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The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero [Paperback]

William Kalush , Larry Ratso Sloman
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

6 Aug 2007
Using exclusive access to newly uncovered archives, Kalush and Sloman reveal the clandestine agreements in which the British and Americans recruited Houdini to be an active secret agent. In exchange for his cooperation, the governments of these two countries facilitated his rise to the top of the world stage. The authors give thrilling accounts of his assignments, such as his participation in early aerial surveillance and his use of his own magic magazine to communicate espionage-related information. After the war, Houdini embarked upon what became his most dangerous mission when he took on the Spiritualist movement. Convinced that Spiritualist mediums were frauds, he became obsessed with exposing them. But the Spiritualists were a powerful adversary. An organized network of fanatics, led by Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, worked relentlessly to orchestrate a campaign that would silence Houdini forever. Grounded in solid research, but as exciting and dramatic as a good thriller, THE SECRET LIFE OF HOUDINI traces the magician's long and circuitous route from struggling vaudevillian to worldwide legend.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; New edition edition (6 Aug 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184739082X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847390820
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Kalush and Sloman appear to have raked through every known Houdini archive to produce the most comprehensive and controversial biography ever written about the man, with its contention that he was a spy who may have been murdered by a cult."-- Tony Barrell, "London Sunday Times"

About the Author

William Kalush is one of the most respected names in the world of magic. Founder of the Conjuring Arts Research Centre, he has collaborated with David Blaine on the magician's world-famous stunts and television specials. Larry 'Ratso' Sloman is an award-winning author best known for his collaboration with Howard Stern on PRIVATE PARTS and MISS AMERICA.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who did Houdini in? 21 Aug 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In this comprehensive and thoroughly researched biography of Harry Houdini we are introduced to one of the most complex and sensational entertainers of the early part of the 20th century. Born Erik Weisz to a poor Jewish family in 1887 Budapest, they migrated to Minneapolis in the 1890's where his father eked out a living as a Rabbi and Talmud teacher. From a young age Erik discovered a fascination for locks and other contraptions and the skill to escape from them which lead him along his career path from itinerant escapologist; magician; aviator film maker and finally campaigner against "fraudulent mediums" and spiritualists. Each of his career changes would warrant a book in themselves and this is a tome of a book packed with details of his various ingenious escapes ; his dangerous exploits both on and off the stage; his work as an aviator and a spy for British and American intelligence whilst touring Germany and Russia; and his sometimes fractious relationships with other magicians and performers. Often turning friends into enemies and then vice versa. He even attacked Robert-Houdin, whose name he had taken in a book on him for faking many of his tricks whilst maintaining his continued admiration for him.

Houdini was a showman, a raconteur and someone known to bear a grudge and used his influence within magician's circles to lambast others who he felt were either frauds or plagiarisers of his inventions within his profession.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding, what could this guy not do?? 14 May 2009
This is a great book, the life, be it a short one this guy had was unreal. The book is factually written and broken down into easily absorbed chunks. It is 'littered' (in a good way) with old photographs and posters showing Houdini, his wife, places they performed and people he knew.

If you are interested in performing escapes or conjuring, then it is probably not for you. But if you want to know about the master of misdirection, escapology and his life then it is a MUST READ.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The life of a master mystifier 8 Nov 2009
By S. Bentley VINE VOICE
Kalush and Sloman's biography of Houdini's event-filled life starts out by pointing to some new ideas it puts forward about Houdini's connection to the intelligence communities of the USA and Great Britain, thanks to new revelations from the MI5 archives. Astoundingly though, these connections to the nascent secret services are the least fascinating elements of the tale.

Featuring a mixture of reported conversations and correspondence within the context of the narrative, the book goes some ways to providing a picture of Houdini's personality whilst detailing his great genius and ingenuity. But there are no overt judgments in the text, whether talking about his affairs, his outbursts of temper and rabid need to be acknowledged, which is a good trick that allows the reader to come to a decision without being told what side of the fence they should fall on.

A weighty tome at over 500 pages, the intrigue never palls. From his humble, beginnings as the child of an immigrant family, through his hungry efforts to break into show business, to the height of his powers, to his war against spiritualism, there is a lot to chew on and think about. Some of the methodology of his tricks is revealed along the way for those interested in the magic, a lot is revealed about his philosophy and the extreme commitment that he had that made him a success. There are many highs, even as there seems to have been ructions in his personal life.

There are Presidents, Kaisers and fellow magicians to meet. All are fascinating characters. Arthur Conan Doyle is here too, portrayed in a less than positive light.

There is a shift in tone as the book heads to its conclusion.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was leant this book by a friend who assured me I would love it, despite not before having professed any real interest in Houdini. I wasn't disappointed and have since bought it for others as presents. It's a long book, but never feels like a chore. It's great combination of 'how' the magic works and stories about his life.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended Biography 18 Dec 2012
By sprock
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Interesting read discovering his magic tricks and life story and investigations into mediums and seances. It also covered his disagreements with Conan Doyle.
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