The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini (Hardcover)
Award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author Joe Posnanski enters the world of Harry Houdini and his legions of devoted fans in an immersive, entertaining, and magical work on the illusionist’s impact on American culture—and why his legacy endures to this day.
Harry Houdini. Say his name and a number of things come to mind. Escapes. Illusions. Magic. Chains. Safes. Live burials. Close to a century after his death, nearly every person in America knows his name from a young age, capturing their imaginations with his death-defying stunts and daring acts. He inspired countless people, from all walks of life, to find something magical within themselves.
This is a book about a man and his extraordinary life, but it is also about the people who he has inspired in death. As Joe Posnanski delves into the deepest corners of Houdini-land, visiting museums (one owned by David Copperfield), attractions, and private archives, he encounters a cast of unforgettable and fascinating characters: a woman who runs away from home to chase her dream of becoming a magician; an Italian who revives Houdini’s most famous illusion every night; a performer at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles who calls himself Houdini’s Ghost; a young boy in Australia who, one day, sees an old poster and feels his life change; and a man in Los Angeles whose sole mission is life has been to keep the legend’s name alive.
Both a personal obsession and an odyssey of discovery, Posnanski draws inspiration from his lifelong passion for and obsession with magic, blending biography, memoir, and first-person reporting to examine Harry Houdini’s life and legacy. This is the ultimate journey to uncover why this magic man endures, and what he still has to teach the world about wonder.
About the Author
Joe Posnanski is the author of four books including the #1 New York Times bestseller Paterno. In a thirty-year career as a sportswriter for Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports, Major League Baseball and the Kansas City Star among other publications, he was named National Sportswriter of the Year by five different organizations and has won two Emmy Awards. He has been anthologized widely. Joe lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with his wife, Margo, daughters Elizabeth and Katie, and poodle, Westley.
“Marvelously entertaining . . . Imbued with Posnanski’s infectious passion for all things Houdini, this is a rollicking look at one of the 20th century’s most influential and enigmatic entertainers. . . . Posnanski’s book is not just a biography of Houdini: it’s as much an exploration of why Houdini’s fame and legend endures, and how that legacy has inspired, confounded, and influenced generations of magicians and magic enthusiasts.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“Wonderful . . . When a talented writer like Posnanski tackles a subject as endlessly fascinating as Harry Houdini, the results are, quite simply, pure magic.”
—BookPage (starred review)
“Enthralling . . . This is a first-class book, a subtle stretching of the biographical form that is also superbly readable.”
—The Times (London)
“Joe Posnanski has produced the most informative and moving book ever written about Harry Houdini. It separates fact from fiction but also tackles the larger question of why the great escapist is still so loved (and hated!) in the magic community today. The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini is a remarkable journey into the heart of Houdini World.”
—John Cox, founder of “Wild About Harry” website
“As wise in its insights as it is thorough in its research, The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini is more than just a terrific Houdini biography. It is also a book about how we create and regard legends. Like all essential cultural histories, it concerns itself not just with what happened, but with why so many of us have cared so much.” —Linda Holmes, author of Evvie Drake Starts Over
“Whatever mystical inspiration drew Joe Posnanski to the story of Harry Houdini, readers will be forever grateful. Joe’s writing about the mysterious and mythical magician is touched by its own stunning magic.”
—David Maraniss, author of A Good American Family