25 October 2007

Houdini: The Handcuff King

Tells the story of one day in Houdini's life. Specifically, 1st May 1908 when he attempted the suicidal but so utterly cool escape from handcuffs while sinking down the freezing Charles River in Massachusetts.

Is it any good? Eh, it's not bad but it's nothing to write home about. Perhaps I was expecting just a bit more but at 82 pages there isn't much you can tell, I suppose. Houdini prepares for the day ahead. Goes on a jog, inspects the river, gives an interview over breakfast, meets up with a new employee, goes to the bridge where thousands of onlookers are, erm...onlooking, buys time before jumping because his wife hasn't arived yet (the writers speculate that some of his tricks were accomplished with the help of his wife), jumps into the river, escapes and surfaces. The end.

If anything, this is a story about how Houdini achieved success through public relations and brilliant marketing. After all, this was before the days of film and television. You wanted to be entertained? You had to leave your home and buy tickets at the box office to watch a play or a magic show and there were a lot of plays and magic shows. Houdini ensured his popularity by giving free public performances like the bridge jump depicted in this book, correctly guessing that if the public was thrilled here they would pay to watch him at the theatre at night.

Unfortunately, the way the story is told in this book is less thrilling than it should be. It makes a good introduction to Houdini to someone who doesn't know who Houdini was but as an entertaining graphic novel, it falls short. It is telling that I found the introduction by author Glen David Gold and the panel discussions at the back of the book much more interesting than the story itself.

A good academic book, nothing more.

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