Erik Larson’s non-fiction novel The Devil in the White City has had a long road to the screen. Way back in 2010, it looked like Leonardo DiCaprio would star in a film adaptation of the book, which follows the construction of the World’s Fair in Chicago as well as the serial killer H.H. Holmes. Now it looks like The Devil in the White City will finally be adapted as a TV series with DiCaprio set to executive produce alongside Martin Scorsese. According to Variety, the duo will EP with Stacey Sher, Rick Yorn, Emma Koskoff, and Jennifer Davisson; Paramount Television will produce.
It’s a great story, one that juxtaposes human achievement with human cruelty, and a series might be a better way to tell it. If it were just a movie, they would likely have to drop the half of the story focusing on architect Daniel Hudson Burnham and keep the focus primarily on Holmes and his crimes. But as a series, there’s enough time to give both men their due and give their stories some breathing room.
There’s no word yet who will write the show or serve as showrunner, but hopefully this is the adaptation of The Devil in the White City that comes to fruition.
Here’s the official synopsis of Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City:
Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium.
Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.
The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. Erik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both. [Amazon]