THE LAST GREATEST MAGICIAN IN THE WORLD : HOWARD THURSTON VERSUS HOUDINI & THE BATTLES OF THE AMERICAN WIZARDS
by Jim Steinmeyer
"I wouldn't deceive you for the world" was a sentence that was uttered by Howard Thurston at every one of his magic performances. What the audiences saw were so complex and spectacular that they were left spellbound and completely mystified.
Thurston was a contemporary of Harry Houdini but their accomplishments were quite different. Houdini was known as an escape artist and Thurston was an illusionist. Their personalites were also disparate. Houdini was brazen and overbearing and Thurston was a true showman with a mellifluous speaking voice, who charmed both children and adults and was much more refined (at least on stage).
Thurston started his career in vaudeville performing card tricks. He soon left it behind because he wanted to expand his act and make it into one incredible extravaganza with all kinds of apparatus and multiple costumes.
For thirty years he toured all over Europe and the United States. The public couldn't get enough of him. When Hollywood started making films (a different kind of magic) that was the beginning of the end.
The Last Greatest Magician in the World is a fascinating story of a man who is considered legendary to the magicians today but virtually unknown to the rest of us. The author is no slouch in this department as he is a designer of magic illusion and has quite a portfolio. (You can read about him on www.jimsteinmeyer.com.) He describes how the illusions were performed and what went on backstage with the preparations in building everything.
You are introduced to scores of other magicians, in the book, and the rivalry that went on amongst them all.
There are some great black-and-white photographs of Thurston doing his magic, his family and fellow magicians that gives you a true flavor of the past.
A great read.