Posted by: billpurdue | September 14, 2009

66 Endangered species and Houdini’s helper.

Last chanceIt’s been a little while since my last blog, so apologies for the delay. Normal service will now be resumed. As you might guess, I’ve been on my holidays and I’ll say more about that in the next posting. First I want to mention a new BBC TV series on Sunday nights  – “Last Chance to See” – in which Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine travel the world in search of endangered species. This is twenty years after Douglas Adams (author of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and Mark Carwardine set out to find some of the species that may not be around in a few years time if we’re not more careful. The new edition of the original book by Adams and Carwardine is out soon: Last Chance to See [Arrow £7.99 9780099536796]. A new book with the same title has been written by Mark Carwardine with a forward by Stephen Fry [Collins £20 978-0007290727]. Carwardine and Fry make a good entertaining partnership in the TV programme, so I’ll be interested to find out if this comes over in the book. There’s also another relevant website : Another Chance to See

Layout 1 (Page 1)I was very pleased to receive a blog comment from Ann Beedham, the author of the series of books Peeks at the Peak Vols 1&2 and Peeks at the Past In Sheffield. Ann has just produced another book and this is a little different. It’s about Randini, the man who helped Houdini. Ann can tell you more eloquently than me, so here’s what she has to say: “The stunt that helped to make Houdini a legend- escaping from a strait jacket whilst suspended hundreds of feet in the air wasn’t invented by the Master Mystifier. That honour belonged to a  long forgotten Sheffield  schoolboy…
Randini-The Man Who Helped Houdini is the remarkable story of a fan who helped reinvent his hero. Modelling himself on the escape artist, collecting every picture and news item,  the young Randolph Douglas   lived in world almost as magical  as the music halls glowing like coral reefs in the grey industrial wasteland. His pocket money bought not toys but locks, handcuffs and even straightjackets as he dreamed of future glory.
But it wasn’t just a daydream. Somewhere along the way fantasy and reality emerged as Houdini, the man who dined with princes, the man who was more famous than anyone, came to tea and began a friendship that lasted to the end of his life. But it wasn’t just a star pandering to a wide eyed fan. What Houdini found over tea and buns was to “change the history of Magic”.
Ann devotes about 6 pages in the Peeks at the Peak Vol 2 [Pickard Communication £12.99 9781905278244] to Randini – real name Randolph Douglas – but there’s obviously a lot more to tell. I’ll be looking out for it the next time I call in a local bookshop. Ann tells me that her book is only available in some Sheffield bookshops at the moment, but can be bought online at (By the way, Randini we’re talking about is not to be confused with the magician David Randini)

I’ll tell you where I’ve been in a few days’ time


  1. Good to have you back – hasn’t been the same without your regular blogs!

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