Click for details and to buy tickets

Sunday, May 29, 2011

An excellent Trick

On Thursday, May 26, I had the pleasure of attending the debut of Jim Steinmeyer's one act play, The Card Trick, at The Magic Castle. The play features Jim Bentley as Houdini and Jeanine Anderson as Mina Crandon a.k.a. Margery the Medium.

The play is fiction based on fact -- an imagining of what could have happened between Houdini and Margery during their 25 minute private meeting while Margery was being investigated by the Scientific American. Houdini was on the committee, and it was his work that ultimately led to Margery being denied the prize for genuine mediumship. But before the verdict was handed down, Houdini and Margery had an off-the-record conversation where, it's almost certain, Margery attempted to bribe him. This is pretty much what happens during The Card Trick, but the way in which the two joust using dueling card tricks is very clever and entertaining. (Note to Hollywood: this is how to do Houdini fiction.)

I've seen Jim Bentley perform as Houdini several times, including his excellent stageplay in 1999. When he stepped out on stage in his full Houdini makeup, there was a familiar thrill of recognition, almost as if Houdini himself had made a reappearance. There are no escapes in the play, but Houdini's own card trick is a beautifully engineered stage illusion (based on Pepper's Ghost?) performed in full light on the stage of Peller Theater and a real show stopper.

Jeanine Anderson (who currently has a recurring role on Glee) makes a dynamite Margery, who really holds the upper hand throughout the play. While helping herself to her private stock of "Bursky's Gin" (an inside joke), she keeps Houdini flustered with her open flirtations and ability to manipulate him by tweaking his insecurities about his lack of education (and Jewish ethnicity) among the Scientific American committee. At one point Houdini offers to buy her card trick before she concludes it when he fears it might actually stump him. I won't spoil the outcome, but Margery's trick is also a show stopper in a different way.

Due to popular demand, The Card Trick was repeated at 9:30 and then again at 10:15. Each performance benefited the Dai Vernon fund. Luminaries such as Patrick Culliton, Joe Fox, Jonathan Pendragon, and Lisa Cousins were on hand. Jim Steinmeyer spoke briefly after each performance, and all the attendees I spoke with had nothing but good things to say about the play.

The Card Trick was also presented free of charge on Friday and Saturday night (I was able to catch the Saturday show as well) with the talented and funny Derek Hughes performing before and after the play. It will be performed one last time on June 3 for the Skirball Center's special A Day at the Magic Castle event.

I did notice on Saturday that the play was being taped, so perhaps it will be available for AMA members to view in The Magic Castle's William W. Larsen, Sr. Memorial Library? Let's hope so, because Jim Steinmeyer's The Card Trick is too good to disappear.

Houdini Heart by Ki Longfellow

I spotted Houdini Heart by Ki Longfellow back when it was released on April 25, but it appeared from the description on Amazon that it only name-checks Houdini in its title -- using the master magician as a metaphor rather than an actual character in the book (similar to The Houdini Girl a few years back).

But now someone has posted on Wikipedia that "Houdini appears as himself" in the fantasy/horror book. As a ghost maybe? Not sure, but it looks like the book now warrants a shout-out, if we are to trust Wikipedia.

Houdini Heart is available as a paperback and for the Kindle.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vintage postcard shows Houdini's (real) Hollywood home

Los Angeles Relics (click to enlarge)

Los Angeles Relics has posted this vintage postcard to their Facebook page. The card shows "A Shady Nook in Laurel Canyon. Hollywood, California." But to Houdini buffs, it shows much more!

This card was first unearthed by Houdini expert and Laurel Canyon resident, Patrick Culliton, who points out that the arched porch of a house, just visible between the tree branches, is 2435 Laurel Canyon Blvd., the REAL house that Houdini occupied when he was filming The Grim Game and Terror Island for Famous Players-Lasky in 1919. It was later lived in by Bessie and Ed Saint until it was sold in 1935.

Of course, local legend has it that Houdini lived in the large estate across the street at what is now 2400 Laurel Canyon Blvd. That property is now called Houdini House and is rented out for events. Houdini is also sometimes associated with another mansion just up the street. But the truth is it was this four bedroom house on a bluff -- which was actually the guesthouse to the larger mansion -- that Houdini occupied. In fact, the owner of the larger mansion, Ralf Walker, named this guesthouse "Houdini House" after his famous tenet.

Site of "Houdini House" today
"Houdini House" was torn down in the 1960s when the bluff was graded back to widened Laurel Canyon Blvd. Today it is just empty hillside with the top of a modern street light (visible in the pic on the right) showing the approximate location of the old house.

You can read more about the real "Houdini House" at Patrick Culliton's website, Houdini's Ghost.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Necronauts reprint cover art

Cover art has been revealed for the Tharg's Terror Tales collection. The superb but hard to find Houdini mash-up graphic novel, Necronauts, is included in the collection, which is due for release on October 18, 2011.

In Necronauts, Houdini joins forces with H.P. Lovecraft, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and phenomenologist Charles Fort to defeat an unholy force which has followed him back from a place beyond human imagination...

Unfortunately, the Houdini story doesn't feature on the cover, but you can see the original Necronauts cover art there on the lower left.

Necronauts is written by Gordon Rennie with illustrations by Frazer Irving. The "Tharg" collection can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sony's Houdini project gets a writer and a familiar plot

Looks like one of the five competing Houdini projects in Hollywood is getting a writer. The Hollywood Reporter reports that screenwriter Scott Frank (Minority Report, Marley & Me) is in talks to write the Houdini movie set-up at Sony/Columbia Pictures. That's the good news.

The bad news is some plot details have been revealed, and it appears Columbia is heading down the well-trodden road of fiction instead of fact. According to the article, the film "will center on Harry Houdini‘s attempts to discredit a beautiful spiritualist, although he becomes obsessed with her and starts to believe she is actually the real deal."

So, basically, it's the same plot as Death Defying Acts. And we all saw how well that worked out. Ironically, The Hollywood Reporter says Columbia was convinced to revive the Houdini project by this "fresh take."

I confess, I'm pretty disappointed. I really hoped this film was going to be more of a true biopic, which would have separated it from the other projects, all of which are fictional takes. I'm also disappointed that most of the current Houdini projects in development focus on his spirit debunking instead of his career as a death-defying escape artist.

Jimmy Miller will produce through his Mosaic Media production company. Francis Lawrence (Water for Elephants) is attached to direct.

UPDATE: I now have it on pretty good authority that this plot description is incorrect. However, the plot that I heard (which I'm not at liberty to reveal) is even more fanciful and fictionalized.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The untold story of Hardeen Jr.


Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with the nephew of Douglas Geoffrey aka "Hardeen Jr." Despite the fact that Geoffrey was the official successor to the Houdini-Hardeen show, precious little is known about him. Most think he only performed for a couple of years, but this is incorrect. Douglas Geoffrey performed as Hardeen Jr. well into the 1950s, and then under his own name until 1988! But let's start his story at the beginning.

Born on May 19, 1907, Douglas Geoffrey Mackintosh fell in love with magic at the age of 8 when he received a Gilbert's Mysto Magic set from his Aunt Lucie. At the age of 12 he saw Thurston perform, and was even invited onstage to assist in a trick. He later took magic lessons from magician Fred Estelle of Brooklyn. One bit of information that the nephew shared with me -- something I've never seen printed anywhere -- is that Geoffrey actually worked briefly with Houdini! At age 19 he got a job in Houdini's full evening roadshow. Unfortunately, his tenure was brief as Houdini died that same year.

Geoffrey assisting Hardeen in 1943
Geoffrey performed his own magic act until he met Houdini's brother, Theo. Hardeen, in Atlantic City in 1932. Hardeen had revived his own career after inheriting the Houdini show. Geoffrey became one of Hardeen's assistants, working alongside Jim Collins, James Vickery, and Dolly Spence. He eventually become Hardeen's Chief Assistant, and may have been the man who rescued Hardeen when he had his mishap in the Milk Can.

Geoffrey was initiated into the Society of American Magicians on May 19, 1944. Then on May 29, 1945, during his final show in Ridgeway, Queens, Hardeen named "Doug" his official successor. Hardeen would die a short time later -- it was Geoffrey who broke the wand over his casket in the S.A.M. ceremony -- and Geoffrey went on to perform as "Hardeen Jr", the professional name bestowed on him by Hardeen.

Along with the "Heir to the Throne of Magic" title, Douglas Geoffrey inherited the Houdini-Hardeen show props. Thankfully, Hardeen did not stipulate in his own Will Houdini's instructions to "burn and destroy" all his props following his death. The props Geoffrey decided not to use -- including most of the escape apparatus -- he sold off in the July 1945 issue of The New Conjurer's Magazine on behalf of Elsie Hardeen. Among the items listed was Hardeen's original Milk Can with an asking price of $500. (I believe this is the can currently on display as part of the Houdini Art and Magic exhibition.) One personal memento Geoffrey held onto was the monogramed pocket from the pajamas Houdini was wearing when he died. (Today it's in the collection of Arthur Moses.) He also wore Hardeen's masonic pin during performances.

The Hardeen Jr. show, first billed as Houdini Lives Again! and co-starring magician Bob Sherman aka "Sherms", toured vaudeville and with the USO starting in 1945. Featured in his act was The Flight of Time (advertised as "the last illusion invented by Houdini"); Mummy Case; Houdini Card Star; Nest of Boxes; and the Book of Life (the last effect invented by Hardeen). Even though his newspaper adverts sometimes featured escape imagery, the only "escape" he did was the substitution truck with handcuffs. At one point he was (unintentionally?) billed as "Houdini's nephew."

Two Hardeen Jr. ads: One for his show and the other for a "magic battle".

Hardeen Jr. specialized in "challenge" magic contests, at one time holding his own in a card manipulation contest with Cardini. He also succeeded Hardeen in the Olson and Johnson Broadway show Hellzapoppin, playing a remarkable 80 weeks. Hardeen Jr. took his show international, performing in such far off locations as India and Saudi Arabia. While performing at Union City's Capital Theater, he was assisted by Hardeen's daughter, Gladys Hardeen.

Reviews where good. The Richmond News Leader noted that "the Hardeen act has all the flair of 'big time'. He moves with a clocklike precision, and an evenness that is so often missing in these performances that hit the road."

Hardeen Jr. in 1980
However, when it came to publicity, Geoffrey was modest, a trait he certainly didn't share with Houdini and Hardeen. This is probably why so little is known of his career today. He even turned down an invitation to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. Instead he enjoyed performing smaller venues, and in a home theater which he built behind his house in Queens that he called the "109th Street Playhouse." Here he would perform magic during parties, which he threw often.

Geoffrey continued performing until he physically couldn't manage the coin and cards manipulations. He gave up the stage in 1988 and died on January 14, 1990 at age 82. The S.A.M. performed a Wand Breaking ceremony and buried him with his magician's baton. His close friend, William Rauscher, who penned the book The Houdini Code Mystery, conducted the funeral. Rauscher would carry on performing many of the Houdini-Hardeen magic effects he received from Geoffrey, including The Flight of Time.

Douglas Geoffrey did not formally pass on the Houdini-Hardeen-Hardeen Jr. show to any successor. But he carried the torch admirably for many years, and his life and name should definitely be celebrated as part of the larger legacy of Harry Houdini.


My thanks to the nephew of Hardeen Jr. for the information and the use of his photos.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Second performance of The Card Trick added to May 26 debut

The Magic Castle has added a second performance of The Card Trick, a one act play written by Jim Steinmeyer and featuring Jim Bentley as Houdini, on its debut evening of May 26 at 9:30pm.

The play also stars Jeanine Anderson as Margery the Medium and Derek Hughes "adding something special to the mix." It will be performed in the Peller Theater with Jim Steinmeyer on hand to introduce the play.

As with the now sold out 8:00 show, this 9:30 performance is open to AMA members with a suggested donation of $25. All proceeds from this performance will benefit the Dai Vernon Fund. Details on how to reserve a seat can be found in the latest member's newsletter or member section of the Magic Castle website.

Houdini letter helps the New York Public Library celebrate 100 years

A letter that Houdini wrote to the New York Public Library in 1911 is on display as part of a special exhibition of 250 unique items that celebrate the 100th birthday of the NYPL's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.

New York Public Library

Other items include personal effects of Jack Kerouac, a copy of the Declaration of Independence handwritten by Thomas Jefferson, and a lock of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley's hair.

Celebrating 100 Years will be on display and free to the public until the end of December. For more information visit the NYPL website.

Source: Wired.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Houdini Magical Hall of Fame was in decay by 1978

Here's other discovery I made while browsing The Conjuring Arts Research Center's Ask Alexander search engine, but this one is a little depressing. It appears The Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls, Canada, was already in a state of disrepair as early as 1978. This is only a few years after it had moved from it's Centre Street location to the top of Clifton Hill. Bravo for David Allen for sounding the alarm in this letter to Genii magazine (Vol. 43, 1979). Shame no one came to the rescue.

Click to enlarge

What's especially upsetting here is the reference to Houdini's plate glass box. I had no idea it was housed at the museum! This is a Houdini classic. There are photos of both Houdini and Bessie inside the box. To hear that it was cracked and falling apart is heartbreaking. Did someone save it? Was it ever seen again? Or did it finally crumble and whatever High Schooler was hired to "curate" the collection that day sweep it up with the garbage?

Was the glass box another casualty of the Houdini museum?

The museum and its priceless contents continued to suffer from decay, vandalism, and neglect for 20 more years, before the museum finally burned down in 1995, taking with it the original Water Torture Cell.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Houdini by Anthony Burgess and Orson Welles

Here's something interesting. An article recently in The Guardian reports that at least 20 unpublished stories by Anthony Burgess, the author of A Clockwork Orange, have been discovered by researchers sorting through his papers at a research centre in Manchester, the city in which he was born.

The paper reports that among the cache of new material are "unfinished or rejected scripts for television and film projects, including lives of Atilla the Hun, Sigmund Freud and Michelangelo and a play about Harry Houdini that he collaborated on with Orson Welles."

Houdini by Anthony Burgess and Orson Welles, eh? Could the plan have been that Welles would play Houdini in the production? Unfortunately, the article doesn't provide a year for the collaboration, but if this was done in Welles prime, certainly that could have been the case. I've often wondered why Welles, who saw Houdini in his youth, never did a Houdini project. Now it appears he did. Or at least tried.

But this was not Burgess's only reported stab at Houdini. In 1974 he wrote the book for an unproduced musical about the life of Houdini for producer Ray Stark called, Hocus Pocus. Could this have been the same play? (Although it's unlikely Welles could have played Houdini in 1974.)

It's also worth noting that Orson Welles was Hedda Hopper's favored choice for the lead in Paramount's 1953 HOUDINI.

The Guardian article does not say where this new material will be archived, but this would certainly be one to study.

Thanks to MSW for the tip.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Houdini for girls


Kevin Connolly has posted on his excellent blog, Houdini Himself, an intriguing tease for a new Houdini book in 2012. Says Kevin:

"There is a new Houdini book with a new angle coming out in Spring of 2012. This book will geared to the young female market. The first part of the book will be a story of fiction about Houdini, followed by a historical essay about Houdini. The book will be published my a major line geared to young girls."

Sounds interesting. Kevin says he will reveal more details as he gets them, so keep watching Houdini Himself.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Reprints of Daniel Stashower's Harry Houdini Mysteries in 2012

According to new listings on Amazon.com, publisher Titan Books will reprint Daniel Stashower's first two Harry Houdini Mysteries, The Dime Museum Murders and The Floating Lady Murder, in February of 2012. Amazon also shows a Kindle release for Dime Museum.

First published in 1999 and 2000, the books feature a struggling Houdini, Bess, and Dash caught up in fictional murder mystery adventures before the turn of the century. Floating Lady Murder also features Harry Kellar.

I've fired off an email to Titan to see if we can get a look at the cover art, and whether they will be reprinting Stashower's third book, The Houdini Specter.

Titan recently reprinted Stashower's Houdini-Sherlock Holmes mash-up, The Ectoplasmic Man, as part of their "Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" series.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Soo's Unmasking

Recently I was browsing Ask Alexander -- The Conjuring Arts Research Center's amazing search engine, which just passed the two million page milestone -- and I came across this interesting nugget buried in a 1953 edition of The Magic Circular.

The Magic Circular, 1953

So there exists a copy of The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin signed by Houdini to Chung Ling Soo? Nice! I wonder if this is still treasured by the Bothwell-Maye family, or if it has changed hands and now resides in one of the big Houdini or magic collections? Let the search begin.

Chung Ling Soo was actually an American conjurer named William Ellsworth Robinson. Famous in his day, he become more so after dying onstage doing the bullet catch (a trick Houdini now appears to have done in his early career). Another Soo/Houdini mystery is whether Robinson acquired Houdini's Voisin bi-plane following his historic first flight in Australia. We took a look at that question HERE.

Jim Steinmeyer tackled the mystery of Chung Ling Soo in his 2005 book The Glorious Deception.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Escape Artist: An Edna Ferber Mystery available now

While it had been announced for June, Escape Artist: An Edna Ferber Mystery by Ed Ifkovic is shipping early from Amazon.com. The book finds Houdini teaming up with a nineteen-year-old Edna Ferber to solve a baffling murder in his old hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin.

In 1904 Edna Ferber is a nineteen-year-old girl reporter for the Appleton, Wisconsin Crescent, an occupation that many townspeople, including her own family, consider scandalous for a proper young girl. By chance, she interviews Harry Houdini, in town visiting old friends. Houdini, as Ehrich Weiss, spent his boyhood years in the small town. When Frana Lempke, a beautiful young German high-school girl, disappears and is soon discovered murdered, Edna asks Houdini for help in solving the murder. The unusual crime baffles the local police because Frana mysteriously disappeared from a locked room at the high school. Houdini, the celebrated escape artist, takes a liking to Edna and agrees to help. But as Edna pursues the story, alienating any number of people, she senses that she is being followed. It’s a troubling summer for her. Her homelife is in disorder, though she is dedicated to a blind father. Her mother and sister dislike her walking the streets as a reporter. Worse, the newsroom has become a hostile environment, with a new city editor determined to undermine her. Piecing together the clues, she comes to see that her own life in the small town is unraveling. As the future best-selling writer starts to solve the crime, she understands that her involvement will impact her life forever.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pawn Stars straitjacket hits eBay

The Houdini straitjacket authenticated by magician Murray Sawchuck on last night's episode of Pawn Stars has hit eBay with an asking price of $149,000.


I'll leave it to others to debate whether this really is the jacket we see in the photo above, but the claim that there are only three known jackets isn't quite right. Both Murray and the seller seem to have forgotten about the jacket that belongs to collector Arthur Moses -- currently on view in the Skirlball Center's Houdini Art and Magic exhibition -- which is in this same style. I was also a little bothered by the fact that they kept calling Hardeen (who gave the jacket to the seller's grandfather) "Theo Houdini".

Nevertheless, Murray did a good job identifying the jacket by matching specific stitching and rivets visible in the photo, so this is intriguing. I'll be curious to see what happens.

The owner refused the Pawn Stars offer of $25,000.

UPDATE: Houdini straitjacket still looking for a buyer.

UPDATE 2: SOLD! Houdini straitjacket captures $46,980 at Christie's.

Monday, May 9, 2011

New Houdini book for kids gets a cover

Cover art for the new book, Harry Houdini: The Legend of the World's Greatest Escape Artist by Janice Weaver and Chris Lane has been revealed on Amazon.


Harry Houdini: The Legend of the World's Greatest Escape Artist is aimed at readers ages 9-12. It will be released by Abrams Books for Young Readers on October 1, 2011.

Link: Steinmeyer on The Card Trick

Jim Steinmeyer talks about The Card Trick, his new one act play that will debute at The Magic Castle on May 26. Click the headline to get the scoop at The Magic Newswire.

Houdini returns to Pawn Stars

Looks like Houdini is headed back to the pawn shop in tonight's episode of Pawn Stars. This time a straitjacket is the object of scrutiny.


Will this episode be as controversial as the last? We'll see.

Pawn Stars airs on The History Channel. Check you own local listings for times.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

New paperback edition of Houdini's Escapes and Magic

A new paperback edition of Walter B. Gibson's Houdini's Escapes and Magic has been published by Ishi Press. The new paperback includes a forward by Sam Sloan and, going by the photo on Amazon (right), uses the cover art from the 1976 Funk & Wagnalls edition.

Houdini's Escapes and Magic was first published by Blue Ribbion Books in 1930. It was also released as two separate volumes, Houdini's Escapes (1930) and Houdini's Magic (1932), by Harcourt, Brace & Co.

You can purchase Ishi's new paperback edition of Houdini's Escapes and Magic on Amazon for $34.95.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Jim Steinmeyer's The Card Trick at The Magic Castle, May 26

On May 26 The Magic Castle presents a special performance of The Card Trick, a one act play written by Jim Steinmeyer and featuring Jim Bentley as Houdini.

The play also stars Jeanine Anderson as Margery the Medium and Derek Hughes "adding something special to the mix." It will be performed in the Peller Theater at 8PM. Jim Steinmeyer will be on hand to introduce the play. In addition, Jim Bentley will perform period tricks and escapes as Houdini.

The performance is open to AMA members with a suggested donation of $25. All proceeds from this performance will benefit the Dai Vernon Fund. Details on how to reserve a seat can be found in the latest member's newsletter or member section of the Magic Castle website. Seating is limited.

The Card Trick will also be performed on June 3 for those lucky enough to have grabbed a spot on the Skirball Center's special A Day At The Magic Castle event. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a ticket to the Skirball event, but I have reserved a seat for the May 26 performance. This should be interesting indeed!

UPDATE: A second performance on May 26 has been added at 9:30pm.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

HOUDINI released on Blu-ray today

The 1953 classic HOUDINI is released today on Blu-ray by Legend Films.

As with their most recent DVD release, HOUDINI comes bundled with the 1969 movie, Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies. The set is called "The Tony Curtis Double Feature." It doesn't appear it will be available as a stand-alone Blu-ray.

The Tony Curtis Double Feature HOUDINI Blu-ray can be purchased at Amazon.com (and, remember, using my links helps support the site).

You can read a review of the Blu-ray with sample pics (one of which is below) at DVDBeaver.

HOUDINI has never looked better

Monday, May 2, 2011

Link: Houdini gets a speeding ticket OR Hardeen pulls a fast one

You gotta check this one out over at Kevin Connolly's Houdini Himself. A real gem.

Houdini in Hollywood: A Day at The Magic Castle

As part of their special programing for the Houdini:Art and Magic exhibition, the Skirball Cultural Center presents a Houdini-themed day at The Magic Castle on June 3 from 11am to 2:30pm.

Activities for the day will include:

  • Illustrated lecture on Houdini’s years in Los Angeles by celebrated Houdini expert Patrick Culliton.
  • Catered lunch in one of the Castle’s private dining rooms.
  • Tour of the Castle, including a visit to the historic Houdini Séance Room.
  • Performance of The Card Trick, a one-act play by illusion designer and inventor Jim Steinmeyer and performed by entertainer and magician Jim Bentley. The characters of Harry Houdini, the arch skeptic, and Margery the Medium, the arch fraud, collide, trade secrets, plot espionage, and finally reach their own conclusions about fate, luck, and how what we choose to believe shapes us.
  • Performance of some of Houdini’s most intriguing escape acts by Jim Bentley.

Attendees will also receive passes for free admission to Houdini: Art and Magic and the major companion exhibition, Masters of Illusion: Jewish Magicians of the Golden Age.

Tickets are $65 ($55 for Skirball members) and can be purchased via the Skirball Center's official website.

UPDATE: It appears this event is already SOLD OUT.

Saluting all the brave men and women in our Armed Forces today

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Montreal, 1926...

It looks like Houdini appears in the "rye-soaked neo-noir" debute novel by Fraser Nixon, The Man Who Killed.

Montreal, 1926. Mick is down on his luck until an old pal offers him a loaded revolver and a job: riding shotgun in a truck running booze across the border. Stateside Prohibition has opened up a market for certain amusements, vicious or otherwise. Mick takes the job—and his problems begin.

Through his old friend Jack, Mick falls deeper into the life of the small-time tough. From whorehouse to gentlemen’s club, through back alleys and deluxe hotels, jazz joints, opium dens, baseball diamonds, cheap diners and anywhere trouble is to be found, Mick burns his way through the City of Two Solitudes. Other people are in town for their own reasons. Babe Ruth’s here; Harry Houdini, too.

Of course, it was during Houdini's 1926 engagement at the Princess Theater in Montreal that he sustained the blows to his stomach that led to his eventual death. According to a positive review of the book in the Vancouver Sun, real-life eye-witnesses to the incident Jacques Price and Sam Smilovitz play minor roles in the book, and the author offers up an alternate theory for what killed Houdini. The novel also draws a connection between Houdini and Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s obsession with spiritualism.

The Man Who Killed appears to have been released in Canada last month. Despite showing a U.S. release date of April 30, Amazon still shows the book as not yet available (but it's currently discounted 32%).

UPDATE: Amazon now shows a release date of January 16, 2012.

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