Thunderstruck Weaves A Tale of Intrigue


Fact or fiction?

Hawley Harvey Crippen, a doctor, and his wife (disguised as his son) board a ship bound for America in the early 20th century.

Crippen’s journey would become linked to wireless technology developed by Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi.

One of them had committed one of the most famous murders in English history.

In Thunderstruck, a work of non-fiction, Erik Larson weaves the tale of two men who would never meet, but would be linked in a way neither could have foreseen. Grisly, suspenseful details emerge as the reader is left wondering for most of the book how the stories of doctor and inventor will merge.

Larson has a gift for making fact seem stranger than fiction. This is my third Erik Larson book. In Devil in the White City, he blends a compelling story about the Chicago World’s Fair with a gruesome murder. Dead Wake tells the story of the Lusitania.

Camino Sunrise: Thank You, Readers!

I am grateful for two reviews of Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows that arrived this week via Amazon. Also, I am thankful for my wife Sue’s ink-and-watercolor art. There is rarely a shortage of signs on Spain’s Camino de Santiago. To everyone who has shared our journey: Thank you!

From the United Kingdom: “While reading this book I was transported to the Camino. The descriptions of the people, difficulties and triumphs are so vivid and told with humour and insight. I got totally engrossed in it and could imagine myself walking with the author and his wife. They would be such entertaining companions. Great read.”

From the USA: “I’ve lived vicariously for years reading others’ adventures hiking the Camino. This book was my favorite! Down to earth, funny, moving, heartfelt, loved it, felt like I was taking the journey along with the author. I would definitely read other books he writes.”

Our adventures on Scotland’s West Highland Way, the Alps’ Tour du Mont Blanc, Italy’s Way of St. Francis, and England’s South West Coast Path are getting closer to publication. Stay tuned!

Rocket Boys: A Great American Comeback

Sputnik’s launch in 1957 thrust the Soviet Union into first place in the space race, causing fear about where its domination would lead.

But for some Americans, like Homer “Sonny” Hickam, the launch was just what they needed to transform imagination, ingenuity and hard work into a great American success story. From 1957 through 1960, Sonny and his West Virginia high school classmates, as the Big Creek Missile Agency, fired off 35 rockets, some wildly successful, some wildly disastrous.

Nearly four decades later, Hickam published Rocket Boys, a memoir that has flown off the shelves since, leading to the acclaimed film October Sky.

The boys dreamed that they would go to the moon, that their rockets would reach space, that they would escape a life working in the coal mine in Coalwood, West Virginia. But, in their wildest dreams, they could not have foreseen where their experiments would take them, their families, their community, their nation. As badly as Homer and his fellow scientists wanted out of Coalwood, their hometown came through for them when everything they had worked for was on the line.

Rocket Boys is an inspiring story for those who value education, community, family, and the dreams of kids growing up in West Virginia–or anywhere.

Smokejumper Flips His PCT

On the Camino de Santiago, the world’s most-traveled long-distance trek, pilgrims like to say, “Everyone walks their own Camino.”

In Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Mexico to Canada, Bruce Wilson describes how he inserted a “flip” in his 2,650-mile endurance test. He began at the Mexican border in April and arrived in the Southern Sierra Nevada early, with dangerously high snow levels ahead. He got rides to Ashland, Oregon, where he flipped his PCT and walked back to the southern Sierra, where he left off. He still faced snow and snowmelt-fed waterways, but his PCT was safer, more passable. To complete his flip, he got rides back to Ashland and resumed his trek.

Nelson’s book brings home the challenges of backpacking for months on difficult terrain that reaches more than 13,000 feet. I am addicted to experiencing the PCT through hikers’ books and YouTube posts and, like many I have followed, Nelson paints a vivid picture of the beauty and the problems he faced. A retired smokejumper from Alaska, he preferred walking on his own, but accompanied others for stretches. There are days that sound just like other days and I yearned for more about his personal journey, but, in the end, I was drawn to turn the pages by an appreciation of his strength, physical and mental.