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The Great Houdini (ePub)

His British Tours

P&S History > Social History

By Derek Tait
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
File Size: 59.1 MB (.epub)
Pages: 296
Illustrations: 110
ISBN: 9781473867963
Published: 2nd August 2017


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Between 1900 and 1920 Harry Houdini toured Great Britain, extensively visiting many of its major towns and cities. Whilst there, he escaped from jails, jumped from bridges into rivers whilst bound up in chains, performed amazing escapades, tricks and illusions, and delighted everyone who came to see him.

Everywhere he performed, he issued challenges to local workers to either make a chest, box or other contraption from which he wouldn't be able to escape. He was always triumphant and his feats amazed his audiences.

Many of his shows have long since been forgotten and many towns and cities have no knowledge that he once appeared there this compelling book seeks to remedy that.

Houdini was, and remains, the best-known escapologist of all time. At the height of his career, he was the highest paid entertainer in the world.

The Great Houdini: His British Tours successfully pieces together Houdini's appearances using archive material, old newspaper clippings and extensive research. His friendship with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is also documented, along with his involvement with seances and spiritualism.

The book gives the most comprehensive account of his time within the UK and brings to life the excitement and thrills of many of his appearances. It contains many photos and adverts from his shows, some of which have not been seen since they were originally published over 100 years ago, and offers an insight into the life of one of the world's greatest entertainers.

As featured in 'When Harry met and wowed the county', September 2021

Whitstable Gazette

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Sheerness Times Guardian September 2021

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Kentish Gazette September 2021

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Kentish Express September 2021

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Kent Messenger September 2021

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Folkestone and Hythe Express September 2021

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Gravesend Messenger September 2021

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Dartford Messenger September 2021

Much has been written about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's encounters with Harry Houdini, and while Conan Doyle is mentioned only in passing in Derek Tait's THE GREAT HOUDINI: HIS BRITISH TOURS, the book offers a carefully-researched and enjoyable look at Houdini's appearances in Britain, where he performed in vaudeville theaters at the top of bills that included many other entertainers (audiences definitely got their money's worth in those long-ago days).

Doyleans & Sherlockians

A welcome addition to the history of this intriguing American entertainer and magician. The book is well illustrated with pictures both of the man himself and of playbills and advertisements for his performances. The latter add to the attraction of the book by listing many of the other entertainers of the years 1900 to 1920.
The delightful language of the many quoted newspaper reports also contributes much to this well researched volume. Altogether an interesting and informative read.

Associated Wizards of the South

Article: Houdini's legendary escape from a tight spot in Cardiff by Brian Lee as featured by

South Wales Echo, 13th April 2018

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24seven Lifestyle Magazine, August 2017

Tait's purpose of writing this book is quite admirable (to inform the townpeople of British cities that Houdini had once performed there), but the actual content taken from playbills and local newspapers is somewhat hard to parse. Don't get me wrong - there are some real gems of information in here (Houdini being frequently seasick during Atlantic ocean voyages, preferring the challenge of Krupps handcuffs, inviting challenges and making opponents/enemies out of would-be Handcuff Kings, recognizing departed British magicians, bridge jumps, dispelling fraud, milk and water can escapes, the love he has for his pet dogs, visiting Magician Clubs, writing books and appearing in films) - I just find myself wanting to read something more cohesive.

GoodReads, Kristine Fisher

One of the greatest books on him in a long time. I have learned a lot more of him. I like the mystery after 91 years we find new things on him.

John Hinson, great nephew of Houdini

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Nottingham Post

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Evergreen, Winter 2017

The Great Houdini: His British Tours gives the most comprehensive account of his time within the UK and brings to life the excitement and thrills of many of his appearances.

Lancashire Evening Post

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Blackpool Gazette

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Antiques Diary, November - December 2017

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Plymouth Herald

This reviewer thoroughly enjoyed this volume, and believes that it will probably appeal to a variety of readers. As it relates to their hero and records a little-known part of his life, ‘Houdini-enthusiasts’ will no-doubt find it of value. Historians and social-science researchers interested in British entertainment and social conditions for the 1900-1920 period could also find it of use. ‘Generalist’ readers seeking an entertaining and informative story may also find it worthy of their attention.

NZ Crown Mines

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As featured in The Booksellers Autumn 2017 Buyer's Guide

The Bookseller Aug 2017

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Daily Mail 28/7/17

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Bookseller 07.04.17
 Derek Tait

About Derek Tait

Derek Tait is a full-time author who lives in Plymouth. Born in 1961, he lived his early years in Singapore and Malaysia and has written several books about his time there, including 'Sampans, Banyans and Rambutans'. A former photographer and cartoonist, his work has been featured in newspapers and magazines around the world. A keen historian, his books include '1950s Childhood,' 'A 1970s Childhood,' 'Butlins An Illustrated History' and 'Houdini the British Tours' as well as many books in the 'Through Time' series for Amberley Publishing.He has also written many local history books including 'Plymouth,' 'Plymouth at War,' 'Saltash Passage,' 'St Budeaux,' 'Plymouth Hoe,' 'Mount Edgcumbe,' 'Saltash,' 'Memories of St Budeaux,' 'Plymouth Tales From the Past' and 'Images of Plymouth.

Born on this day - Harry Houdini

24th March 1874

The most famous vaudeville act in America, Houdini was born in Europe and emigrated to America with his family aged 2 years. As a magician Houdini started out by performing card tricks before moving on to escape acts which he often filmed.

Harry Houdini stays in a coffin under water for 1½ hrs before escaping

5th August 1926

He began first to escape from handcuffs, challenging local police to cuff him first. He moved on to an act escaping from a locked water filled milk can, straitjackets and then most famously a Chinese water torture cell where Houdini had to hold his breath for 3 minutes.

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