City were purchased by Leonardo DiCaprio. Tom Hanks has purchased the film rights to In The Garden of Beasts.
Book Clubs and High School Guests of The Music Hall
Tickets and Signed Books
Tickets to Writers on a New England Stage: Erik Larson are $13 ($11 for members of The Music Hall and NH Public Radio), available through The Music Hall Box Office, located at 28 Chestnut Street, Portsmouth, over the phone at 603-436-2400 or online at http://www.themusichall.org. Autographed copies of In The Garden of Beasts (just released paperback edition) are $14.40 when reserved in advance through the purchase of a voucher through The Music Hall box office. Signed books can be purchased on the evening for the full retail price of $16.00.
About the 2011-2012 Writers on a New England Stage series
Writers on a New England Stage was created by executive producer Patricia Lynch, also executive director of The Music Hall, and is presented with New Hampshire Public Radio in collaboration with Yankee magazine. The series’ companion bookstore is RiverRun, in Portsmouth, NH. Since 2005, the series has spotlighted a broad range of celebrated authors including Mitch Albom, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Dan Brown, Isabel Allende, Stephen King, Ann Patchett, E.L. Doctorow, Madeleine Albright, the late John Updike, Wally Lamb, Jodi Picoult, David McCullough, and Cokie Roberts, among many others. Each author’s presentation is followed by an interview with Virginia Prescott, host of New Hampshire Public Radio’s “Word of Mouth.” Live music is performed by the award-winning house band Dreadnaught. The live shows are rebroadcast on New Hampshire Public Radio. Writers on stage in the months ahead: Anna Quindlen on May 23 and Joan Didion on June 19. Dan Brown takes the stage in the first ever benefit event for the series on May 18.
Writers on a New England Stage Series Sponsors: Auger Building Company, Inc.; Calypso Communications; New England Audio Tech, LLC ; Piscataqua Landscaping Company Incorporated; RMC Research Corporation; and Haunted Milk Design.
Evening Sponsor: Popovers on the Square
Music Hall Season Sponsor: River House