July 12th, 2024

Erik Larson’s next book closely tracks the months leading up to the Civil War

By Hillel Italie, The Associated Press on October 18, 2023.

This cover image released by Crown Publishing shows "The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War" by Erik Larson. (Crown Publishing via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) – The next book by Erik Larson, widely known for the best-selling “The Devil in the White City,” is a work of Civil War history inspired in part by current events.

Crown announced Wednesday that Larson’s “The Demon of Unrest: Subtitle: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War” will come out April 30. Larson sets his narrative over a short but momentous time span, from Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860 to the firing on Fort Sumter five months later.

During a recent telephone interview, Larson said he was initially inspired by his reading of historical documents and how he could weave them into a “tick-tock” chronology of the country’s fracturing and descent into armed conflict, driven by “the human element – the hubris, the personalities, the ambitions, the egos.”

“And then comes January 6,” he added, referring to the 2021 siege of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump. “I have to tell you, it was the weirdest thing watching this unfold on TV, because the documents I was going through could have been written today. Lincoln’s primary concern had been about whether the electoral vote count would be disturbed, and then came the grave concern about the inauguration. It all has very contemporary resonance.”

Larson’s book will also feature such historical figures as Major Robert Anderson, the Union commander of Fort Sumter and a former slave holder who found himself battling Confederate forces; Virginia planter Edmund Ruffin, an impassioned and influential backer of secession; and the diarist Mary Boykin Chestnut, wife of a prominent South Carolina lawyer and politician who became a brigadier general in the Confederate Army.

“Drawing on diaries, secret communiques, slave ledgers, and plantation records, Larson gives us a political horror story that captures the forces that led America to the brink – a dark reminder that we often don’t see a cataclysm coming until it’s too late,” Crown’s announcement reads in part.

Besides “The Devil in the White City,” based in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, Larson’s books include “The Splendid and the Vile,” “Dead Wake” and “Isaac’s Storm.”

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