The Secret Life of Houdini

The Secret Life of Houdini

The Making of America's First Superhero

Book - 2006
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After years of struggling on the dime museum circuit, Harry Houdini got a break that put him on the front page of a Chicago newspaper. Soon Houdini was performing for royalty, commanding vast sums, and exploring the new power of Hollywood. At a time when spy agencies frequently co-opted amateurs, Houdini developed a relationship with a man who would later run MI-5. For the next several years, the world's most famous magician traveled to Germany and Russia and routinely reported his findings. After World War I, Houdini embarked on a battle of his own, creating a group of operatives to infiltrate the seamy world of fake spirit mediums. In doing so, he triggered the wrath of fanatical Spiritualists, led by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Death threats became an everyday occurrence, but the group would pose an even greater danger to Houdini's legacy.--From publisher description.
Publisher: New York : Atria Books, c2006.
Edition: 1st Atria Books hardcover ed.
ISBN: 9780743272070
Branch Call Number: BIO HOUDINI H. Kalush 2006
Characteristics: xiv, 592 p. :,ill. ;,24 cm.
Additional Contributors: Sloman, Larry


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Oct 05, 2019

To be sure - Harry Houdini (1874-1926) may have been the greatest escape artist of all-time - But, the one thing that he could not escape from was, of course, his own mortality.

Born in Budapest, Hungary - Houdini (who stood just 5' 6" tall) was clearly an ambitious man who was obviously propelled by his fierce drive to achieve celebrity status and, thus, become the ultimate escape artist of the early 20th century.

Exhaustively written by author, William Kalush - "The Secret Life of Houdini" (at nearly 600 pages) is an incredibly detailed biography that gives the inquisitive reader a very well-rounded look at both the professional and the personal life of Harry Houdini (birth-name - Ehrich Weiss).

Mar 21, 2007

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but there were sections that just dragged on and on. This book certainly could have been about 200 pages shorter. It was fun to learn more about Houdini and his story was covered well. The long chapters about seances (apparently they were obsessed with contacting the dead in the 1910's and 1920's) and Houdini's efforts to debunk these got very tiresome. Also, there are long quotes from newspapers that are tedious to read because the language of the early last century sounds so stilted now. The book is redeemed because Houdini was such a fastinating person. His success was due to hard work and creative showmanship. I'm guessing he would have been a success no matter what he chose to do. One more thing... there were some insights as to how he did his tricks, but it would have been fun to have more information about that. Overall, I give this book a grade of B.


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