My big read, still underway, is Houdini!!! The Career of Erich Weiss by Kenneth Silverman. An exceedingly researched and detailed biog, Houdini!!! presents a fairly entertaining study of the Handcuff King and his many trials and triumphs. In its thoroughness, however, it lacks dynamism, and I'm quite eager to get back into some rollicking fiction once I'm done.
For all his dare-deviling and death-defying, Houdini's success seems to have come quite easily to him, and it's not until later in life, as his youthful vigour and elasticity begins to fade (not to mention the heartbreaking loss of his mother) that he really starts seem challenged.
Silverman presents Houdini as a marvellously vain showman whose own contradictions seem as tricky as his escapes.
What's really twigged my imagination/interest, though is Howard Thurston, an also-ran with a much more colourful past that Houdini. Says Silverman:
[Thurston] had put in time in hobo jungles, racetrack stables, and two-fisted western mining towns with names like Diamondville--picking pockets, burgling, operating a cheap-jewelry scam, hustling as a cane-waving check-coat barker with the DeKreko Brothers Congress of Eastern Nations, a traveling hootchy-kootchy show.
All of which sort of paints Thurston as a Jerry Lee Lewis of Prestidigitation to Houdini's Elvis.
I'm also reading and MY-T-LY enjoying Showcase Presents: Martian Manhunter. Presenting in black & white glory, the first 500 pages of the Martian Manhunter's earthly adventures, it's as good as Silver Age back-up strips got, if the Showcase Presents: Green Arrow is anything to go by.