A Crack in the Edge of the World : America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906
by Simon Winchester
Winchester’s latest work could not have appeared in a more timely fashion. Published in the wake of another epic disaster, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, the book arrived just as the centennial of the 1906 California earthquake approached. Beginning with a lengthy discussion of the geological theories and forces at the heart of the monumental 1906 disaster and then shifting from a scientific study to a sociopolitical and historical exploration of the ramifications of the earthquake, this is something of a travel book as well. A prolific travel writer, Winchester gives his book a sweeping scope as he crosses from Iceland to the San Andreas Fault, along the North Atlantic plate, the rock formation which supports the continental United States, Canada and Alaska. He colorfully presents the history of San Francisco including Gold Rush days, the Barbary Coast period and, of course, the 1906 earthquake and fire. Historical figures are brought to life, such as Army chief, Brigadier General, Frederick Funston, tenor Enrico Caruso, actor John Barrymore and photographer Ansel Adams (age four at the time). The repercussions of that tragic April day are still being felt today, according to the author.
For On the Same Page, the Library has purchased the 2005 hardback edition of A Crack in the Edge of the World, published by HarperCollins. It is also available at the Library as an unabridged talking book in CD and audiocassette formats.
About the Author
Born in London, this Oxford-educated geologist now lives in the Berkshire Mountains region of Massachusetts and in the Western Isles of Scotland. Starting out as a geologist in Uganda and on oil rigs in the North Sea, Winchester became a journalist in England in 1967. His work as a foreign correspondent for the Guardian and the Daily Mail in London in the 1970s brought him to such locales as Belfast, New Delhi, Hong Kong, New York and Washington, D.C. In 1981, he became the senior feature writer for London’s Sunday Times. He was brought to international attention during the Falkland Islands War when he was arrested as a suspected British spy in Patagonia -- the basis for his 1983 book, Prison Diary, Argentina. He has written many other travel books, including Stones of Empire: The Buildings of the Raj (co-written with his friend, Jan Morris). Winchester’s preferred travel mode is walking; its down-to-earth quality perhaps appeals to the geologist in him. Some of his better-known books include: Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, 27 August 1883; The Map that Changed the World; The Meaning of Everything; and The Surgeon of Crowthorne, which became a bestseller in the United States under the title, The Professor and the Madman. In recent years he has also contributed to such magazines as Condé Nast Traveler, Smithsonian Magazine and National Geographic. He was Lurie Professor at San Jose State University in 2004. Awards: Journalist of the Year, England; AAPG (American Association of Petroleum Geologists) Journalism Award. In 2006, He was awarded an honour as Officer of the British Empire (part of the Queen's 2006 New Year's honours list).
Of Related Interest
- 1906 Earthquake Centennial Alliance website
- Browse photos of the 1906 Earthquakefrom the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection
- Ferris, Henry. Author Interview on the official Simon Winchester.
- Lara, Adair. “Q & A: Simon Winchester: Enraptured by Research, Intrigued by All.” Author interview on San Francisco Chronicle Online (April 6, 2003).
- Miller, Brian. “Master of Disaster.” Author interview on Seattle Weekly.com (October 12, 2005).