Erik Larson
Erik Larson; Photo by Nina Subin

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Erik Larson: The Splendid and the Vile

When author Erik Larson began the book tour for his latest New York Times bestseller, The Splendid and the Vile, in early 2020, hints that the coronavirus pandemic was developing into something serious would show their face (or in this case, not) when audience members would attend his events wearing masks. It wasn’t until he was in the unlikeliest of places—a bathroom in Chicago—that Larson realized the gravity of the situation. “I was in the men’s room at O’Hare International, and there were lines six deep in front of each sink,” Larson tells City Paper. “That doesn’t happen in a men’s room, especially not at an airport. So I knew something serious was happening.” Though the book tour, like the rest of the world, screeched to an abrupt halt soon after Larson’s realization, The Splendid and the Vile couldn’t have been released at a better time. The story it tells of Winston Churchill and his family navigating the 1940 and 1941 German bombing campaign know as the Blitz, seems to have resonated with readers in lockdown. “People really did come to the book out of a need for comfort,” says Larson. “It’s fascinating, especially because it’s a book about mass death, chaos, and war.” Now that he’s back on the road, devout Larsonists will be able to see the author in person when he joins CBS News’ Robert Costa in conversation at Sixth & I to celebrate the paperback release of the book. More good news for fans of the author came earlier this year: There seems to be movement on the long-awaited Hulu limited series adaption of Larson’s 2003 historical non-fiction, The Devil in the White City—the news pushed the book back onto the Times‘ bestseller list. “There’s been a lot of chatter about that,” says Larson. “Including this very tantalizing bit of news out of Hollywood that Keanu Reeves was in talks to be a part of the series, which I think would be fantastic.” Almost all of Larson’s books have been optioned (save Isaac’s Storm), so hopefully the thrilling The Splendid and the Vile will get the limited series treatment as well. The conversation will take place on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. at Sixth & I, 600 I St. NW. $25–$27. Proof of vax and masks are required.