Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Buy Used
FREE Shipping on orders over $25.
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: This is a pre owned item in good condition - item shows normal signs of use. .When fulfill by Amazon this item is **** Eligible for FREE Super Saver or Amazon Prime Shipping ** All orders backed by Amazon's excellent customer service!
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

The Glorious Deception: The Double Life of William Robinson, aka Chung Ling Soo, the "Marvelous Chinese Conjurer" Hardcover – May 10, 2005

4.7 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

See all 7 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$9.94 $0.14

A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston
New & Popular Entertainment Biographies & Memoirs
From Bryan Cranston, star of one of the most beloved and successful TV shows in history, Breaking Bad, an intimate, funny, and totally original memoir. Learn more | See related books
click to open popover

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the boisterous heyday of the vaudeville music hall—an era that featured renowned magicians like Herrmann the Great and Harry Houdini—the mysterious and exotic Chung Ling Soo was considered among the greatest. Thus, his shooting death on a London stage in front of a packed house in 1918 was cause for scandal and rumor. In this affectionate and informed biography, Steinmeyer (Hiding the Elephant) tantalizingly picks along the trail of the magician's life back to his birth—not in China but New York. As a stunned public would discover, Soo was really William Ellsworth Robinson. That Robinson was able to maintain the fiction for so many years in the relentless spotlight of worldwide fame might have been a delicious tale. Unfortunately, there's no rabbit in this hat. Steinmeyer quotes Robinson himself to the effect that the public probably suspected and didn't care. Fans of the magic arts will appreciate Steinmeyer's intimate and colorful portraits of craft. The author is less successful in unraveling the complex riddle of Robinson's personal life; his forensic speculations and judgments are underexplored or simplistic. Who was William Ellsworth Robinson? That question remains unanswered. B&w illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

JIM STEINMEYER has created the defining illusions in contemporary magic, such as David Copperfield’s vanishing of the Statue of Liberty. He has created special material for the programs of many leading magicians around the world—from Ricky Jay to Siegfried & Roy. He has also designed illusions for six Broadway shows and numerous other productions, such as Mary Poppins, which is currently on the British stage. Steinmeyer was a writer and producer of the A&E network’s four-hour history of the art, THE STORY OF MAGIC, and is the author of HIDING THE ELEPHANT. Jim Steinmeyer lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Frankie Glass, an independent television producer.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

New York Times best sellers
Browse the New York Times best sellers in popular categories like Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Books and more. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf; 1st Carroll & Graf Ed edition (May 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 078671512X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786715121
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #612,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. Rothstein on June 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a recent inductee into the world of magic, and found Jim Steinmeyer's latest offering - about the strange life, and tragic death of turn-of-the-century magician William Robinson, better known as the 'Marvelous Chinese Conjurer' Chung Ling Soo - utterly fascinating.

Steinmeyer beautifully limns a portrait of the scrappy but sophisticated world of magic in the early days of vaudeville and music hall and brilliantly captures the personalities of the master magicians who commanded up to $5000 a week performing for rapt crowds who came to see miracles, and were rarely disappointed.

But more than that, Steinmeyer gives us an insider's look at the rivalries and deceptions that fueled the magic - the stealth and deception magicians practiced on each other in a desperate bid to become or remain a headliner on the vaudeville circuit.

His impeccably researched book details the strange dual life of Bill Robinson, who failed to captivate audiences as himself, but became one of the highest paid and most sought after mystifiers in the world as Chung Ling Soo - an elegant pastiche of a Chinese magician. Killed on stage while performing the infamous bullet catching trick, Harry Houdini (a friend and colleague who wisely refrained from ever attempting the trick) later theorized that Soo had been deliberately murdered, or committed a bizarre form of suicide. Steinmeyer's book not only illuminates what really happened during Soo's tragic final performance the night of March 23, 1918, he weaves a fascinating tale of deception, rivalry, and illusion in the dark world of magic 100 years ago.

Whether you're a historian, a magician, a theatre buff, or simply looking for a good summer read, "The Glorious Deception" delivers magic aplenty. Don't miss it!
Comment 35 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't give out a lot of 5 star reviews. This book gets 5 stars from me because of 3 reasons:

1) It's a great story about a complicated and interestingly flawed person. Will Robinson was an ambitious showman, who recoginzed the flaws in his professional self and worked tirelessly to overcome them, but failed to overcome the flaws in his personal self, leaving an estranged wife and an abandoned son behind him. That he's a world-class illusionist and turn of the century entertainer makes him a lot more interesting.

2) The author is a great historical writer, and he brings turn of the 20th century vaudeville to life in a real page-turning way. He does a great job exploring not just the main character and his wives and children, but the giants of magic at the time. Will Robinson spent a lot of time going back and forth between the two greatest magicians of the day, who were also bitter rivals. You learn so much good stuff about Kellar and Herrmann that the book feels like it's two or three books in content, without being two or three books in length. The author must've worked really hard to keep the book this packed and this short and accessible.

3) And to me, this is what earned the 5th star in a big way: the author actually explains how the cutting edge (at the time) illusions worked. In detail. With no warnings about how "the brotherhood of magicians would kill me if they knew" or other such blather. He warns us at the beginning that illusionists don't protect the secrets from the audience, but the audience from the secrets. Once you know how it's done, you a) don't enjoy the trick anymore and b) feel foolish for not figuring it out yourself.
Read more ›
Comment 24 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
Having been a magician for 35 years and having written the history of the bullet catching illusion, I can unequivocally recommend Jim Steinmeyer's newest book. It is well written, thoroughly researched and exciting, prodding the reader to fall back to times when vaudevillians were the biggest stars in the world, and the news of this vaudevillian's death was international news...and Steinmeyer proves that William Robinson's death and life still is!
Comment 7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
A great story. A Chinese vaudeville magician, shot on stage by one of his own tricks; his colleagues are fooled; his associates are bewildered; his wife insists it must have been an accident. And then the truth begins to unwind. He's not Chinese. He has another family. And his magic tricks are just the beginnings of his deceptions.

It sounds like an Agatha Christie mystery, or a Hitchcock film. But its actually a true story about one of the world's greatest magicians.

I was a fan of Steinmeyer's previous book, which was an examination of how magicians accomplished their tricks and the weird personalities behind the scenes. And Glorious Deception is even more exciting, a look at the world of magic, with colorful, amazing descriptions. The true tale of Chung Ling Soo will be a real surprise to many readers, and I recommend it highly. I loved this book.
Comment 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading most of this author's books, magazine articles, and columns in magic periodicals, I've concluded this is his best. Combining history, behind the scenes theater magic performance, and colorful character profiles of famous magicians that took part in this interesting and engaging story, Steinmeyer draws the reader into a compelling plot that is stranger than fiction. If you liked David Bamberg's (Fu Manchu) book "Illusion Show", you will love this book, as it surpasses that work by a mile. Would make a wonderful, powerful movie.
Comment 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Pages with Related Products. See and discover other items: memoir