The Glorious Deception: The Double Life of William Robinson,

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The Glorious Deception: The Double Life of William Robinson,

Postby Mandrake » Sep 3rd, '07, 11:42

The Book: The Glorious Deception: The Double Life of William Robinson, Aka Chung Ling Soo, the Marvelous Chinese Conjurer by Jim Steinmeyer

Cost: Variable, £7.00 up to £12.00 - Google for source as most online and real bookshops will be able to supply.

Review: Well, if it's by Jim Steinmeyer, it's just got to be good and this certainly is!

Apart from a comprehensive history of Robinson's early career right up to his demise in 1918 on the stage of the Wood Green Empire theatre, we also get to learn a lot about Houdini, The Great Lafayette, The Herman family - Carl, Alexander, Leon and Wife Adelaide and many other famous names. The book title has multiple meanings, not only in the sense that Robison became Chung Ling Soo (in imitation of Ching Ling Foo) but in terms of his family life whereby his first marriage just fizzled out but the son of that marriage was unwanted by all so was placed in an orphanage, the second relationship with Dot who was his lifelong assistant and his 'secret' family in the South of England. He also had several other names, such as Hop Sing Loo and was perhaps not exactly a nice guy at times. In the early part of his career he helped to set up a house gaffed and faked to perform money making séances. The enterprise ended when they arranged for one distressed widower, at considerable expense, to have one more night of passion with his 'dead' wife (courtesy of a local lady of easy virtue, dim lighting, and a lot of make up!) but the poor old gent died a few minutes into the 'activities'. They dressed the deceased and were about to drag him round the corner and dump him to avoid any official enquiries when they realised the gent's driver was waiting outside and saw what they were doing. Exit Robinson on the next train out of the city!
The book has the nostalgic flavour of 'The Prestige' and reads like a who's who of many famous names, their involvement with each other, their jealousies and dirty tricks campaigns. Robinson flitted as assistant between many of the known names and took their secrets with him only to find that when he became famous, others were doing exactly the same thing to him. Conspiracies abound as to why his final performance of the bullet catching trick went wrong, there are several possible suspects who could easily have arranged for the accident to happen but it's probably more likely that Robinson was at fault, due to ill health and emotional pressures, he may have overlooked part of the preparation. If nothing else, it was a hell of a way to go!

Overall: Highly recommended reading - add it to your Christmas prezzie list!

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Postby roddy » Sep 3rd, '07, 11:51

I've just ordered mine from the following.

The Book Depository

The Glorious Deception: The Double Life Of William Robinson, Aka Chung Ling Soo, The Marvelous Chinese Conjurer
Jim Steinmeyer
free delivery
Price: £7.73
Usually dispatched within 24 hours.

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Postby lozey » Sep 3rd, '07, 21:53

I ordered this and made the mistake of leaving it i my mums car for 1/2 hour while i was in the doctors clinic. When i came back it had been 'aquired'. Although my mum hates magic, even she loved this book!

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Postby Mandrake » Sep 3rd, '07, 22:29

Although Robinson as Chung Ling Soo pretended to not understand any English, he would usually meet reporters as himself and chat away quite happily in English. One of his favourite tricks was to ask the reporter where they were born and regardless of the answer, swear that he was from there as well so when the obituaries appeared, they all gave differing places of birth! Other aspects I liked were that he used an engineering firm in the north of England to make a lot of his props, with much sweat, skill and hard work in making them perfect, and he also had his own model plane workshop in the South of England which lasted until the War Department closed such enterpises down in wartime. Robinson spent a lot of his professional life in the UK and it's good to hear of all the places he performed at along with descriptions of how life used to be in the early 1900s.

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Postby mark lewis » Sep 3rd, '07, 23:34

Chung Ling Soo had two sons. I met both of them. One was jollier than the other.

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Postby Al Doty » Dec 25th, '07, 10:08

I read that the flintlock rifle used was very old and had a problem with the barrel leaking black powder into the area where the ramrod was stored and when the gun was fired it ignited the powder and part of the ramrod struck him. How true that is I can't say for sure, but just to quote a futuristic robot, "Danger Will Robinson, Danger"

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Postby sleightlycrazy » Dec 25th, '07, 18:03

There's a nice small chunk of "Mysteries of Magic- Death Defying Feats" about Robinson's death. (It's a dvd series about the history of magic- Teller talks a LOT in it, so you might want to buy it just to hear him talk about magic)

I have the book, but never got around to reading it yet. Your review is probably going to push me over the edge and I'm going to find myself reading it in the next couple months... :wink:

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The Glorious Deception

Postby Allen Tipton » Dec 29th, '07, 12:04

:D I was so grateful to Steinmeyer for revealing the facts about'The World & Its People' illusion. I'd searched for years for this and could only ever find a description of the effect, never the workings.

If you are interested in Chung Ling Soo you should also read:

The Riddle Of Chung Ling Soo by Will Dexter

A Gift From The Gods by Val Andrews ( if only for the 48 colour plates of
his posters)
The Silence Of Chung Ling Soo by Todd Karr.488 pages. This also includes some of Soo's published works.

Chung Ling Soo. The Man of Mystery by Gary Franks
Chung Ling Soo. The Man Behind The Legend by Gary Franks with help from Hector Robinson (Soo's youngest son)
The latter 2 books do not really reveal anything new but the pics & posters are worth having. One, in 'Man behind The Legend', shows Soo, 'The Daddy Of Them All' with 2 rows of magicians stretching back to infinity, I have never seen this elsewhere.
It also has 2 name errors 0n page 34. The lady is Lou not Olive . The little girl is Mary not May.

Chung Ling Soo's Mechanists: 'They Stayed Behind'
By Brian Mc Cullagh & Dr.J. Ernest Aldred. Dr.Aldred is the son of of one of the mechanists( Phil Davies was the other) The story of Soo's 2 chief mechanists reveals many an insight into the man & his work.They stayed behind in Australia.Also some fascinating documents like the list of passengers aboard the Moldavia) to Australia) of all Soo's Company & a colour repro of Soo's letterhead, with letter to Ellis Stanyon etc.
There is also an article by Brian McCullagh in Stan Allen's 'Magic', November 1997 pages 52 to 55 showing how The Birth Of The Pearl illusion evolved with illustrations.

There are on the spot descriptions, of Soo's performances in Australia in the book, ' Magical Nights In The Theatre' by Charles Waller & Gerald Knight.

Finally a wonderful article in The New Pentagram( July 1988, pages 42 to 44) by the legendary Peter Lane; a very knowlegeable expert & collector of Magic's History.
This gave me, and it was the first time I had ever seen it in print, the story of Soo's, 'other woman' his mistress & mother of his 3 children.
This was Janet Louise Mary Blatchford, known as Lou or Mrs. Robinson to Chung Ling Soo's Company.
His real (& 2nd wife) wife was Olive Path, known as Dot because she was so tiny. She was referred to as Mrs. Soo.
They were married very early in his pre Soo career (Robinson, The Man of Mystery) probably for financial reasons. Soo, however, after each show always went back to Lou & his children in their house in Barnes.
Hector Robinson wanted the facts in print ' to clear up the confusion created by so many widespread errors'.

There are other accounts of course in Milbourne Christopher, David Price plus magazine articles etc.
There is a brief glimpse of Chung Ling Soo( in makeup) visiting a hospital; in the BBC's History Of Magic series.

Peter Lane was very kind to me at the IBM Conventiion in Scarborough 1989. Discovering I'd never even seen the Dante Memorial issue of Genii, he sent me a spare copy for my extensive Dante collection. Those were the days guys when the Brotherhood in Magic really meant that; Brotherhood!

Allen Tipton

Began magic at 9 in 1942. Joined Staffs M.S at 13. Nottm.Guild of M. (8 times President. Prog Director 20years)IBM. Awarded Magician of Month 1980 By Intern. Pres. IBM for reproducing Dante's Sim Sala Bim. Writes Dear Magician column for Abra. Mag.
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The Glorious Deception

Postby Mandrake » Mar 29th, '18, 08:34

I just realised, March 23rd this year was the 100th anniversary of Chung Ling Soo's demise. R.I.P. Will!

I hear there's an operetta being performed soon based on his life, might be worth seeing!

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