Monthly Archives: November 2018

Review ~ Memoirs of an Elusive Moth

Cover via Goodreads

Memoirs of an Elusive Moth: Disappearing Nightly with Harry Blackstone and his Show of 1001 Wonders by Adele Friel Rhindress

Harry Blackstone presented a full-evening production called the Show of 1001 Wonders. It lived up to that billing, as a stage-filling spectacle combining spectacular illusions, magnificent costumes, gorgeous girls, a corps of assistants, humor, dancing, and intimate conjuring, into a magnificent stage production. Blackstone toured North America ceaselessly and by 1947, after over four decades entertaining the public, was unquestionably one of America s greatest and best-known magicians. It was in that year, at the age of 17, that Adele Friel was swept into Blackstone’s world of magic. She joined the ranks of his show unexpectedly, making the transition from solo song-and-dance act to one of Mr. B’s gorgeous girls in the blink of an eye. It was a decision that would change her life. For the next three seasons, she trouped with Blackstone, playing an integral role in his show, both onstage and backstage. Memoirs of an Elusive Moth gives readers a rare and intimate first-person account of one of America’s greatest touring magic shows. Laid bare in its pages are many of the secrets behind Blackstone s magic, as well as details of life in the theater, behind the scenes, on the road, and more all told here for the first time. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
Books about and by female magicians and magician’s assistants are fairly rare (at least in my experience). And, honestly, I’m almost more interested in assisants’ stories. In big illusions, it’s really the assistant who does a lot of the work. So, I was pretty happy to pick up this book fairly inexpensively earlier in the year.

What Worked
Memoirs of an Elusive Moth is an eloquent, though brief, accounting of Adele Friel Rhindress’s time working with Harry Blackstone’s Show of 1001 Wonders. I had originally slated this book for later in the month, but for NaNoWriMo, I’m writing a character who ends up as a magician’s assistant, so I decided to bump it up. Rhindress’s story and the one I’m writing are not the same, but hers definitely gives mine some context. One of the things that I was surprised about was how quickly Rhindress was included in the show. She was pretty much hired and in the show as soon as costume fittings were done. I would have thought that a little more training would be required to be a “box jumper” in a huge 1947 magic stage show.

Rhindress doesn’t rub shoulders with many other magic celebrities, as seems to happen in magician memoirs, but instead she gives a better view of what happens behind the scenes. The secrets behind a few illusions are mentioned; something to be aware of if you’re sensitive about those sorts of things. Rhindress also learned a little sleight of while traveling with the troupe.

One of weaknesses of Donald Brandon’s …Memoirs and Confessions of a Stage Magician was a lack of dates and chronology. Memoirs of an Elusive Moth avoids this problem. Rhindress was helped by a diary kept by her colleague Nick Ruggiero.

What Didn’t Work
Really, the only thing I wanted was more. The writing is better than competent. The books is a well-made hardback with plenty of photos. Alas, it’s only 116 pages!

Overall
I really enjoyed learning more about magic behind the scenes in the late 1940s-early 1950s. I’ll have more about women in magic in Monday’s #NonFicNov “Be the Expert/Become the Expert” post.

Publishing info, my copy: hardback, Squash Publishing, 2011
Acquired: Amazon, May 27, 2018
Genre: memoir

#NonFicNov 2018, Week 2 ~ Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairings

Week 2 (Nov. 6 to Nov. 10)

Nonfiction / Fiction Book Pairing (Hosted by Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves)
Pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

This is always a fun topic, but I never think I’ll have new parings. This year, I’ve come up with two:

Dracula Dracul Who Was Dracula?: Bram Stoker's Trail of Blood

My first “pairing” was inspired by a couple themed fiction/nonfiction lists I saw around Halloween. If you’ve read Dracula or the new Dacre Stoker prequel Dracul*, try Jim Steinmeyer’s Who Was Dracula? Actually, this book is more like “Who Was Bram Stoker?” Steinmeyer looks at Stoker’s background, career, and associates as he contemplates Stoker’s possible inspirations for the rather singular novel.

* I haven’t read Drcul, but I think it’s probably a good pairing none-the-less.

Something Wicked This Way Comes Eyeing the Flash: The Making of a Carnival Con Artist

Okay, maybe I just can’t let Halloween go… Looking the list of nonfiction I’ve read this year, I realized that Eyeing the Flash by Peter Fenton could be a great companion to Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. In fiction, Will and Jim face the supernatural temptations of Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show. In nonfiction, teenage Pete Fenton succumbs to the lure of fast cash and becomes  a double-dealing carnival huckster.

Deal Me In, Week 44 ~ “Abraham’s Boys”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Abraham’s Boys” by Joe Hill

Card picked: 9
Found at: Fifty-Two Stories

“Do you believe in vampires, Max?”

Rudy was on his knees in front of an ottoman across the room. He had hunched over to collect a few papers which had settled there, then stayed to look at the battered doctor’s bag tucked underneath it. Rudy tugged at the rosary knotted around the handles.

When it came time to read Dracula during my senior year of high school, it was a reread for me. So, while still following along with the class, I decided to read Dracula and pay attention to how insane Dr. Van Helsing is. If there weren’t vampires, zealous Abraham Van Helsing could almost be a villain.

In “Abraham’s Boys,” Joe Hill plays a what if game. What if Mina marries Van Helsing after Johnathan dies? (No details on how *that* happened.) What if they have two sons? What if they move to America before Mina’s also unfortunate end? What if… maybe… there are no vampires even though the old man teaches his sons that there are?

Oh, that this story would have been picked last week, but hey, who says the Halloween spirit can’t continue on? The ending is pretty hair-raising and offers no answers. I haven’t read much Joe Hill; this is definitely my favorite of his works thus far.

Happy NaNoWriMo! Have a Free Book! 📚

Today is the first day of November. If you’re a writer, or you hang around writers, you also know that today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo). World-wide (not just “nationally”), writers of every ilk will endeavor to write 50,000 words on a new novel by the end of the month.

But, does anything ever become of what’s written in November? The answer is: yes!

In fact, I just released The Case of the Sorrowful Seamstress which has partial origins in NaNoWriMos of the past. I made a first stab at fiction featuring David P. Abbott back in 2012. It’s been a long road between that incarnation and the mystery novellas I’ve ultimately decided to write. As a celebration of NaNoWriMo, The Case of the Sorrowful Seamstress is available for free from Amazon between now (Nov. 1st) and Monday, Nov. 5th! Just head over and download it to your Kindle or Kindle app.

I’m participating in NaNoWriMo again this year with a whole new project, though there will still be a magician, a mystery, and probably several murders. No title yet. As of 11/1/18 2pm, I’m 2000 words in, only 48,000 more to go!