The Secret Life of Houdini
By William Kalush and Larry Sloman
*A Book Review*
by Michael C. Gray
© 2018 by Michael C. Gray
Harry Houdini was one of American's earliest celebrities. His name still comes to many people's minds in association with "magician."
The Secret Life of Houdini is a fairly exhaustive biography of this historical figure — 559 pages.
From a business standpoint, Houdini gave several important lessons.
First, he created a stage personality for himself as a "miracle man" or "superman."
Second, he found a "cause" to be associated with that captured the imagination of the public. Spiritualism was a craze during his lifetime. Although Houdini was fascinated with the concept and desperately wanted to communicate with his deceased mother, he exposed most mediums as using the techniques of stage magicians for their physical "manifestations" and for their psychic readings. In this process he was in conflict with the author Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame. Doyle was an avid Spiritualist and offended by Houdini's exposés.
Third, Houdini was a master of publicity for self-promotion. In every city in which he performed, he would go to the local jail and challenge the authorities to lock him up and handcuff him, and then escape. He also did publicity stunts, such as escaping from a straitjacket while hanging upside down and jumping from bridges into freezing oceans or rivers.
Fourth, Houdini was an early self-promoter in movies. He created "James Bond" type spy thrillers featuring his escapes.
Houdini led a fascinating life, performing extensively in Europe and socializing with other celebrities of the day, including Arthur Conan Doyle before their estrangement and Jack London and his wife.
The authors also make a case that Houdini and other show business personalities were involved in espionage for the United States.
The Secret Life of Houdini is entertaining and fascinating to read and learn about one of the great personalities of all time.
Buy it on Amazon: The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero.
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