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Topic: Memoirs of a Sword Swallower
Message: Posted by: poolos (Jul 5, 2005 01:27PM)
Just finished this great book.

Two questions for everyone. Anyone have info on the “human salamander ball” they talk about in the book? How about pouring hot lead on yourself?

Does anyone have more details about these?
Message: Posted by: FacadeTheStiltBoy (Jul 5, 2005 02:55PM)
You know I was wondering about the ball too. Good book though. as for the pouring lead thing, I'm not so sure (being a welder and all)
Message: Posted by: Slim Price (Jul 5, 2005 04:35PM)
There are many things in "Memoirs" that just ain't so. How many know that "Memoirs" was originally "Step Right Up," word for word...
Message: Posted by: poolos (Jul 5, 2005 04:47PM)
Kind of figured there was a lot of nonsense in there.

How inacurate is it from the real world?
Message: Posted by: Kondini (Jul 5, 2005 06:51PM)
Still it was a great read,,,and sent the quivers of the old sawdust into my viens again.

The real world of the Sideshow (In the UK) Is even more outlandish than the book!
Message: Posted by: Reis O'Brien (Jul 6, 2005 04:30PM)
This book was actually the first book I ever read that remotely dealed with sideshows and carnivals. After I read it, I found myself quite taken with the concept. This interest lead me into my adventures in magic. So I owe this book a lot!
Message: Posted by: poolos (Jul 7, 2005 02:16PM)

I'm in Chicago also. Not much going on around here remotley related to sideshows.

PM if you know of anything interesting.
Message: Posted by: Reis O'Brien (Jul 7, 2005 06:49PM)
You're telling me, Poolos! I tried to put a group together last Summer to perform sideshow acts with live bands at some of the local clubs, but no luck.
Message: Posted by: Dr_Stephen_Midnight (Jul 8, 2005 05:36AM)
Who wrote "Step Right Up?"

Message: Posted by: Harry Murphy (Jul 8, 2005 06:28AM)
Dan Mannix wrote "step Right Up", published in 1951 by Harper & Row

Daniel P. Mannix, born in Pennsylvania in 1911, was a world traveler, magician, hunting expert and renowned journalist. He also wrote nearly twenty books, among them several hunting journals, children's stories (including one that formed the basis for the animated Disney feature The Fox and the Hound) and seven volumes that might be categorized as "Cult."

These well researched, user-friendly books appeared in paperback during the years 1950-76, introducing an unwitting American public to subjects as varied as the slave trade, the sadistic games of Ancient Rome, the lives and loves of "Human Oddities" and the outrages of "Aleister Crowley".

Published in 1950, the aforementioned "Memoirs of A Sword Swallower" (a.k.a. "Step Right Up!") was-and remains-a lively, colorful account of Mannix's early years with a travelling carnival. Here amidst strongmen, snake charmers and freaks of all shapes and sizes, the author became a world-champion sword-swallower and fire-eater (which Mannix gives the reader step-by-step instructions on how to do). Essential reading (just be sure to get the 1996 V Search reprint, which is illustrated with Mannix's own photographs from the time).

Next up was Mannix's most famous book, "Those About To Die" (1959), about the sadistic "Games" of Ancient Rome, which begun with simple Gladiatorial man-to-man combat and over the centuries degenerated into wholesale public massacres. A blurb from the LA Times best captures the book's appeal: "If you can imagine a superior American sports writer suddenly being transported back in time to cover the ancient Roman games, you will have some idea of the flavor and zest of "Those About To Die"."

1959 was an extremely productive year for Mannix, with two other classic titles published in addition to "Those About To Die". Running a scant 140 pages and tampered by a peculiarly fifties Puritanism, "The Beast" is far from the definitive biography of that "Great Beast" Aleister Crowley, but it deserves credit for being the first study of the man and his practices to achieve wide readership. "The Hellfire Club", on the other hand, is a clear-eyed and absorbing account of the infamous secret society that flourished amongst the elite of 18th century England, and remains probably the essential book on the subject (there haven't been too many others).

Next came 1962's "Black Cargoes", Mannix's longest and most monumental volume, a history of the Atlantic slave trade, it was one of the first. For this massive tome, written in collaboration with Malcolm Cowley, Mannix spent three years in Africa engaged in exhaustive research; the result is a heavy-handed but necessary history lesson essential for anyone looking to understand the slave trade and how it came about. The self-explanatory "History of Torture" appeared next, in 1964. Mannix's research into the application of torture throughout the ages is, as always, impeccable, but the book is also notable for containing one of the most thought-provoking arguments against capitol punishment I've ever read (arguing that if we're to accept electric chairs then we also need to bring back public hangings).

Mannix's last book of interest, and a fitting capstone to his career, was the mind-blowing "We Who Are Not As Others" (1976), which drew on the author's lifelong correspondences with "Human Oddities". Shocking, compassionate and profusely illustrated, it's Mannix's finest work by far, and trumps every other "freak" book on the market (Frederick Drimmer's "Very Special People", Martin Monestier's Human Oddities, etc.).

And that is more than you really wanted to know about Dan Mannix - one of my early hero's (can you tell?)!
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jul 8, 2005 11:00AM)
Only one writer 'did it' for me like Mannix did and that was Edgar Rice Burroughs.

I'm with ya Harry...what a writer!
Message: Posted by: rossmacrae (Jul 8, 2005 12:41PM)
For some odd reason, Mannix's "History of Torture" showed up in my high-school bookstore in 1966. Gave me hideous dreams on and off for years.
Message: Posted by: Dr_Stephen_Midnight (Jul 8, 2005 05:29PM)
Having read "memoirs," I have to ask...what all was so phony about its contents?


By the by, reading "History of Torture" got me started on a quest on the history of the Iron Maiden. I am close to completing research for a book on the device as a 'pop icon' (history; museums; folklore; cinema; art; etc.)

Message: Posted by: constantine (Jul 20, 2005 07:15PM)
"Memoirs"was my introduction to show bussiness, and I know it was also John Bradshaw's.
Message: Posted by: FacadeTheStiltBoy (Jul 20, 2005 09:57PM)
I gotta go with Constantine on this one. it was ALSO my first book on the sideshow as well.

Except I found mine at a tattoo shop in Downtown Denver.
Message: Posted by: Scott Xavier (Jul 28, 2005 10:16AM)
I'm from CHicago and will be heading back from my tour with the SIDESHOW in October. I will be performing some side show esque effects at several colleges in chicago in october and am even looking into a perminent venue in Chicago for some freak geeks and punks I've acquired.