On Deception

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews On Deception by Harry Houdini, foreword by Darren Brown.

Houdini Brown On Deception

This slender volume is engaging reading for any student of the history of stage magic. It is full of curious anecdotes and interesting trivia, including ones bearing on the sharp rivalries of performers. When it discusses Houdini’s own methods, it is impressive in showing the length to which a performer’s preparatory disciplines can extend. 

Houdini’s prose is generally sufficient to the task, but nothing much to be admired. It’s no wonder he hired H.P. Lovecraft as a ghostwriter for the story “Under the Pyramids.” (LibraryThing reviewer saroz suggests that even the essays in On Deception may have been ghostwritten, perhaps by William Brown Gibson.) 

A posthumous collection of articles, this book does not hold together well as a single work. It sort of fades away at the end, with the last section of the final part treating the decidedly marginal topic of “Defiers of Poisonous Reptiles.” 

The foreword by contemporary British magician Derren Brown is entertaining and insightful.

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