Sunday, January 24, 2016

Scorsese's next?: Eric Larsson's 'Devil in the White City'


It was recently announced that Martin Scorsese will be shepherding the adaptation of this book to the screen. A more perfect pairing I could not think of.

Larsson's book is an epic tale from the white heat of America's history: the birth of the industry and progress that would define the United States in the next century interwoven with its opposite -- the motiveless malevolence and mayhem of America's first real serial killer. The decision to combine the crimes of HH Holmes with Daniel Burnham's quest to bring the 1893 Columbian exposition to life turns the story into a by turns terrifying and ironic commentary on the darkness underpinning the myth of American prosperity.

Both are stories of control, power and loss; both are ultimately marked by the other. And like the white city itself, most of the participants are soon gone -- Holmes via the gallows; the movers and shakers by infirmity, age and, in one unfortunate case, circumstance (a famous shipping disaster).

I do not want to go into too much detail about what happens in the book -- Larson's approach is so intricate and interwoven that it would do no justice to try and boil the story down. Regardless of whether this adaptation comes to pass, track down a copy of this book. It is a truly great piece of historical drama. If this project does come to pass, it could well be Scorsese's next masterpiece. 

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