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, [2006], ©2006
Edition: First Atria Books hardcover edition
ISBN: 9780743272087
0743272080
9780743272070
0743272072
Branch Call Number: 921 Houdi
Characteristics: xiv, 592 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Sloman, Larry

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tedrich2921
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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