Jim Steinmeyer
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Fall 2008


The last year has been a busy one. Let’s start with some new products that are available through bookstores or through this website.

CHARLES FORT: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural
In the Spring of this year, the Jeremy Tarcher imprint of Penguin Publishers, New York (and Heinemann Publishers in London) published my new book: Charles Fort, the Man Who Invented the Supernatural.

Charles FortThe book generated a lot of publicity, including a long interview on the radio program “Coast to Coast.” You can find it through their site. But here’s a link to another interview, from Air Talk with Larry Mantle on KPCC here in Los Angeles. Reviews have been great. I think that Fort surprised a lot of people. Although he’s always been a part of America’s consciousness, and his thinking has influenced our own views of the paranormal (the point I make in the book), too few people have actually read Fort or understood Fort. Reviewers clearly noted that it’s a story that’s been missed.

“Steinmeyer is a gifted biographer, an elegant and unobtrusive author who shows us an entirely fascinating, shy, and witty man, a 20th-century original. This book is not to be missed.” (Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal)

“Fort's greatest collection of “non-fictional thrillers” is described in these pages as “a graceful extended conversation with an eccentric genius” - that turns out to be an accurate account of his biography. This is how biographies should be written: Steinmeyer the ideal host, introducing us to a fascinating stranger, and sliding into the background. ‘We'd all be somewhat enlightened, were it not for easy chairs,’ Fort confides. ‘One can't learn much and also be comfortable.’ Here is a storyteller with a glint in his eye. Pull up a chair, you won't be disappointed.” (Mark Stafford, Times of London)

“According to Jim Steinmeyer’s perceptive and entertaining new biography, Fort’s “Book of the Damned” is seen as the true Baedeker to the uncertain, demented 1920s. How is it that the same person can contain such extremes? In the Fortean worldview, set forth in his later writings, there are no categories. Dichotomies disappear; there is—a radical thought—nothing to be resolved. Fort was the poet of blank spaces and twilight zones.” (Ed Park, Los Angeles Times)

“Steinmeyer conjures up his subject’s world with wit and empathy, and subtly tracks the events that formed Fort’s singular character. The man emerges as eccentric, funny, self-effacing and contradictory. Even the most devoted skeptic will enjoy his company.” (Harry Pearson, The Daily Mail)

“Fort can easily be lampooned as the man who wrote about rains of frogs, but as Jim Steinmeyer emphasizes in this intriguing biography, he trod a narrow tightrope between belief and skepticism. His life, as graphically portrayed in this book, was often frustrated and unfulfilled. But the legacy he left makes the world a brighter place: paradoxically, both saner and sillier.” (David V. Barrett, The Independent)

“Steinmeyer has produced a meticulously researched, marvelously readable window on the life of this extraordinary man. Was he a genius or a crank? Fort's message is that we should not always seek solutions, because there might be none. That is Steinmeyer's verdict on the man himself.” (Andrew Crumey, The Scotsman)

This book is available at Amazon or your favorite bookstore. Or in the Book section of our online Catalog. In addition, Tarcher republished Fort’s collected books of oddities; if you’re really intrigued by the subject, you won’t want to miss it. (And I wrote the new introduction for this, as well.)

Meanwhile, if you’d like more of a taste of the subject, here’s my introduction from my new Fort biography, Charles Fort, the Man Who Invented the Supernatural.

The most recent news is that I’ve signed with my publisher, Penguin, for a new biography (for the public!) about the great American magician, Howard Thurston. Unfortunately, Thurston is all but forgotten today. But he was, in his day, “The Great,” an amazing performer who began in early vaudeville with a deck of cards, and built the largest magic show of his generation. Thurston’s story has a lot of surprises (including lots of surprises for magicians who think they already know the story). I’m conducting the research now. The book will probably be out in 2010.

At the end of next year, Taschen will present a spectacular, oversized, graphic history of magic. Right now, I’m working on the chapters with Mike Caveney; we’re about to begin work on the many captions that will accompany the images. Noel Daniel is the editor. She’s just completed the Taschen history of the Circus, and the magic book, planned as a companion volume, has every indication of being spectacular.

In November 2007, John Gaughan, Mike Caveney, Frankie Glass and I hosted the Tenth Los Angeles Conference on Magic History. We were pleased to make a few headlines with the event, and John Gaughan’s amazing “reappearance” of Dr. Hooker’s Rising Cards and Miltiades. If you want to read more about this amazing bit of history, I’d refer you to the Genii article or the souvenir program from the Conference. I had the pleasure of presenting a recreation and lecture about Amac’s astonishing illusion from the heyday of vaudeville, Find the Lady (Amac presented it as The Elusive Lady). I was assisted by Jonathan Levit, David Regal, Lani Pelino. In addition, Steve Dick, William Kennedy and my wife, Frankie Glass, were responsible for additional coordination and support.

Find the Lady

Mickey’s Magic Show, a magnificent family show produced by Feld Entertainment in conjunction with the Walt Disney Company has been touring the country (and now, the rest of the world). When it played in Los Angeles recently, my wife Frankie Glass and I had a chance to see it again. The magicians in charge, two bright, talented and charismatic performers named Alex Gonzales and Brad Ross, are doing a remarkable job. I was the consultant on the illusions selected for the show and their staging.

The Broadway production of Mary Poppins (a co-production of Disney and Cameron Mackintosh) opened at the end of 2006 at the historic New Amsterdam Theater in New York City. The show promptly earned a number of Tony nominations and a Tony award for Bob Crowley’s wonderful scenic design. The Broadway production is, if possible, even better than the original London show. I was proud to provide the illusion effects, including Mary’s carpetbag full of surprises and a child’s doll’s house that takes part in a special nightmare.

I’m proud to say that my new illusion, Op-Art, has found a home in the place of a number of professional magicians, and is a big hit with audiences. It’s an unusual effect, and I appreciate the fine presentations and skillful performers who have been performing it.

The Spencers have been very successful with my version of Walking Through a Brick Wall. I had a chance to see them, with my good friend Don Bice, perform it in Rancho Cucamonga this last year, and I have to admit that they do a great job with it. Other new effects include Walking through a Jail Window, Toccata for Light Bulb and Paper Bag, Paranormal, a levitation, The Triple Escape, and a novel production that will be presented by Topas in his new show, for this autumn, in Germany.

Bunko is a special bit of magic, for close-up performers, that was first introduced last year. Don’t miss it. If you do close-up, you’ll be pleased at the theatricality of the effect. If you never try close-up, I think that the special combination of method and effect will be a real surprise and especially appealing. The effect is a shortchange routine, explained carefully in several steps. There are lots of twists and turns along the way. You can find BUNKO in our online Catalog.

Stay tuned and thanks for your interest.
Jim Steinmeyer

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