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The glorious deception : the double life of William Robinson, aka Chung Ling Soo
Jim Steinmeyer
Adult Nonfiction GV1545.S56 S74 2005

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From Publishers' Weekly:

In the boisterous heyday of the vaudeville music hall-an era that featured renowned magicians like Herrmann the Great and Harry Houdini-the mysterious and exotic Chung Ling Soo was considered among the greatest. Thus, his shooting death on a London stage in front of a packed house in 1918 was cause for scandal and rumor. In this affectionate and informed biography, Steinmeyer (Hiding the Elephant) tantalizingly picks along the trail of the magician's life back to his birth-not in China but New York. As a stunned public would discover, Soo was really William Ellsworth Robinson. That Robinson was able to maintain the fiction for so many years in the relentless spotlight of worldwide fame might have been a delicious tale. Unfortunately, there's no rabbit in this hat. Steinmeyer quotes Robinson himself to the effect that the public probably suspected and didn't care. Fans of the magic arts will appreciate Steinmeyer's intimate and colorful portraits of craft. The author is less successful in unraveling the complex riddle of Robinson's personal life; his forensic speculations and judgments are underexplored or simplistic. Who was William Ellsworth Robinson? That question remains unanswered. B&w illus. Agent, James Fitzgerald. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

He billed himself as "the Original Chinese Conjurer," but in truth Chung Ling Soo was William Ellsworth Robinson (1861-1918), born in New York City. Rob, as he was known to his friends, spent years learning the trade of magic, working for conjurers in vaudeville and performing his own tricks before small crowds. It was a famous conjurer truly from China, Ching Ling Foo, who prompted Robinson to offer his own version of magic from the East, crafting the identity that made him a star. Steinmeyer (Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned To Disappear), a noted designer of magical illusions, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at both the world of performers and their illusions that made conjuring so popular at the dawn of the 20th century. A previous biography, The Riddle of Chung Ling Soo, kept back details that might have been harmful to Robinson's family and to the magic profession. Now Steinmeyer can give a full portrait of Robinson with his powerful yet nuanced depiction of a man whose life ended tragically while performing the notorious "Catching the Bullet." Suitable for public libraries and the leisure reading sections of academic libraries.-Dan Harms, SUNY at Cortland Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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