Bloomington (IL) Public Library is bringing New York Times bestselling author Erik Larson to Bloomington on April 12, 2017, to discuss his book, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, during a free author presentation at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.
This month on Shelf Understanding, host Danny Rice and Larson go over Larson’s methods and his inspiration via telephone. We learn that a stumbled-upon footnote noting the debut of Juicy Fruit Gum during the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 inspired Larson to write The Devil in the White City which highlights the true tales of two men at the time of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Interwoven in the book’s pages is the story of Daniel Burnham, the architect who is charged with constructing the fairgrounds and all its buildings, as well as the story of H.H. Holmes, a serial killer who used the backdrop of the fair to lure people to their deaths.
And though he’s not a fan of heights, Larson assures us that he would have found a way to ride the very first Ferris Wheel which debuted at the 1893 Fair as “competition” to the Eiffel Tower which was unveiled at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. One must understand that this is not today’s Ferris Wheel; this Ferris Wheel could carry 2,160 people per rotation.