Magic Monday, 3/11/19

I like Mondays. I also like magic. I figured I’d combine the two and make a Monday feature that is truly me: a little bit of magic and a look at the week ahead.

The magic world lost one of its great performers and mentors this past weekend. Johnny Thompson was known as a fabulous comedy magician and a generous collaborator. If you’re not familiar with his act, you’ve undoubtedly seen his influence on performers such as Penn & Teller, Piff the Magic Dragon, Mac King, and many others through his “in the booth” involvement with the show Penn & Teller: Fool Us. Here’s his signature act The Great Tomsoni & Co. (& Co. being his wife Pamela Hayes).

It’s Monday, What am I…

…Reading?

Reading? What’s that?

To be fair, I spent the first part of last week in Las Vegas and am otherwise speeding through a rewrite/third draft of the book I’m working on. But here’s what I might read this week:

The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 7: I've Been Waiting for a Squirrel Like You

Plus, short stories!

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

…Doing?

As I mentioned above, I’m working through a rewrite/third daft of what was known as Jane Anderson Mystery (#1?), but now has a title: Deal with the Devil. I plan to have that finished by Friday. Granted, I haven’t entirely finished writing the book in the first place. (That won’t be finished by Friday.) I decided at the end of February, I wanted to solidify some shifts in plot before heading into the climax.

I’ll probably write up something about my trip to Las Vegas this week as well. Most things are taking a backseat to my getting writing work done, which is as it should be, but often isn’t.

Otherwise, ultimate frisbee (if we don’t get rained out) and some EverQuest 2.

What *Was* I Doing?

Magic Monday, 2/4/19

I like Mondays. I also like magic. I figured I’d combine the two and make a Monday feature that is truly me: a little bit of magic and a look at the week ahead.

I’m not much of a fan of street magic or apparatus magic, but if you combine the two…

It’s Monday, What am I…

…Reading?

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Ashes to Ashes: The Songs of David Bowie, 1976-2016

If all goes well I should finish both of these this week.

  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
  • Ashes to Ashes: The Songs of David Bowie, 1976-2016 by Chris O’Leary
  • I also have a new issue of “new” issue of The Black Cat to dive into.

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date

…Listening To?

R.E.M. seems to be my go-to writing music at the moment. They’ve had a lot of hits over the years, but it’s “Wolves, Lower” from their first EP that I’ve had stuck in my head for about a week now.

…Doing?

So many ultimate frisbee things. AB League finishes up this week, which means games Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Plus, we finally got word last week on field availability and opened Spring League registration—with games starting next week! Plus, I should bring my meager graphic design talents to bear and design an eye-catching graphic for our forum sign-up.

I’m also basking in a pretty good promo weekend (with very little effort on my part) for The Sorrowful Seamstress and Lucinda at the Window. I’ve had ~140 downloads of Seamstress and a couple of Lucinda sales. Seamstress even cracked the top 20 list in *deep breath* Kindle Store/Kindle eBooks /Mystery, Thriller & Suspense /Mystery/Historical. Both are still on sale thru Tuesday!

What *Was* I Doing?

Review ~ Laurant

Laurant: Man of Many Mysteries

Laurant: The Man of Many Mysteries by Gabe Fajuri

In 1896, Eugene Laurant became a professional magician. 21 years earlier, as Eugene Greenleaf, he was born on the frontier, in the horse and buggy town that was Denver, Colorado.

Billed as the “Man of Many Mysteries,” Laurant spent almost 50 seasons on tour. His stage-filling magic show brought wonder and delight to millions of spectators across North America.

The bulk of Laurant’s career was spent not in major metropolitan centers, or hustling, bustling cities like New York. Unlike his contemporaries—Houdini among them—Laurant, for the most part, confined his routes to rural America. It was there that he made his mark. Eugene Laurant was, arguably, king of the small town showmen.

Laurant carried a full compliment of assistants, livestock, baggage and thousands of pounds of equipment-the tools of mystery making-over the rough-and-tumble back roads of America. He logged millions of miles on the road.

His greatest successes were made on the Lyceum and Chautauqua circuits, which enjoyed immense popularity between 1900 and 1920. During those years, Laurant headlined for the most prominent organization in the business, the Redpath Bureau.

Drawing on Laurant’s own unpublished writings, scrapbooks, and new research, this book paints a revealing and complete portrait of this early American magician. From his earliest dime-museum days, to Wild West adventure, vaudeville shows and much more, Laurant: Man of Many Mysteries tells the tale.

via Squash Publishing

Quick Review

When I ordered Laurant as a late Christmas present / “let me get this guacamole seasoning shipped for free” add-on item, I didn’t entirely realize how relevant it would be to the book I’m currently writing. I was somewhat aware of Eugene Laurant as one of the many magicians of the early 20th century, but I didn’t know that his career was mainly as a performer in the Lyceum and Chautauqua circuits. Not only is this book a well-detailed biography of Laurant, but it has lots of crunchy details about the workings of the Chautauqua.

My one beef is that the book is rather slim for the price, but it is a very nice hardback, glossy and full of pictures. Perfect for my second read of the year.

Other Info

Genre: biography, history
Published: Squash Publishing
Release Date: May 31, 2005
My copy: hardback purchased via Amazon

#NonFicNov 2018, Week 3 ~ Be/Ask/Become the Expert

Week 3: (Nov. 12 to 16) – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Julie @ JulzReads): Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

From me, it’s a little bit of all three: A list of great books, a few books on the same subject that I haven’t read, and a call-out for yet more books. And what’s my topic?

Female Magicians and Magicians’ Assistants

What I’ve Read

Adelaide Herrmann was extraordinary. She was the wife and assistant of Alexander Herrmann (known as Herrmann the Great). When he died in 1896, Adelaide picked up his mantle and continued to perform as a headline magician for another thirty year.! Magician Margaret B. Steele collected and published Herrmann’s memoirs in 2012 and a beautiful and exuberant illustrated children’s version was published in 2016.

Adelaide Herrmann Queen of Magic Anything But Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of Magic

Adele Friel’s career in magic was brief, but her memoir of the three years she spent with Harry Blackstone’s show gives a glimpse into what it was like to be a “box jumper”—an assistant who is often jumping in and out of boxes. Magician Ning Cai has spent time in boxes as well, but as an endurance artist and escapologist. Hers is also one of the few modern biographies I’ve found.

Memoirs of an Elusive Moth: Disappearing Nightly with Harry Blackstone and his Show of 1001 Wonders Who is Magic Babe Ning?
What I Haven’t Read…Yet

There are several books by and about female magicians that are hard to find, mainly due to the small-press nature of most magic publishers. Below are two that are at least available through a large retailer like Amazon. Dell O’Dell had her own circus in the 1920s and her own TV show in the 1950s. Frances Ireland specialized in magic for children and also took over her husband’s business when he died. L.L. Ireland Magic Co.  is one of the oldest magic shops in the US. It still exists today in Chicago as Magic, Inc.

Don't Fool Yourself: The Magical Life of Dell O'Dell You Don't Have to Be Crazy But It Helps
What Else is There?

I’m always looking for more books about magicians and magicians’ assistants. If you know of any, let me know!

 

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

It’s Monday, What Are You… 3/19

…Reading?

The Chronological Man: The Monster In The Mist The Infamous Harry Hayward: A True Account of Murder and Mesmerism in Gilded Age Minneapolis All the Crooked Saints

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

…Watching?

At this very moment, Deception:

So far (about half an episode in), it’s what I expected: not terrible, not great, but enjoyable. Although, if you didn’t like the Now You See Me movies (and there were plenty of magic aficionados who didn’t), this probably isn’t for you. Also, I had forgotten that Vinnie Jones is in it.

…Doing?

Pretty ordinary week planned…except that I might have jury duty tomorrow. I have to call in tonight to see if they need my pool. I’ve never done jury duty before.

What Was I Doing?

Apparently, I don’t do much on the 19th of March…

  • 2013: Review ~ Behind the Scenes with the Mediums
  • 2010: Nattering about disc – As an addendum, it was only last summer that I actually figured out a better technique for my backhand. If I move the heel of my left foot forward when I pivot for the backhand (or step for my forehand), it keeps my right shoulder down which leads to a more controlled, more powerful throw.
  • 2009: (More about ultimate) – Apparently, I realized the value of punting on a high stall count years ago, yet did not learn the lesson…

Mini Reviews, Vol. 11

alt text Baker Street By-Ways by James Edward Holroyd

I found this slim paperback at Book Vault, out in Mesa. I didn’t realize that Otto Penzler, whom I know as an editor of mystery anthologies, had put together a collection of Sherlockania in the mid-90s. I’d be interested in other volumes even though this one was a little uneven.

Originally published in 1959, the tone is very “boys-club.” Holroyd grumbles repeatedly about how fed-up his and his friends’ wives are with their Sherlock hobby.  He also doesn’t bother to attribute a quote to an “American woman writer.” Perhaps I should know who he means, but not even Goggle could come up with the mother of the quote.

There are a few good crunchy bits, mostly concerning London geography. The book could have used a few more maps though.

 

alt text The Box Jumper by Lisa Mannetti

My interest in this novelette featuring Houdini was stoked when it was nominated in 2015 for a Shirley Jackson Award. Houdini and “psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic“? Yes, please!

Alas, it mostly didn’t work for me. The story is told through eyes  of Leona, an assistant to Houdini. She’s not the most reliable narrator and that always bugs me. Still, several of the scenes were quite unsettling.

alt text Anything But Ordinary Addie by Mara Rockliff (Author), Iacopo Bruno (Illustrations)

One of my favorite books of last year was Adelaide Herrmann: Queen of Magic, edited by  Margaret B. Steele. This book was directly inspired by that biography. It is a beautiful over-sized picture book for young readers. I’m not super keen on every book needing to be a mirror for the reader, but I would have loved a book about a red-haired female magician. The excitement and empowerment is amped up for a younger audience, but it certainly captures the spirit of Adelaide Herrmann.