Wall Street Journal Reveals All About Erik’s Secret High-Tech Life

This, from the Wall Street Journal of Aug. 1, 2015, in the Off Duty section:




The best-selling author of ‘Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania’ and ‘The Devil in the White City’ on white-noise generators and the superiority of pocket calculators

Clockwise from bottom left: Nunzilla toy, Scotch Matte Finish Magic Tape, Marpac Dual-Speed Dohm-DS, Briggs & Riley TD-340 Cabin Bag, Dewalt cordless drillENLARGE
Clockwise from bottom left: Nunzilla toy, Scotch Matte Finish Magic Tape, Marpac Dual-Speed Dohm-DS, Briggs & Riley TD-340 Cabin Bag, Dewalt cordless drill PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (GENERATOR, TAPE, TOY)

After I finish writing a chapter, I’ll print it out, cut it up into paragraphs and cut away any transition sentences. Then I shuffle all the paragraphs and lay them out as they come. As I arrange and hold them next to each other, very quickly a natural structure for the chapter presents itself. Then I tape the paragraphs together with Scotch Matte Finish Magic Tape—not shiny Scotch tape; that doesn’t work, I’ve gotta have the invisible—and rewrite the chapter on the computer. That’s what goes into the first draft.

A very important part of my workday are the two Nunzillas on my windowsill. They keep me constant company. They’re little windup toys, and when they move across the desk, they spark from the mouth. I think of them as my editors. They sort of remind you that the world can be a silly place.

I’m splitting my time between New York and Seattle. When I’m in New York I have, like probably everybody else in Manhattan, a white-noise generator to use at night: a Marpac Dual-Speed Dohm-DS. It is terrific. I’ve never slept better in the city.

I have a Briggs & Riley TD-321 Cabin Bag carry-on that I love (similar model TD-340 shown). I went about finding this bag in a very systematic fashion: I wanted it to have pockets in certain places. I wanted a certain size. It had to be able to be carried over the shoulder. There’s a certain gauge that the shoulder strap had to have. And it had to have a certain level of craftsmanship, a certain feel and heft. This is a bag that pulls all that together.

I was given a Casio LC-827 pocket calculator, when I was in college. I am 61 years old and this thing still works. The calculator on the iPhone is a pain in the ass; a dedicated calculator trumps that any day.


When I’m interviewing somebody, I take notes with a Bic Cristal, the classic black-cap, clear-body, medium-weight pen. It works on many levels: You can chew the cap, and if you’re really bored, you can bite the end off the back.

The Seattle house is a maintenance cesspool, so I’ve come to love my Dewalt cordless drill. I use it for any kind of small repair: drilling, screwing, polishing. It’s like the original wireless device.

—Edited from an interview by Chris Kornelis

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Erik Larson is the author of six New York Times bestsellers, most recently The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, which examines how Winston Churchill and his “Secret Circle” went about surviving the German air campaign of 1940-41. Erik’s The Devil in the White City is set to be a Hulu limited series; his In the Garden of Beasts is under option by Tom Hanks, for a feature film. He recently published an audio-original ghost story, No One Goes Alone, which has been optioned by Netflix. Erik lives in Manhattan with his wife, who is a writer and retired neonatologist; they have three grown daughters.

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