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Side Show: My Life with Geeks, Freaks & Vagabonds in the Carny Trade

3.38  ·  Rating Details ·  63 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
Cultural Writing. Memoir. Howard Bone was a sideshow magician virtually his whole working life. During a long, eventful, and adventurous career he lived every aspect of outdoor show business in its golden era. SIDE SHOW captures the flavor of those boisterous times -- the characters, the scenes, the scams, the dodges, the joys and sorrows of carny ways as only an insider c ...more
Paperback, 137 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by Sun Dog Press
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Jul 06, 2011 Ferus rated it really liked it
The story of Howard Bone, a man that spent 40 years in the Carny trade, in his own words. It's written in a very conversational tone, very informal and easy to read, with a peppering of carny slang for a flavor that makes you feel like you're sitting on the porch with him, sharing a drink as he talks about how he used to live. Howard covers all the things he did in the business, from bally talker to ticket taker to working in the At' (wrestling or boxing) shows. The girly shows and the menagerie ...more
Les Wolf
Mar 02, 2015 Les Wolf rated it liked it
Alright, I'll admit it. I'm a little obsessed with extraordinary, eccentric or really odd people. Howard Bone fits the bill in this book. A black belt martial artist and a magician, Howard Bone doubled as a brawler, a barker and even a snake handler. The book is a rambling account of his adventures and Howard, by his own admission, is not a great writer. And the editing is lackluster, at best. But the book is filled with little stories and curious insights into the carnival business, with specia ...more
Ace McGee
Sep 19, 2016 Ace McGee rated it did not like it
Shelves: circus-sideshoe
Howard Bone spent 40 years in the sideshow in many capacities including talker and magician. He describes Himself as a natural born talker or Barker. He may have been this but he certainly is not a natural born writer. His stories, while informative are poorly written. His subjects are interesting and there are a lot of facts about carny life but he is narrative is dull. The book could've used a few photographs and maybe a lot more stories about him as a magician. I think Mr. Bone would have bee ...more
Melissa Shepherd
Jan 28, 2013 Melissa Shepherd rated it it was ok
I barely remember this book at all, but this was my (poorly written) review in 2001:

"I read this book out of love for carnival and freakish attractions. I did enjoy the various true stories told by the ex carnie, but the way he wrote was complicated to follow. He didn’t tell the stories in order that they happened, but more of how he remembered them while talking. It was difficult for me to follow sometimes, but I seemed to have gotten the gist of what he was saying. After reading it, I did end
Apr 13, 2009 Julie rated it really liked it
I am eternally envious of Penn and Teller for having forged a friendship with Howard Bone before his death. They got to hear some of the stories from this book from Bone himself. Reading the book was like visiting with an interesting and eccentric relative who had a story for everything - but wasn't boastful or inappropriate. It was a quick read with some fascinating insight into American carnival and circus history.
Hobart Frolley
Feb 24, 2013 Hobart Frolley rated it really liked it
Shelves: circus-sideshow
I love memoirs by carnies! There's something really enjoyable about the seediness and unrepentant sleaze that fills these books. I guess they fall into the same camp as Jim Thompson novels and 70's Grindhouse features, an escape from the respectable world most of us are forced into 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year until we die.....
Feb 18, 2009 TheSaint rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, adult
If you like multifaceted non-fiction authored by well-respected scholars, then Side Show: My Life with Geeks, Freaks, and Vagabonds in the Carny Trade is not for you. However, if you want a quick, fun read about the carnival life as led by one Howard Bone, then...knock yourself out!
Jan 04, 2013 Judy rated it liked it
A great, quick read about Howard Bone's life in the carnival and all the related shenanigans. A fun insight into the carnival life.
Jane Cornett
Jul 27, 2011 Jane Cornett rated it really liked it
Howard Bone lived a fascinating life... authentic stories that provide a good look at old-school carny lives.
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Aug 24, 2016
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