When I was working to complete my list of 500 literary classics (otherwise known as the Carp 500), I often listened to books on tape or CDs, but since I’ve completed the list, I haven’t found all that many books on CDs that I care about.
However, last week as I wandered through the library, I was thunderstruck to find the book Thunderstruck by Erik Larsen. If you aren’t familiar with the book or the author, Mr. Larsen also wrote The Devil in White City about the Chicago’s World Fair. a book that has accumulated a lot of fame and interest and which they’re attempting to get made into a movie but which has never happened. Anyhow, I actually have the book Thunderstruck in my house, but hadn
‘t gotten around to reading it – though I wanted to. So finding it on CD was exciting – I like listening to books in the car.
The book is two true accounts in one.
1. The story of Doctor Hawley Harvey Crippen, a mousy man who married way over his station (can you marry way over a station?) a vivacious lady who aspired to be a famous opera singer. Larsen takes us through their many moves and Crippens many jobs in the field of homeopathy as he duped people into buying potions that did nothing, but promised a lot. As Belle (the wife) became more and more caught up in spending Doctor Crippen’s money on fancy dresses and lavish parties, he became less and less enchanted – finally desiring to get rid of her and run off with his young secretary. Being that he was somewhat a doctor – he knew just the method to use to finalize that disappearance.
2. Meanwhile young Guglielmo Marconi worked tirelessly on perfecting wireless communication. A young Italian, he went to London and made connections there. Step by step he developed technology that enabled him to send signals greater distances. His dream – to send a signal across the Atlantic Ocean. To do so, he needs to build two massive towers. The first, of course, in Europe and the second in the US.
Right now, I am at the part of the book where he has purchased eight acres of Cape Cod seashore which was then very cheap, but would now cost you millions. He bought it from a man who searched for abandoned shipwrecked boats….
What does the doctor have to do with Marconi? As Crippen and his girlfriend tried to escape on a transatlantic voyage – the ship’s captain figured out who they were. No one told the fugitive couple – but what they had for breakfast, how they spent their leisure time, etc. (kind of like the first FaceBook statuses) went out to the whole world (via Marconi’s new invention) as they sailed not to freedom, but to capture. I would highly recommend this book both for its historical value and its intrigue.
As I am listening to this, I am picturing it – because the memorial to Marconi’s station is now part of the Cape Cod National Seashore – (Incidentally, the crookedness and ragged edges of these pictures are not part of the scenery, nor were they taken on an angle. This is because they were glued onto a scrapbook page.)