Houdini and Conan Doyle

Houdini and Conan Doyle
Christopher Sandford
Reviewed by Rachel Sanderson
Duckworth
Thu, 27/10/2011
9780715641460
£20.00

This is a monograph on two of the biggest names of the 20th Century: Harry Houdini, the escapologist, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the inventor of the greatest detective in literature.  The book examines the lives of these two great men, from their births in the late 1800s to their deaths in the first part of the 20th century and beyond. It examines the parallels of their lives; the situations and circumstances surrounding them; their friendship; their beliefs; and the clashes over spiritualism and mediums that ultimately left their friendship suffering from the split that was to last for the rest of Houdini’s life.

This is a fascinating journey into a pair of extraordinary lives. The men themselves were both incredible, inventive, intelligent men and the circumstances of their early deaths made it all the more amazing that they achieved all that they did. The book delves deep into the upbringings of both men, from Conan Doyle in the private school and his education as a doctor of medicine, to Erich Wiesz’s move from Budapest and his gradual evolution onto Harry Houdini, and the degeneration of the lives of both men’s fathers and their subsequent familial relationships and how these formed the basis of what their lives would become.

Clearly well researched and fully investigated, the book makes great use of excerpts of letters and conversations of the time to convey the feelings of the writers or speakers at the time. Although the subject matter of spiritualism may seem like it could all too easily be treated flippantly, the book is careful not to treat it so, and maintains a brilliantly written scholarly approach to the subject, neither treating it too lightly nor granting it too much import.
 

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