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Download The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero, by William Kalush Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (959 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Larry “Ratso” Sloman, Larry Sloman, William Kalush Narrator: Adam Grupper Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2006 ISBN: 9780743561938
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An Intimate and Riveting Portrayal of Houdini, the Man and the Legend

Handcuff King. Escape Artist.International Superstar. Since his death eighty years ago, Harry Houdini has continued to captivate generations. Now, renowned magic expert William Kalush and best-selling writer Larry Sloman team up to find the man behind the myth, from the passions that drove Houdini to perform ever-more-dangerous feats to his secret life as a spy, and the pernicious plot to subvert his legacy.

After years of struggling on the dime museum circuit, Harry Houdini got a break that thrust him into the spotlight -- performing for royalty and commanding vast sums. At a time when spy agencies frequently co-opted amateurs, Houdini went to London and developed a relationship with a man who would run MI-5; for the next several years, he traveled to Germany and Russia and routinely reported his findings. After World War I, Houdini set out to infiltrate and expose the seamy world of fake spirit mediums, triggering the wrath of a group of fanatical Spiritualists led by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Death threats became an everyday occurrence, but the group would pose an even greater danger to Houdini's legacy.

As exciting as any good thriller,The Secret Life of Houdini traces the arc of the master magician's life from desperate poverty to worldwide legend, and initiates the listener into the arcane world of professional magic. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Detailed, hugely entertaining…The story of Houdini’s final days is riveting, extraordinary, sad—and has never been better told.” 

    Los Angeles Times

  • “Kalush and Solomon appear to have raked through every known Houdini archive to produce the most comprehensive and controversial biography ever written about the man.”

    Sunday Times (London)

  • “This wonderful book may be the most complete account of Houdini yet.”

    News & Observer

  • “After eighty years, a book that does justice to the legacy of one of the greatest showmen ever. The research is astounding, the writing compelling.” 

    Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller

  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andy Erickson | 2/20/2014

    " I really enjoyed this book. Houdini is a truly fascinating figure, and I am already thinking about reading another bio on Houdini, or if one exists, a book just about his investigations into Spiritualism. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Sandy | 2/16/2014

    " Just started. So far an easy to read,and a facinating story. Ok, I spoke too soon. Although Houdini is a facinating person, I'm finding it reall hard to get into the book. For me, writing style is just as if not even more important than the story. This may be the first book selection from my book club that I don't finish. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rod Culbertson | 2/10/2014

    " A very interesting close up account of the life of Harry Houdini. Of particular interest is the description of the times in which he lived. The book portrays the drama of his escapes and his tricks and gives an insightful glimpse into his personal and married life. An interesting read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Minh Minimum | 2/8/2014

    " Superhero, that may be stretching the truth a bit, but it seems like Houdini liked to stretch the truth a bit. I enjoyed the book. Lots of detail about a man that I really knew so little about. Well researched and presented in an obviously loving manner. The chapters on medium debunking got me more interested and helped pick my next read. I now know more about Houdini than I really need to, but I'm waiting for those questions to come up next time I'm on Jeopardy. I'll take Houdini for $500 Alex. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Klr | 2/7/2014

    " the best book on Houdini that I've ever read, and I've read a few. A fascinating story of his amazing life, especially when he took on spiritualism and explored our ability to speak with the dead. What a great man! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Elizabeth | 1/26/2014

    " Houdini really lived a fascinating life and this book read more like fiction than a biography. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nick | 1/21/2014

    " This is a fantastic biography of a particularly interesting man, a man who pushed himself beyond the limit rather than admit defeat, who used his skills in the aid of spy and police agencies as well as for entertainment, and who devoted his later years in attempting to hold fraudulent spiritualists responsible for the crimes they perpetrated on the credulous and vulnerable - a crusade that may have had a part in his somewhat suspicious demise. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kristin | 1/19/2014

    " This guy, seriously, was a brilliant magician, and a very shrewd businessman. He performed a trick called "needles." He would take a handful of needles, stick one in his face and then walk around the audience members, letting them insert needles anywhere in his face they wanted to (except his eyes). Once in, usually 24 needles in all, he would take them out and eat them one by one with a red string. Then he would call a doctor on stage to look into his mouth to verify that all of the needles were gone. Yes, of course they were. He asked the doctor to look again, and in the back of his mouth was the red string. The doctor would take hold of the string and slowly pull it out of his mouth. It would be over 24 feet long and attached to this string were all of the needles intact. Amazing! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Colleen | 1/18/2014

    " Interesting biography. The big hook is the authors' theories about Houdini's possible spy activities. But I found the section on his later life and his crusade against the Spiritualist movement and its frauds and con men to be the most interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cindy | 1/16/2014

    " trudged through this book in an effort to balance my reading genres. The author did nothing to keep my interest, but ultimately found the final 100 pages interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Denise | 1/11/2014

    " It is a rare person that does not know the name Houdini. Before this book, I had very little knowledge of the magician or his accomplishments. I've greatly enjoyed reading about this charismatic entertainer and the colorful people in his life. Sherlock Holmes will never read the same. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brent | 1/2/2014

    " An incredibly well researched biography of the man and travelling magician. This book served as my introduction to Houdini and intensified my cruousity about the mysterious talents of the man while providing a full account of the details of his personal and professional life. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jacob | 12/11/2013

    " Interesting. Extremely thorough. Part on spiritualists was way too long. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah | 11/6/2013

    " fucking thorough, this one "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jen | 7/31/2012

    " this was a really interesting book - so much crazy stuff of which I had no idea... so fascinating "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Scott Thrift | 5/24/2012

    " A great story not well told. Tedious prose and some very weird style choices. Still, the subject matter keeps it interesting. Worth reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joshua | 3/26/2012

    " Very informative - learned a lot about the man and the time period. I would recommend it - you don't have to read every word but you'll want to get all of it just the hear the entire story "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bobbi | 11/12/2011

    " this book was a gift and I really enjoyed it. Houdini has always fascinated me. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ted | 9/29/2011

    " I love Houdini and have read other books, I liked this one a lot as it focused on some never before , known aspects of his life and exploits. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Amanda | 5/30/2011

    " I was a little disappointed. This wasn't a terrible book, but it didn't interest me like I thought it would. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kyle | 5/30/2011

    " An interesting insight to Houdini's life. The story was interesting and enjoyable but at some point in the latter part of the book it became less interesting and somewhat boring. While I enjoyed learning about Houdini the less interesting segments of the book dragged down my rating of it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Becky Morlok | 5/2/2011

    " I've had a fascination with Houdini since I was a child. I learned SO much about him by reading this book - no idea the talent he had..... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Troy | 4/28/2011

    " Houdini led a very interesting life. Including being renowned magician, he also was instrumental in the beginning of America's espionage. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Abdul | 4/15/2011

    " Picking up this book I thought it would be more of a biographical book. Alas it turned into a recounting of his fights with the spiritual movement of the time and how they might have lead to his death. While interesting I did not think it merited a whole book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 MissFidget | 4/3/2011

    " Fricking amazing book if ya don't particularly like Houdini. Interesting tale of it's time as well. Those mother fucking spiritualists were an evil, despicable lot. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jackie | 3/11/2011

    " Fascinating. Seriously. I didn't like the ending chapters about spiritualism so much. But I was impressed with how hard he worked to expose the weirdos. His escapes were very exciting to read about. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Debora | 1/20/2011

    " 1st half: totally interesting and worth reading--Houdini was amazing! 2nd half: Offensive in parts and not worth reading--except to find out how Houdini died (not during a trick, fyi). This book also completely convinced me that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a superstitious, cheating, sick man. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karilee | 10/5/2010

    " I just finished listening to this book. It was very interesting learning about Houdini and consequently Sir Arther Conan Doyle who I am very interested in learning more about after listening to this book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brent | 8/21/2010

    " An incredibly well researched biography of the man and travelling magician. This book served as my introduction to Houdini and intensified my cruousity about the mysterious talents of the man while providing a full account of the details of his personal and professional life. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tmorlok | 6/1/2010

    " I've had a fascination with Houdini since I was a child. I learned SO much about him by reading this book - no idea the talent he had..... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jim | 4/25/2010

    " This book enlightened me on the great Houdini. A brilliant and courageous person. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah Marie | 4/17/2010

    " 5 stars for the fascinating subject & photos, 1 star for the quality of writing and depth of insight "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Matt | 3/16/2010

    " An excellent and fascinating biography of one of the first entertainment celebrities of the modern age. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Robert | 2/19/2010

    " Picked it on a whim - a winner! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Elizabeth | 1/31/2010

    " Houdini really lived a fascinating life and this book read more like fiction than a biography. "

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