Saturday, August 3, 2019

Gresham turns 60

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of Houdini: The Man Who Walked Through Walls by William Lindsay Gresham on August 3, 1959.

Pictured here is my battered 1975 paperback edition from Manor Books. This was the first Houdini biography I ever owned. While other biographies have now surpassed Gresham, it will always hold a special place for me, as I bet it does for others.

Feel free to share your own Gresham memories in the comments.



  1. Yes! The Gresham book was the first Houdini bio I bought in 1976, and it was also this paperback. It's now stacked with Untold Story--my second HH bio--and Silverman. My copy is about as worn out and dog eared as the one in the photo.

    I no longer scan or flip thru this book. Gresham's writing style now reads as a bit over the top and silly. I keep going back to Christopher and Silverman. Recently I read thru the Margery chapters in Silverman. Rediscovered interesting moments in that investigation.

  2. Gresham's book, and his hardboiled noir-like cynicism style of writing, stands in contrast to the Harold Kellock book, which Gresham noted when pitching his book to publishers, was more of post-PR job. Gresham was often pitching stories, (some which were published) about Houdini to magazines over the years...magazines being his main source of income for many years. Gresham's writing has actually achieved a greater appreciation over the years, his greater body of work, especially his novel, "Nightmare Alley", (which is being remade as a movie) and his Houdini book have endured.

  3. Just pulled my battered copy down from the bookshelf. FWIW: I had page 50 (Dr. Hill and Houdini The Great handbill) and page 176 (Kansas City Post Strait Jacket escape) bookmarked. It was in the 70’s when I started reading books on Houdini. The first Houdini biography I ever read was a library copy of Houdini, Master of Escape by Lace Kendall (1960); followed by Christopher’s Untold Story, then Gresham.

  4. A new go to book for us is Christopher Sandford’s well researched book Masters of Mystery, in the UK titled Houdini and Conan Doyle. Covers Houdini info not covered anywhere else and well documented.

    I have even recommended to write a stand-alone book on Houdini.

  5. Hey gang,

    I know may of you have been having trouble leaving comments, so I've made a change that I hope will help. You'll see you now click "Post a Comment" and you'll then get a pop up window. Hope it works!

  6. In reading letters by Gresham to Robert Lund, it wasn't an
    easy sell, to publishers, despite already being a well=known
    published writer.

    I do wonder if Gresham's story about Jim Collins saying
    he planted the ruler in Margery's seance box on the orders
    of his boss, has been dismissed too quickly by others.
    Christopher wrote the source for this was Fred Keating, who
    had negative memories about Houdini. I wonder if that is
    really enough to invalidate Collins' recollection.

    Others could properly wonder if it was necessary or right to frame a fraud,
    or was he wanting to nail a fraud whose deceptions were too elusive, (for the public good, if not good publicity) to conclusively prove?

  7. Yay! Happy you can now post Diego. :)

    My problem with the Collins story is I just don't think there is any way Jim Collins would spill a secret like this to anyone, especially a Houdini hater like Fred Keating. Collins, as far as I know, kept all of Houdini's secrets. And, remember, Keating was the original magician Bird brought in on the Margery case and proclaimed her legit.

    But, having said that, I can believe Collins did put the ruler in the box.

  8. Those are important points to consider.
    I just wondered if it had been dismissed too quickly by others.

  9. My first HH book was the Great Houdini by Williams and Epstein, in 64