Erik Larson

Erik Larson
Lecture date
Originally aired: March 1st, 2022
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During The Blitz

Erik Larson is a master of narrative nonfiction. His vividly written, bestselling books have won several awards and been published worldwide. His critically acclaimed book, The Devil in the White City, inter­twines the stories of the Chicago 1893 World’s Fair and one of America’s worst serial killers. It remained on the New York Times bestseller lists for a combined total of over six years, and in 2020, the New York Public Library voted it one of the 125 most important books of the last 125 years.

His latest book, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During The Blitz, a biography of Winston Churchill’s first year as prime minister, is a New York Times Notable Book of 2020 and a Kirkus Best Book of 2020. In The Splendid and the Vile, Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it is also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley; and 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports — some released only recently — Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family.

Larson graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied Russian history, language, and culture. He received a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. After a brief stint at the Bucks County Courier Times, Larson became a staff writer for The Wall Street Journal and later a contributing writer for Time magazine. He has written articles for The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and other publica­tions. He has taught nonfiction writing at San Francisco State, the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, and the University of Oregon.