**spoiler alert** When I was young I was a voracious reader, and one of my favorite series was Lynne Reid Banks' "The Indian in the Cupboard" run. Acc**spoiler alert** When I was young I was a voracious reader, and one of my favorite series was Lynne Reid Banks' "The Indian in the Cupboard" run. Accordingly I also picked up "I, Houdini" as a child and enjoyed it.
For whatever reason I wound up holding on to this book for 25+ years and, after I was blessed with children of my own, I added it to their bookshelf for future use. My 4-year old son plucked it off the shelf a couple of weeks ago, and we settled in to a routine of reading one chapter per night before bed.
Looking at the book now, as a parent, I would recommend it only for children 8 years old and up. The book touches on a lot of topics that can be difficult, frightening, or potentially even in appropriate for little ones like my son. I found myself having to selectively read sections that dealt with religion (Houdini, a hamster, determines that the Moon, and then the Sun, must be the "God" he's heard people talk about and he prays to them throughout the remainder of the book,) death (a hawk divebombs and kills a mouse,) alcoholism (Houdini winds up in a strange home with a drunken, disgusting old man,) animal abuse (said drunk beats his dog,) and even sex (Houdini mates with a female hamster and later meets his offspring.)
The book is excellent and imaginative, written from the perspective of the title character himself, and gives the reader a different perspective on the world though a hamster's eyes. While my son clearly did not understand everything within the story he did seem to enjoy it, and now I have to some how keep him from demanding a pet hamster of his very own. Thanks a lot, Houdini!...more
**spoiler alert** Fantastic biography of arguably the most iconic baseball player of the 1950s and early 60s. Leavy's story structure seems unconventi**spoiler alert** Fantastic biography of arguably the most iconic baseball player of the 1950s and early 60s. Leavy's story structure seems unconventional at first, introducing different sections of the book with excerpts from a 1983 article she wrote on Mantle in her early days as a sports reporter. She focuses on key dates in Mantle's life, but does not limit her storytelling to these specific events. Rather she highlights these milestones and uses them to branch off into the totality of Mantle's life in a more-or-less sequential format.
The baseball stories are fantastic. I was particularly enthralled with the chapter on Mantle's legendary 565-foot home run out of Washington's Griffith Stadium, which features a very thorough investigation of the actual flight of the ball, how it was found, and how it was spun by the Yankees' PR machine. This section of the book is exceptional.
The final section of the book, dealing with Mantle's eventual decision to get sober and push aside a lifetime of alcoholism and other self-destructive behavior, is extremely touching. Leavy does an outstanding job of conveying Mantle's self-transformation, and I found it impossible to walk away from the book without feeling great sympathy for Mantle and his family. After more than 60 years of killing himself he finally got the help he needed, and within a year he was dead. "The good Mick" was only allowed to walk the Earth for a short bit of time, but the testimony gathered by Leavy makes it clear that his transformation left an indelible mark on the friends and family he left behind.
Highly recommended. I now have every intention of seeking out Leavy's biography on Sandy Koufax....more
They key words in "Eddie Trunk's Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal" are "Eddy Trunk's". Going into this coffee table-style book you need to understaThey key words in "Eddie Trunk's Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal" are "Eddy Trunk's". Going into this coffee table-style book you need to understand that it is semi-autobiographical, and every entry is heavy on references to Trunk's own experiences with the artists being profiled. Accordingly the artist selection also includes some of Trunk's personal favorites who may not belong on any "objective" list, particularly Billy Squier, Skid Row, and UFO.
If you're a fan of Trunk's radio work or "That Metal Show" on VH1 Classic you should have a pretty good idea of Trunk's tastes. He likes melodic bands that many metalheads would consider non-metal (like UFO) and pays little attention to bands that broke out later than, say, 1986. You won't find the pioneers of industrial metal, Ministry, nor the groundbreaking work of Sepultura in this book. However you will find Poison and Tesla.
Since I'm a fan of Trunk's work I enjoyed the book, and certainly it has inspired me to give a few artists a second or third look. I also like his personal stories, which give us a look at artists off-stage and away from the cameras. If you're a fan of the hard rock/metal genre, this is certainly worth a look. Just understand ahead of time what this book is: one (very experienced) music fan's list....more
Ugh. I've read Wikipedia entries that are more informative than this book.
"The WWE Championship" is virtually worthless. There are some revealing quotUgh. I've read Wikipedia entries that are more informative than this book.
"The WWE Championship" is virtually worthless. There are some revealing quotes from former champions spread throughout the book to offer some insights on their championship wins, but that is honestly the only good thing about this one. It is a simplistic, superficial, and pedestrian history of the most important championship of the most important wrestling promotion in the world, and that is a shame....more
**spoiler alert** The latest in the line of born again wrestler's biographies comes courtesy of Lex Luger, one of my childhood favorites from the NWA,**spoiler alert** The latest in the line of born again wrestler's biographies comes courtesy of Lex Luger, one of my childhood favorites from the NWA, WCW, and a brief 2-year stint in the WWF.
Luger's story is an interesting one. Unlike most successful professional wrestlers he did not grow up watching the matches on TV or going to the arenas. Luger grew up in Buffalo, NY, WWF country, but he states that his only memories of wrestling were wondering why his uncle was so glued to the TV on Saturday nights. Even in the golden era of style over substance, the 1980s, muscle-bound behemoths like Hulk Hogan were genuinely fans of the industry before they ever got in it.
So the story of Luger's entry into the pro wrestling industry is a unique tale, although you have to take a lot of Luger's story with a large shaker of salt. For example, Luger says that he was Hiro Matsuda's favorite student and fastest learner. Matsuda is also notable for training legends such as Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff. So while it's entirely possible that Luger was in fact a prodigy in Matsuda's training regiment, you have to consider the inherent bias of the source.
Luger also puts himself over as a shooting star in his early years in Championship Wrestling from Florida and then Jim Crockett Promotions. Granted, Luger did win PWI Rookie of the Year and that's not in dispute. And Luger does in fact acknowledge his limited move set and his inability to call a match himself. He gives Ric Flair a ton of credit for carrying him to main event status, which is a very honest assessment, and he argues that the booking committee encouraged him to stick to simple power moves rather than expand his game.
While Luger's early years are covered well, including his burgeoning wrestling career, once Luger gets through his initial face turn upon leaving the 4 Horsemen the book goes into warp speed. Memorable matches with the Road Warriors, Nikita Koloff, and Stan Hansen are not even acknowledged as Luger's career from 1987-1991 is essentially ignored. No commentary on Crockett's expansion into other NWA territories, no mentions of the revolving door of bookers in WCW, and not even a word about Sting's first NWA World Heavyweight Title win over Flair in 1990. Luger's heel turn at the 1991 Great American Bash (and first World Title win) earned exactly four paragraphs of discussion. "The match went just as planned, and I left with the title." That is Luger's summary of his first WCW World Heavyweight Title win, a HUGE milestone in any wrestler's career.
As for the Title reign itself, that gets one paragraph. Luger's final WCW match at SuperBrawl II gets two paragraphs. "I just wanted the match to be over and done with," Luger writes. Anybody who has seen that match can attest to that.
At this point the book gets interesting again. Luger devotes ample time to the events that led to his jump to the WWF via Vince McMahon's World Bodybuilding Federation, as well as the subsequent motorcycle accident that resulted in Luger getting a titanium plate screwed into his right arm by Dr. James Andrews. His brief WWF run gets a good amount of ink, including the "Lex Express" hype in the summer of 1993 leading to his Summerslam match with Yokozuna. Chapter 10 is dedicated to Luger's surprise return to WCW on the first episode of Monday Nitro -- one of the most shocking jumps in modern wrestling history -- and the next 40 pages or so cover the nWo, Luger's second WCW World Title win over Hulk Hogan, the Wolfpac, and the much-maligned "Millionaire's Club vs. New Blood" storyline.
The latter third of the book is dedicated to Luger's post-wrestling life, and Luger is brutally honest about his shortcomings as a husband, father, friend, and man. The book covers in some details his alcoholism , prescription drug abuse, steroid use, and infidelities. One gets the sense throughout the first 180 pages or so that Larry Pfohl/Lex Luger was, to put it bluntly, a real bastard.
These failings led to his affair with Miss Elizabeth, getting kicked out of the house and then divorced by his wife, and sadly to Elizabeth's death from a drug overdose as she sat next to Luger on the couch. To make matters worse for Luger, while investigating her overdose police found a bag of anabolic steroids in his home and arrested him. To make a long story shorter, Luger became a convicted felon in addition to pre-existing titles as an ex-husband, drug addict, alcoholic, and general jerk.
While in prison for violating parole, Luger met a prison chaplain who changed his life. From here the book seems to turn into a regular born again wrestler story ... but there is a twist. Luger wakes up in a hotel room and finds that he is paralyzed from the neck down. Now Luger is an ex-husband, former drug addict, former alcoholic, convicted felon, and paraplegic.
Astonishingly, Luger persevered. Today he has lost all of the muscle mass he was once famous for, but he can once again walk, work out, drive, and do all the other things that independent people do. Doctors thought he may never regain use of his legs, much less get back on a treadmill. As expected, Luger attributes his miraculous recovery to his newfound faith in God and Jesus Christ. If you aren't into religious talk, you may want to skip the last two chapters.
Because Luger has a highly-unique story that repeatedly makes you say out loud, "Seriously?" I do recommend this book. Just know going in that the actual wrestling talk comprises maybe 70 of the 223 pages of text. If you are looking for great insight into WCW or the hot 1980s NWA territories, look elsewhere....more