Houdini: The British Tours. I always enjoy these passion project/specialty books, and this one is an invaluable resource for us Houdini nuts. Derek has pretty much nailed down every engagement Houdini played in the UK and Scotland, and for the great majority of them, he's uncovered newspaper clippings and reviews that he's reproduced in full. (I'm thinking of sitting down and, using this book, filling in some of the gaps in Koval's Houdini Research Diaries.)
Reading this book one really gets a very good sense of what Houdini's day to day act consisted of -- what remained the same and what he varied. I was especially taken with the great many descriptions of how he presented his challenge packing crate escapes. It was somewhat of a revelation to me that he would encourage the challengers to insert fresh nails into the box onstage (so much for Houdini replacing the nails while the box was in his possession), and that the ropes used to encircle the crate were also nailed to the boards. I don't think I've every heard about this nailing of the ropes, yet this detail is in just about every newspaper account of these challenges. I was also interested in a review from Houdini's final tour in 1920 that says he performed the Milk Can!
I also like that Derek does not just excerpt the Houdini sections from these reviews, but reproduces the entire thing so you can see what other acts were playing alongside Harry. It gives a great sense of the time and place and who Houdini's fellow performers were (I was actually surprised by the lack of variety in some of these variety shows). And did we all know that Houdini shared the bill with Chung Ling Soo during his historic first week at the Alhambra in 1900? Because I'm not sure I knew that! But Derek reproduces the Alhambra program for that week, and there they are! Houdini and Chung Ling Soo on the same bill. Oh to be a time traveller.
The book is profusely illustrated and includes lots of challenge broadsides and newspaper clippings. There is also a terrific drawing, made by an audience member, of Houdini on stage, which gives a great idea of how he laid out his props. At 188 pages, it's also one of the longer specialty books. A few forgivable errors do creep into the text (Herman was the Weiss sibling who died at a young age, not Gladys), but Derek promises updates in the future as he uncovers more about Houdini's appearances in Great Britain.
Houdini: The British Tours is available in two covers (above). If you order direct from derektait.co.uk, you can choose which cover you want and also get the book signed. It's also available on Amazon.co.uk, but availability there has been sketchy. You can also purchase it for the Kindle via Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.