Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Witch of Lime Street will haunt bookstores in 2012

Back in December, 2007, The New York Observer reported that Crown had acquired a non-fiction book about Houdini by David Jaher for an advance in the “high six figures.” Titled The Witch of Lime Street, the book would tell the full story of Houdini’s campaign to expose medium Mina "Margery" Crandon, and would be released "in early 2010."

But as 2010 comes to a close, there is no sign of The Witch of Lime Street. My inquires sent to the publisher and Jaher's reps earlier this year went unanswered, leading me to wonder whether The Witch of Lime Street was as phony as...well...the witch of Lime Street.

So I decided to try again. This time, happily, I received a prompt response!

The friendly representative for the agency who handled the sale, Janklow & Nesbit, says, "David Jaher is still working on the book, after undertaking intense and thorough research. I’m afraid we have no pub date as of yet – my best guess is that it will be out in 2012. It is going to be phenomenal."

Publisher Crown responded with a direct, "This book will be published in 2012."

Very excited about this one. It's about time we had an entire book on Houdini and Margery. But will it be pro or con?

Stay tuned!

The battle resumes in 2012

UPDATE: 'The Witch of Lime Street' will finally manifest in October (pre-order).


  1. How can a book that hasn't even been written yet be worth "high six figures" to a publisher?

  2. Well, it's an "advance", a fee paid to the author that allows him to take the time to write the book. Many books like this are sold on a pitch/proposal and sample chapters.

    I gotta say, it's an extraordinary high advance for a book like this. When I explored the idea of an getting an advance to do a Houdini book, my agent told me I'd be lucky to get ten grand. That's really why I haven't written my Houdini book yet. I just can't afford to do it.

  3. John, you'd be just the person to do it. Someone advance that man the money!

  4. The book I'd write would be about Houdini in film. And we're talking 1901 right up to present day. It would be awesome. I have a nice proposal all written up and even got a few nibbles from publishers, but a guy's gotta eat! I'd need an advance that would at least match my screenwriting income so I could take a full year off and really research the book properly. Maybe some day. It's my dream. :)

  5. Glad to hear that this book WILL be written after all. I've been looking forward to it! Thanks for the info. John.

  6. By the way...You have your first customer right here when you DO write your book! :))

  7. Thank you, Tracy. :)

    I posted this on the Genii forums (but I never get a response to anything there), but I really am uncertain whether this book will be pro or con. There's something about how the original article described it as being about Houdini's attempt to "discredit" Margery.

    Odd to think there are still pro-Margery forces out there, but when you start talking about communicating with the dead, well, people can get freaky. Does anyone here know anything about David Jaher?

  8. It seems there is a David Jaher who is an astrologer and a David Jaher who is a screenwriter. Or are they one and the same????? I hope somebody else knows or can find more than I.

    Given the effort Houdini put into discrediting that type of medium, I too am surprised that there are pro-Margery people still around. I have my own theory on why people continue to be drawn to this stuff but this isn't the place for it.

    It will be interesting to find out more about the author and the book.

  9. John Cox: "Odd to think there are still pro-Margery forces out there."

    “As a result of more than forty sittings with Margery, I have arrived at the definite conclusion that genuine supernormal phenomena frequently occur. Many of the observed manifestations might well have been produced fraudulently . . . however, there remains a number of instances when phenomena were produced and observed under practically perfect control.”
    Hereward Carrington

  10. Here it is October 2015 and the book is finally out.
    Don't expect much by way of objective writing.
    David Jahar is a "screenwriter" and a "professional astrologer."
    He has no credits in the Internet Movie Database so he can't be too successful as a screenwriter.
    Also this blurb does not seem to promise a rational book:

    “Jaher’s meticulously researched account of Scientific American’s infamous contest to find an authentic medium had me racing through the pages to find out how it all turns out. To keep this spoiler-free I’ll just say that the paranormal showdown of the early 20th century doesn’t wrap up how you may think.”
    —Stacy Horn, author of Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena, from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory

    1. It would only seem fair to wait and read the book before leveling criticism. I'm 50 pages in and so far I think it's excellent. Objective and very well researched. He's also an excellent writer. I'll give it a full review when I finish, but from what I've read so far, I can say none of the fears you've expressed here are founded.

    2. That's good to hear. Maybe a knee-jerk reaction to the idea of astrology and objective in the same sentence.
      I'll give it a fair look.

    3. Screenwriter spooks me more than astrologer. ;)

  11. Our fear is also that he is a screen writer, as well. Ala the The Secret Life of Houdini he may be looking for a movie deal. Which means embellished or using statements as though "he knows what the characters are thinking" or doing when he wasn't there.

    got this feeling when we began to browse the beginning of our copy of the book. But to be fair we have not had the time to dig into it due to our busy Halloween schedule.

    The Only Building in the World Dedicated to Houdini

    1. Nowadays the only way an author and publisher make money on a non-fiction work is to sell the movie rights to Hollywood. That's the name of the game and everyone knows it. So ALL non-fiction books travel inside the character's head now. The days of Silverman are over. So the task of a writer of non-fiction these days is to make a book read like a movie without compromising the facts. Secret Life...did not navigate this well, IMO.

      I'm well into the book now and Jaher is indeed telling it like a story, creating visuals and tension and trying to tickle that Hollywood reader. But so far, I've not seen any major compromise of integrity or outright pander to Hollywood -- no murder or spy fictions. He's using facts to tell the story in a truthful, but still entertaining way. And he's pulling it far.