The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero

Version: Abridged
Author: William Kalush , Larry Sloman
Narrator: Adam Grupper
Genres: Biography & Memoir, Arts & Entertainment
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published In: October 2006
# of Units: 5 CDs
Length: 6 hours
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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.

Reviews (9)


Written by Dave G of Lake Hopatcong, NJ from Lake Hopatcong, NJ on April 30th, 2011

  • Book Rating: 3/5

Interesting at some points but I felt it got into the supernaturual too much, rather than staying with the personal life of Houdini.

Couldn't stop listening

Written by Anonymous on August 6th, 2009

  • Book Rating: 5/5

I put on this cd on a sunday morning while I was unloading the dishwasher. I was sure I would listen and then send back the book, "why had I added this to my rental shelf again?" Anyway 8 hours later my entire apartment gleamed from all the cleaning because I couldn't bare to stop listening. Also cool to reconnect to an icon of my grandfathers generation. Very enjoyable!!

Not Escapaist

Written by Anonymous on July 1st, 2009

  • Book Rating: 3/5

What seems like a book with so much promise turns out to be a rather tediuous exercise in -- what? Flat writing that conceals a few gems, amidst a lot of mundance blandness. Houdini never comes to life in this bio. A pity, for the subject good as it gets...

The Secret Life of Houdini

Written by Anonymous on May 12th, 2009

  • Book Rating: 3/5

Interesting view of the man and the era. First half of the book is the best. Drags a bit in the last half.


Written by Anonymous from Santa Rosa, CA on April 16th, 2009

  • Book Rating: 3/5

I agree with the last couple of reviews. If you know nothing of the man besides the fact that he was a magician, this is a good book that covers the basics and will let you know if you want to read something with actual substance. If you already know some of the broad strokes of his life and accomplishments, or you already know that you are interested in learning more than a spark notes version, this feels like fluff. I'm glad I listened to it but wish I had put those hours towards a better, more in depth account.

Ho Hum 2

Written by Anonymous from Bernardsville, NJ on March 27th, 2008

  • Book Rating: 3/5

Agree with prior reviewer. Felt like a grade school level accounting of Houdini's life. Not sure if it was the reader the writing or both. Learned some new things (e.g., early life, wife's personality, exposing spiritualist fakers) and did finish the CDs. So, if you'd like an unchallenging accounting of his days, this is the book for you.

Ho Hum

Written by Meg from Manhattan Beach, CA on November 12th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 3/5

I loved Houdini and wanted a little insight into this exciting man. The narrator makes this anything but exciting unfortunately. The theme of the book sounds interesting but it comes off as a strange conspiracy theory. I'm shipping it back early to move onto something more gripping. Sorry Houdini.

The Secret Life of Houdine

Written by Tonia K Martinez on October 3rd, 2007

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Really enjoyed this book. Interesting. Paced well.


Written by LRW on April 16th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 5/5

I enjoyed this book. I have a new appreciation for the man - Houdini. I knew he was a great magician and now I know he was a great man. It was one of those tapes where I take the long way home so I can hear more.

Author Details

Author Details

Kalush, William

William Kalush has been a dedicated student of the art of magic for more than twenty-five years. Founder of the Conjuring Arts Research Center and publisher of" Gibeciere", an esteemed magic history journal, he has helped create several world-famous magic stunts and prime-time network television specials.

Sloman, Larry

Larry Ratso Sloman is best known as Howard Stern s collaborator on what were then the two fastest selling books in publishing history, "Private Parts "and "Miss America". Sloman s recent collaborations include "Mysterious Stranger", with magician David Blaine, and "Scar Tissue", the memoir of Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer Anthony Kiedis both books were"New York Times "bestsellers.