I've long held a fascination for Harry Houdini (aka, Erich Weiss), starting with my father's recollections of the great escape artist/magician and then onto the George Pal '53 classic bio-flick with Tony Curtis, as well as the acclaimed '76 television production, "The Great Houdini" with Paul Michael Glaser. I was well aware that these films, like many of the towering tales I had been told, depicted a skewed or exaggerated view of the real-life hero, but that was fine. As an entertainer, Houdini was larger than life, because he made himself that way through his enormous talent and skillful promotion: a most successful elevation that even led some to perceive him as more than mortal.
Ron Fortier's Airship 27 publication, "The Amazing Harry Houdini: Vol. 1" (currently available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble) capitalizes on the latter idea, with its roots not so much planted in a historical foundation (though fact certainly figures into the tales), but on Houdini's mythic image.
In most instances, the anthology caters to the sorts of thrills one finds in Houdini's movies and serials, such as "Haldane of the Secret Service"; "The Man From Beyond"; "The Master Mystery"; and "Terror Island". As such, the Houdini we meet in this modern pulp excursion is heroic--no, make that superheroic--and utilizes his exemplary skills to help those in need as he treks across such exciting locations as London, Paris and the Orient Express.
The stories, written by Jim Beard, Roman Leary, James Palmer and I.A. Watson, place young Houdini within, among and against such varied matters as family feuds; unpaid debts; beautiful women; kidnapping; lethal catacombs; questionable spiritualism; murder; and (of all stupendous things) the legendary Spear of Destiny. Iconic characters such as Aleister Crowley, Bram Stoker and Houdini's old chum, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle enter the action, as manager Martin Beck haunts the sidelines, acting as a voice of reason and reluctant supporter of the performer's insatiable inclination to do good.
For those who appreciate action and mystery, with a little historical context to parenthesize the intrigue, "The Amazing Harry Houdini" will be an absolute joy to read. The stories are also blessed by alluring artwork, including Carl Yonder's colorful cover and moody interior illustrations by Pedro Crus. On the whole, just like an exalted Houdini performance, the book is quite an awe-inspiring event.
(Also, for those who fancy audio presentations, RadioArchives.com and Amazon now offer "The Amazing Harry Houdini" as a dramatic reading by Michael Sutherland. Sutherland's deep, rich voice accentuates the adventures to a tee, making the penned escapism even more enthralling.)