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Erik Larson revisits the dark side: interview

Erik Larson talks about Nazis, American naiveté, anti-Semitism, and how he got the idea for "In the Garden of the Beasts," his recent book about life in Hitler's Germany.

By Randy Dotinga / June 3, 2011

Larson says that writing about the experiences of the US ambassador and his daughter in Nazi Germany was like telling "a Grimm fairy tale, with two innocents in the dark forest and things get darker and darker."


Maybe it's because it rains a lot in the Northwest. Whatever the reason, Seattle writer Erik Larson admits he can't stay away from darkness.

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His 2003 true-crime masterpiece and huge bestseller, "The Devil in the White City," tracks a Chicago serial killer around the time of the stunning 1893 World's Fair. Galveston is devastated by a hurricane in Larson's "Isaac's Storm," while "Thunderstruck" is a second tale of murder.

This time around, Larson tackles the most universally detested villains of the 20th century: the Nazis.

Larson's latest, "In the Garden of Beasts," tells the story of an unlikely 1930s US ambassador to Germany, his sexy and ever-gallivanting young daughter, and their interactions with leaders whose inhumanity only slowly becomes crystal-clear.

The book (which we'll review soon) is yet another Larson page-turner, a vivid glimpse at how these two Americans reacted to the unfolding horror around them in Berlin and beyond.

In an interview this week, I asked Larson about the impetus for his book, the early charm of the Nazis, and their lessons for us today.


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