The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America (Crown Publishers, ISBN 0-609-60844-4) is a 2003 historical non-fiction book by Erik Larson presented in a novelistic style. It tells the story of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago from the viewpoint of the designers, including Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted, and also tells the story of H. H. Holmes, a criminal figure in that same time often considered by historians as the first modern serial killer.
The Devil in the White City is divided into four parts, the first three happening in Chicago between 1890 and 1893, while part four of the book takes place in Philadelphia circa 1895. The book interweaves the true tales of Daniel Burnham, the architect behind the 1893 World's Fair, and H. H. Holmes, a serial killer who lured his victims to their deaths in his elaborately constructed "Murder Castle".
Leonardo DiCaprio purchased the film rights to the book in 2010. The film version, as originally planned, would have been directed by Martin Scorsese, written by Billy Ray, and produced jointly by Paramount Pictures, Double Feature Films, and DiCaprio's Appian Way Productions.
In 2019, Hulu began developing a series based on the book. Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are designated as the executive producers of the project along with Stacey Sher. It was announced in January 2022, that actor Keanu Reeves was in negotiations to star in the series as Daniel Burnham and Todd Field would direct the first two episodes. Production and filming are expected to begin March 2023 in Chicago and Toronto, with the series expected to launch in 2024. In October 2022, Reeves left the production without comment. Field left the project a couple of days later.
As the third-biggest city in the United States, Chicago has a reputation for many things. People from all over the world come to see the impressive architecture, go to museums, experience the nightlife, and try culinary specialties such as the deep dish pizza. It is also a place known for street violence. Have you ever wondered how this once-sleepy midwest town rose to such a reputation?
Perhaps scariest of all though was that the murder rates were some of the highest in North America, and the police were too understaffed and undertrained to handle the violent city. The city averaged about four murders daily. When doctor H. H. Holmes stepped off the train in Chicago, he knew he had found the perfect place to hide dark acts.
Though residents were ecstatic about what this could do for their city, officials knew it was going to be a huge undertaking considering the crime and corruption. So Chicago chose the perfect man to head the job-architect Daniel Burnham. He was full of charisma and a natural leader. However, he soon found out how complex the job would be. The economy was struggling, and Chicago was beginning to experience class conflict.
Martin Scorsese, Rick Yorn, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson of Appian Way, Stacey Sher, Sam Shaw, and Mark Lafferty serve as executive producers on the series. Reeves will executive produce in addition to starring. Sam Shaw is adapting the book for the screen and will serve as showrunner and executive producer. Todd Field is attached to direct and executive produce, with Lila Byock also executive producing. ABC Signature will produce in association with Paramount Television Studios.
The Devil in the White City is a book for people with a natural curiosity and lovers of history or true crime or architecture. It is certainly a lot more substantive with a lot more information than your average bestseller, but these facts have been carefully curated and narrated to tell a fascinating story.
Great review. I cannot believe you were tasked to read this book at your grad school. I wish I was ever tasked at my grad school to read something as fun and exciting as that. Thanks for the recommendation. I have read some bad reviews on this one and am happy to know others enjoyed it.
We love books that educate while also entertaining us. Historical true crime offers a gripping story enriched with a bit of a history lesson. Read on for eleven true crime books shining a light on a particular moment in history.
This month marks our eighteenth birthday here at ThriftBooks. As we transition into adulthood, we are celebrating by remembering some of the most popular books, music, and movies from 2003, the year we were born.
The Devil in the White City has been shaping up for a while as a major production for Hulu. The book itself is a classic historical nonfiction piece, becoming a New York Times bestseller and garnering an Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime among a slew of other honors. Moreover, the production has both Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese attached as executive producers with Sam Shaw of Castle Rock fame writing and serving as showrunner. For both DiCaprio and Scorsese, it's a passion project stemming back years before it ever landed at Hulu and became a series, and with the prospect of Reeves bucking the trend of his career and taking on a television role, there was a lot to be excited about coming into the eight-episode show. Now, the search is underway to find a new Burnham and an H. H. Holmes.
Larson's book is set amidst the setup of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. It follows Burnham, a visionary architect facing the daunting challenge of creating a spectacle for the fair that will write his name into the history books forever. In the shadow of his work, however, lurks Holmes, the man largely credited as America's first serial killer, who lured victims into his notorious "Murder Castle" under the nose of everyone in Chicago. The story unfolds across four parts that intertwine the stories of Burnham and Holmes and how both made their mark on the county in very different ways.
NPR's Scott Simon talks with Erik Larson about his new book, The Devil in the White City. Larson portrays two men possessed. One attempts to become the master builder of the Gilded Age and the other is driven to kill repeatedly.
Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America's rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair's brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country's most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his "World's Fair Hotel" just west of the fairgrounds, a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium. Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake. The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. In this book the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before. Erik Larson's gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.
In May 2010, Catalytic Communities launched what was originally Rio Olympics Neighborhood Watch (hence RioOnWatch), a program to bring visibility to favela community voices in the lead-up to the 2016 Rio Olympics. This news site, RioOnWatch.org, grew into a much-needed and unique reference featuring favela perspectives on the urban transformation of Rio. With diverse and deeply interlinked articles by a mix of community reporters, resident opinions, solidarity reporters, international observers, and academic researchers, we work to engender a more accurate picture of favelas, their contributions to the city, and the potential of favela-led community development in Rio and around the world.
Fundação Heinrich Böll BrasilWorld HabitatFideicomiso de la Tierra Caño Martín PeñaPastoral de FavelasCenter for CLT InnovationGlobal Land AllianceEcocity BuildersMansueto Institute for Urban InnovationSDSU Behner Stiefel CenterThe Rio TimesForum Grita BaixadaBeto Paixão Graphic DesignArchitecture Museum of ViennaYale School of Architecture
The main thrust of the book is the chronicle of the architects' struggle to bring into existence a marvelous world fair - The Colombian Fair Exposition in the 1890's. A fair that would have no comparison or rival. One that would be the city Chicago wanted to be; the city's conscience. The White City, a marvel that would be lit by thousands of electric lights all using, for the first time, Nicolas Tesla's Alternating Current.
This is a thickly paced book, at the speed of steam. But how it held my attention in difficult times speaks well of the author, and his thoroughness at capturing America at the end of the nineteenth century. I recommend it for its precise history and splendid portrayal of a serial killer in his natural habitation of evil.
At the dawn of the 20th century, a great confidence suffused America. Isaac Cline was one of the era's new men, a scientist who believed he knew all there was to know about the motion of clouds and the behavior of storms. The idea that a hurricane could damage the city of Galveston, Texas, where he was based, was to him preposterous, "an absurd delusion." It was 1900, a year when America felt bigger and stronger than ever before. Nothing in nature could hobble the gleaming city of Galveston, then a magical place that seemed destined to become the New York of the Gulf. 2b1af7f3a8