Tuesday, November 7, 2017

David Saltman's HOUDINI UNBOUND is inbound

David Saltman's eagerly awaited historical novel HOUDINI UNBOUND: Espionage in Russia is published today Hudson River Books. This novel is set during Houdini's 1903 tour of Russia and finds Harry engaged in espionage on behalf of the U.S. government.

It's 1903; America is besieged by a rapacious Russia and a power-mad Germany. President Theodore Roosevelt has just learned that the Russians have stolen the U.S. diplomatic code, and that the Germans have a nest of spies in the Russian royal court. Into this maelstrom steps the young and innocent Harry Houdini. His brilliant illusions have convinced Nicholas and Alexandra, the Russian royals, that he has genuine magical powers. When they invite Harry and his wife Bess to become their spiritual advisers, Roosevelt enlists Houdini as a spy for the U.S.A. Suddenly, Houdini is performing on a world scale, and the stakes are much higher than even his own life: the life of his wife and the peace of the world hang in the balance.

This story, never told before, is based on true events.

David had created an extremely entertaining novel that nicely blends fact and fiction. The first chapters of the book dramatize Houdini's tour of Russia quite accurately, including his performances at Establishment Yard and his famous escape from the Siberian Transport Prison Van (David elects to go with the sawing through the floor method). The book then heads into it's fictional narrative when Harry and Bess join the Russian Royal Court and move into the Royal Palace, and President Roosevelt seeks to make the Handcuff King his own secret agent. Lots of intrigue and Master Mystery-like escape action ensues, with Harry finding himself in dungeon chains and even a Spanish Maiden.

Throughout the book David interjects accurate details about Houdini's life and character. He even includes a nod to his possible claustrophobia. And unlike other recent Houdini spy fiction, David keeps Houdini's activities more rooted in his character and profession -- his primary "assignment" being to expose the (real-life) medium Philippe, who appears to be driving the superstitious Tsar into war. Houdini even uses the name Heath Haldane at one point!

David also nicely parallels the backstory of Mayer Samuel, Houdini's father, whose own encounter with royalty led to him fleeing his home country. Bess and Franz Kukol also play large parts in the story, as do characters out of history such as Gorky and Chekhov.

In his afterward, David pegs his novel at being 98% factual. I'm not sure I'd place the number that high (for starters, Bess is blonde), but I'll leave it to the reader to formulate your own percentage, and also enjoy a darn good piece of Houdini fiction while you're at it.

HOUDINI UNBOUND: Espionage in Russia can be purchased as a hardcover, paperback and eBook from at Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK).

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