Houdini's Last Illusion

Author: Steve Savile
Telos Publishing

RRP 7.99, US $8.95, Cdn $11.95
ISBN 1 903889 66 9
Available 22 July 2004

Harry Houdini is a haunted man. Haunted by success, his emotions, and now by some of his compatriots: famed and feted illusionists like himself. The only problem is that they are dead. Houdini knows that time is running out, and before he is ready to die, he must perform one final trick - the greatest illusion of his life...

Houdini's Last Illusion was an award winner in the 2002 'Writers of the Future' literary competition, and it's not hard to see why. Originally much shorter, Telos has given author Steve Savile the opportunity to expand his shorter work into a novella.

While the majority of this book is loosely based on true events, the closing chapters (and I doubt I'm spoiling anything here) regurgitates the myth originally started by the 1953 movie Houdini. The magician didn't die on-stage attempting to perform his famous water torture cell illusion. The sad truth is that while Houdini was in the middle of a tour in America, in the autumn of 1926, both he and his wife Bess began to experience severe stomach discomfort. However, Houdini refused medical treatment, mainly because doing so would have meant he would have had to cancel some of his shows. A few days later, while in Canada, it is alleged that he was punched in the stomach by a student who was testing Houdini's well-known ability to withstand blows to the body, and it is that punch that is claimed may have been the cause of Houdini's ruptured appendix.

Savile does make reference to the student, and that Houdini had stomach pains, and to be fair the real events are nowhere near as entertaining as the tale that Savile weaves.

A tale of the world's most famous magician, which itself weaves a little magic of it's own.

Nick Smithson.

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