The RMS Lusitania Reading List

RMS_LusitaniaMay 7 will be the 100 anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania (see Chris’s review of Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy and the End of the Edwardian Age) by German U-20 off the Irish coast. Like a lot of anniversaries of major historical events this one has spawned a lot of books on the subject. Here is a small selection of books we have and ones coming soon. If you have a particular favorite in the list (or one you think we missed) let us know in the comments.

Let’s get started with the ones available in the NOBLE system.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

3591116“On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love.” [Goodreads]

Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian age by Greg King and Penny Wilson

3605318For more on this book check out Chris’s Review

“A hundred years after her sinking, Lusitania remains an evocative ship of mystery. Was she carrying munitions that exploded? Did Winston Churchill engineer a conspiracy that doomed the liner? Lost amid these tangled skeins is the romantic, vibrant, and finally heartrending tale of the passengers who sailed aboard her. Lives, relationships, and marriages ended in the icy waters off the Irish Sea; those who survived were left haunted and plagued with guilt. Now, authors Greg King and Penny Wilson resurrect this lost, glittering world to show the golden age of travel and illuminate the most prominent of Lusitania’s passengers. Rarely was an era so glamorous; rarely was a ship so magnificent; and rarely was the human element of tragedy so quickly lost to diplomatic maneuvers and militaristic threats.” [Goodreads]

Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy by Diana Preston.

2138388In her riveting account of this enormous and controversial tragedy, Diana Preston recalls both a pivotal moment in history and a remarkable human drama. The story of the Lusitania is a window on the maritime world of the early twentieth century: the heyday of the luxury liner, the first days of the modern submarine, and the climax of the decades-long German-British rivalry for supremacy of the Atlantic. It is a critical chapter in the progress of World War I and in the political biographies of Woodrow Wilson, William Jennings Bryan, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. Above all, it is the story of the passengers and crew on that fateful voyage– a story of terror and cowardice, of self-sacrifice and heroism, of death and miraculous survival.

With a historian’s insight and a novelist’s gift for characterization and detail, Preston re-creates the events surrounding the Lusitania’s last voyage, from the behind-the-scenes politics in each country and the German spy ring in New York, to the extraordinary scene as the ship sank and the survivors awaited rescue, to the controversial inquests in Britain and the United States into how the ship came to be hit and why she sank so quickly. Captain William Turner, steadfast and trustworthy but overconfident, believed that “a torpedo can’t get the Lusitania– she runs too fast.” [Goodreads]

Lusitania: Saga and Myth by David Ramsay

2051647In this book David Ramsay has unraveled those myths and legends and tells a clear and compelling saga of terrible maritime disaster and clashes among three powerful nations. It is a story of potentates and presidents, ambassadors and ministers of state, bankers, shipping magnates, spies, and, not least, Captain William Turner, who had to defend himself against charges of incompetence and fight for his reputation. Based on detailed research, this book almost certainly contains the most objective account of the history of the liner and the circumstances surrounding her sinking. [Goodreads]

Here’s some Lusitania fiction

Murder on the Lusitania by Conrad Allen

1828772September 1907. George Porter Dillman sets sail from Liverpool on the Lusitania’s maiden voyage. Hired by the ship’s captain to pose as a passenger, George is in fact a private detective for the Cunard Line. In the first days of his voyage, George only has to deal with a few petty crimes. But then an expensive piece of jewelry is reported stolen and a body is found. Working quickly to solve both crimes, George makes an unusual friend, Genevieve Masefield, and the two uncover secrets aboard the ship that prove explosive. [Goodreads]

The Lusitania Murders by Max Allan Collins.

2079398On May 7, 1915, the luxury liner Lusitania was struck by a German torpedo. On board was an under-cover journalist using the pen name S.S. Van Dine. And hours before the tragic sinking changed the course of history, there was a mystery-of treason, sabotage, and murder. [Goodreads]

The Nature of Midnight by Robert Rice.

21129031915: A German torpedo sinks the British passenger liner, RMS Lusitania. With almost 1,200 passengers drowned, the attack is one of Germany’s most vicious acts against civilians. . . .

2000: A postal worker and a customer are found murdered in a rural Montana post office. U.S. Postal Inspectors Gillian Loomis and Max Dombrowski are ordered to investigate the brutal crime. Max isn’t thrilled. He’d rather be in a big city than in the boondocks. And this Loomis person . . . well, they say she killed someone by accident. Great. And she doesn’t seemed thrilled with him, either. But neither has much choice. It’s this or worse. When they start looking for evidence, they work together all right, uncovering the existence of three letters written in 1918 by a man named Sharpless Walker. Somehow, those letters are connected to the murders.

As Gillian and Max follow the trail of the three letters, searching for a motive for the murders, one by one the enigmatic missives disappear, leaving violence and destruction in their wake. Something about these letters is bringing death to all who touch them. When Gillian and Max locate the last letter, encrypted in WWI code, they realize they have made themselves the next targets of whoever is destroying the letters and those who hold them.

Somehow, the letters are connected to the Lusitania, and so is Sharpless Walker. Whatever dark secret was buried with Walker won’t stay buried. Gillian and Max just hope that they can figure out the lethal connection of three letters, a dead man, and the tragedy of the Lusitania before the two of them become the final victims. [Goodreads]

Coming Soon!

The Unseen Lusitania: The Ship in Rare Illustrations by Eric Sauder9780752497051_p0_v1_s260x420

Through never-before-seen material, expert Eric Sauder brings RMS Lusitania to life once again. With vivid, unseen photographs and postcards from his extensive private collection, this absorbing read will transport the reader back 100 years to a time when opulent Ships of State were the only way to cross the Atlantic. [Goodreads]

Lusitania: An Illustrated Biography by J. Kent Layton


Since her sinking on 7 May 1915, however, her wondrous career and technological marvels have largely been neglected. Instead, the focus has shifted to her political importance, and on numerous conspiracy theories about her last voyage and sinking. This illustrated biography of the Lusitania discusses her entire story, from her conception and birth on the Clyde to her career and, finally, to her tragic demise off the coast of Ireland; it reveals her as she has never been seen before. Prepare to take a journey back in time – step aboard the decks of one of the world’s largest, finest, fastest and most beloved ocean liners, and relive her history in all its splendour. [Goodreads]


The Lusitania: Tragedy or War Crime? by Jennifer Kewley Draskau

The Lusitania sinking in 1915 was as shocking as any WW1 incident: the massive loss of life confirmed all the pre-conceived ideas of German brutality, but what have not been revealed till now are the far-reaching international political and social repercussions of this act of aggression. In Britain, anti-German propaganda reached fever pitch and forced PM Asquith into a massive Alien Internment program after riots in Liverpool and the East End; America, which had been resolutely isolationist, experienced a huge swell of support of intervention on the side of the Triple Entente, while in Germany the U-boat captain was initially hailed a hero before being court-martialled after the international outcry. And there are still question marks nearly 100 years later: why was the ship’s captain unfairly scapegoated after not being told of U-boats in the area; was the ship actually armed as the Germans have often claimed, and how much about all of this and much more did the First Lord of the Admiralty, one Winston S. Churchill, know? Jennifer Kewley Draskau’s new book on one of the great enigmas of the Great War brings together new research and evidence to reveal the true story of a great sea tragedy. [Goodreads]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.