LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS... welcome to the big top blog of Douglas McPherson, author of CIRCUS MANIA, the book described by Gerry Cottle as "A passionate and up-to-date look at the circus and its people."

Friday, 9 December 2011

Circus Mania reviews

Circus Mania
in the headlines
CIRCUS MANIA

The Greatest Show on Earth in a book!


Looking for last minute Christmas presents? Why not take advantage of a great special offer to buy Circus Mania by Douglas McPherson at the special offer price of just £10 postage free?

Described by the critics as “Brilliant,” “Ingenious,” “Captivating” and “The greatest show on Earth in a book,” Circus Mania is packed with behind-the-scenes backstage stories and ideal Christmas reading for anyone with fond memories of childhood trips to the circus or more recent visits to Cirque du Soleil - that’s all of us, isn’t it?

Here’s what the critics and readers have said:

“Circus Mania is a brilliant account of a vanishing art form... an excellent book.”

- Roger Lewis, Mail on Sunday.

“Remarkable... captivating... beguiling... a real page-turner.”

- Eastern Daily Press


Like a good old fashioned circus the book rollicks along at a cracking pace, delivering a cast of colourful characters, and a parade of stories of the life-is-stranger-than-fiction variety. There are thrills and spills, acts of derring-do, heart-in-mouth moments, and laughs aplenty. The circus deserves this book and, like the circus, McPherson deserves for Circus Mania to reach a very wide and appreciative audience.”

- Tina Jackson, The Writers Hub website.

The headline says it all!
Circus Mania reviewed in World's Fair
“The greatest show on Earth in a book. Circus Mania serves as a panoramic peek behind the velvet curtain, covering every imaginable aspect of what goes on behind the scenes. An unmissable read.”

- World’s Fair.

“Ingenious... engaging... a powerful introduction to circus performance then and now.”

- The Call Boy, British Music Hall Society
Circus Mania reviewed in The Call Boy

“Full of stories and anecdotes that give readers a good sense of the thrills and dangers associated with the big top. The book should appeal to circus fans of all ages and levels of interest.”

- Booklist (USA)

“A passionate and up-to-date look at the hard work, danger and sometimes even death that world class circus performers face every day.”

-Gerry Cottle, showman.

“I really loved reading this book. Every page buzzes with memorable characters and stories, some funny, some sad, all fascinating.”

- 5-star Amazon customer review.

“Circus Mania is one of those rare non-fiction books that you end up reading as if it is a novel. It has great characters and plots and beautifully written descriptions.”

- Another 5-star Amazon customer review.



To save £5 off the recommended retail price and buy Circus Mania at the special offer price of just £10 including postage in the UK (£2.75 postage worldwide) send cheques to:

Peter Owen Publishers

81 Ridge Road

London N8 9NP

Or click here to buy Circus Mania from Amazon.


WORLD CIRCUS DAY APRIL 21, 2012 - WORLD CIRCUS DAY APRIL 21, 2012 - WORLD CIRCUS DAY APRIL 21, 2012

Friday, 4 November 2011

Circus Mania Review in The White Tops

“An inside view from the outside.”




Chelsea McGuffin in Circa
- Read about her
daredevilry and the
behind-the-scenes lives
of many other performers in
Circus Mania
My thanks to Mort Gamble for his gracious and perceptive review of Circus Mania in The White Tops - America’s most famous circus magazine! Here’s the full review:


CIRCUS MANIA by Douglas McPherson
review by Mort Gamble
(White Tops Sept/Oct)

If the title of this exploration of Great Britain’s circus world is to be believed, the shows of that island nation are a bit on the wild and wacky side. McPherson’s book, however, comes across as a more thoughtful, restrained treatment of the British circus tradition, past and present. There’s nothing crazy about people earnestly carrying on a performing arts tradition, even if they do step out of the bounds or the normal, by outsiders’ standards, to do it. Outside observer McPherson is impressed.
Watching the Valez Brothers Wheel of Death act, McPherson realizes his fascination with circus performers “and the mysterious glue that binds them to their life of peril. They are, there is no doubt, a breed apart... they seem to exist for no other purpose than to make the impossible seem possible.” It’s easy to dismiss that statement as trite, but it’s helpful to remember that he is writing for a more general audience, not circus fans, not historians or scholars.
His book is a balancing act itself as an overview of circus history, tradition, contemporary formats and modern issues of management - including Britain’s struggles with vociferous animal rights protesters. It’s an inside view from the outside and, if anything, demonstrates the universality of the circus mind and spirit. As he quotes one circus owner, it’s about “the excitement of watching someone attempt something they may not actually be able to do.”
The British circus tradition predates America’s. Entrepreneur Philip Astley - like John Bill Ricketts in this country - built his early circus around horsemanship, adding clowns, acrobats and other acts. Well-known circus names like Smart, Chipperfield and Bertram Mills brought size, fame and fortune to the English circus tradition. Recent years have been less grand as shows abandoned their exotic animals and some took on other forms, morphing into the adult-only, the freaky, the water-worldly, the scary - circus escaping into the witness protection programme of cirque or stage production.
Some tradition big top shows have soldiered on, even daring to bring back their elephants, and
Martin Lacey's
Great British Circus
"Circus undiluted and unashamed."
McPherson gives a nod to them when he listens, at Martin Lacey’s Great British Circus, to the stirring march of Entrance of the Gladiators, breathes in the narcotic of sawdust, trampled grass and animals, and finds himself emotionally involved: “This is circus, undiluted and unashamed. It’s down, it’s marginalized, and there’s not much of it left... but it’s alive, it’s powerful and it will live on.”
Circus Mania lacks the streetwise wit of a Bill Ballantine, functioning more like the industry observations of a David Lewis Hammarstrom. As an overview of the circus in Great Britain, it has value in illustrating a diverse entertainment tradition that may be unfamiliar to Americans. McPherson clearly admires the heroics of circus performers and, equally, the grit of circus managers who find ways to keep going despite the times. He laments that animal protesters, bent on “bullying and intimidating” have missed a good show and concludes on a hopeful note about the positive role of live, physical circus in a digital age.
There is nothing fake about staying alive while training nature’s perfect killing machine - the tiger - he writes. Similarly, in the authenticity of circus life and legend, what you see is only part of what you get. He means to take us into that world for a closer look.



!!!SPECIAL OFFER!!!SPECIAL OFFER!!!SPECIAL OFFER!!!!
Save £5 off the price of Circus Mania by ordering direct from Peter Owen Publishers at the special offer price of just £10 postage-free in the UK (£2.75 postage worldwide). Send cheques to:
Peter Owen Publishers
81 Ridge Road
London N8 9NP
Tel: 020 8350 1775.

Or click here to buy Circus Mania from Amazon.

!!!CIRCUS!!!CIRCUS!!!CIRCUS!!!CIRCUS!!!CIRCUS!!!CIRCUS!!!

Circus Mania
in the papers
Click here to read a dozen reviews of Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away With the Circus.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Circus Mania review in the Call Boy - official journal of the British Music Hall Society



My thanks to Eric Midwinter for a fantastic review of Circus Mania in the Autumn issue of The Call Boy - the official journal of the British
Circus Mania review in The Call Boy
- journal of the British Music Hall Society
Music Hall Society. Here’s the review:

Douglas McPherson’s approach is the ingenious one of visiting differing sorts of circus, interviewing the performers and, by way of context, drawing us into circus history. Thus a visit to the Circus of Horrors and a chat with Hannibal Helmurto, the Pain-Proof Man, leads to a scrutiny of Victorian freak shows and Tom Thumb. It is done enjoyably but not uncritically and comprises a powerful introduction to circus performance then and now. In the case of circus the backstage toughness is professional rather than social. There are few tricks. It is very dangerous. The sword swallower really swallows the sword. Tragically, the day after the author’s interview with Eva Garcia appeared in The Stage she fell to her death in the circus ring. Here the fight is between obsession with the circus dream and daily endurance against the perils.

Tom Major gets an honourable mention and it was said of his son, premier John, that he was the only person ever to run away from a circus to join a bank. But it is the flight to the circus, as this engaging book explains, that leads to the disciplined rather than the happy-go-lucky life. If bankers were half so dedicated to stringent regulation and devoted awareness of public requirement as circus performers then the world economy might be a little brighter.”

If you’d like a copy of the “Ingenious” and “engaging” Circus Mania, you can save £5 off the retail price by ordering direct from Peter Owen Publishers at the Special Offer price of just £10 postage-free in the UK (£2.75 postage worldwide). Send your cheques to Peter Owen Publishers, 81 Ridge Road, London N8 9NP.


Or click here to buy Circus Mania from Amazon.










The Call Boy is a fantastic resource for fans of variety, music hall and light entertainment and is distributed free to members of the British Music Hall Society. The Society hosts bi-monthly shows, talks and other events and membership is warmly recommended. To join, write to Membership Secretary Howard Lee, Thurston Lodge, Thurston Park, Whitstable, Kent CTE 1RE.








Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Jumbo - The Greatest Elephant in the World! Book review










I’ve just had a fantastic time reading Jumbo - The Greatest Elephant in the World by Paul Chambers. Jumbo was a literally huge celebrity in the Victorian era, both in England, as the main attraction at London Zoo, and in America, where the 11-foot-tall African elephant became the star of PT Barnum’s Greatest Show On Earth. In fact, so well known was the four-legged colossus that ‘jumbo’ entered the English language as a new word for anything big.

Chambers’ biography of Jumbo is deceptively compact, but it tells a big and compelling story in thrilling detail. The impeccably researched narrative traces Jumbo’s story back as far as Taher Sheriff, the African ‘Aggageer,’ or elephant hunter, who captured Jumbo as a young calf in the Sudan, and includes a bloody first hand description by explorer Samuel White Baker of how Sheriff and his fellow horsemen captured (and killed) their prey.

My drawing of
Jumbo
in Circus Mania
From there, Chambers offers fascinating insights into Jumbo’s relationship with his life-long keeper Matthew Scott and the many behind-the-scenes shenanigans involving Scott, London Zoo superintendent Abraham Bartlett and the great circus showman PT Barnum. The detailed descriptions of dramatic events, such as the protracted difficulties in removing Jumbo from the zoo, read like a novel and will have you on the edge of your seat as you read.

Sadly, Jumbo came to a tragic end, beneath the wheels of a steam train. But he surely left a bigger mark on the world than any other animal, as evidenced by the way his name lives on in our daily conversation more than a century later. As Chambers says, the next time you see a jumbo jet or eat a jumbo sausage, remember the original Jumbo - the greatest elephant in the world - after which it’s named.

Jumbo (published by Andre Deutsch) is a highly recommended read. But what of today’s circus elephants? Should the big top still have them, or are they cruelly treated? Before you make up your mind, read both sides of the argument in my book Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed Of Running Away With The Circus. Oh, and there’s even an original ink drawing of Jumbo in Circus Mania by author Douglas McPherson (That's it, above on the right!).

Circus Mania by Douglas McPherson can be ordered direct from:
Peter Owen Publishers
81 Ridge Road

London N8 9NP
Credit card orders can be taken during office hours on 020 8350 1775.


Or click here to order from Amazon.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Circus Mania a Good Read!

My thanks to Circus Mania reader Shana Kennedy for posting the following review on www.goodread.com :

Australian circus girl
Chelsea McGuffin
- Read the
behind-the-scenes
story of her
wince-inducing
performance with
 Circa
in Circus Mania
(Photo by
Sandrine Penda,
 courtesy
Norfolk and Norwich
Festival)
‘A decent circus book for us groupies... a quote I particularly connected with: "I realize...the rows of seats behind me are going to remain empty... But as the lights go down it ceases to matter. In a theatre you would feel the emptiness of a poorly attended house sapping the atmosphere. The big top, by contrast, seems to close snugly around us, emphasizing only our proximity to the ring and the impending action."’

If you’re tempted to read some more, save £5 off the retail price by ordering Circus Mania direct from Peter Owen Publishers at the special offer price of £10 postage free in the UK (£2.75 postage rest of world). Send cheques to:
Peter Owen Publishers
81 Ridge Road
London N8 9NP
Credit card orders during office hours: 020 8350 1775

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

MEET THE WOOKEY HOLE WITCH!



THE CIRCUS STAR WHO’LL PUT A SPELL ON YOU!


As the nights draw in and Halloween looms, you may be wondering where to celebrate the time of ghosties, ghoulies, pumpkins, broomsticks, black cats... and witches. Where better than the 50,000-year-old tourist attraction Wookey Hole, where the caves boast their own breed of creepy cave spider... and a real live resident witch?

Luckily, witch in residence Sunny van der Pas is a witch of the friendly, rather than scary variety, and Terrance the spider who hangs from her pointed hat looks like a fake to me - although she assures me the spiders in the caves are real enough.

“I’m not certain, but I’m told they’re the only venomous spiders in England,” says Sunny, who looks pretty fit for her claimed age of 227, “But they’re absolutely beautiful.”

So are the caves, themselves, says Sunny: “Some of the chambers are 100-feet tall. They’re beautifully lit and look like cathedrals. There’s one shaped like a dome, which was created by a whirlpool and could never have been carved by man.”

As well as the caves, Wookey Hole boasts a dinosaur park, a paper museum on the site of Britain’s oldest paper mill, a Victorian penny arcade, a fairy garden and a Mirror Maze. There’s also a circus museum stuffed with showman’s wagons, circus freaks, costumes and memorabilia and, at weekends and during the school holidays, thrice daily circus shows in the Big Top Theatre. The shows are presented by Sunny who, being a witch, naturally casts a lot of spells to make things disappear and appear; and Bippo the clown, who is one of Britain’s most talented up-and-coming performers.

The rest of the cast are drawn from the students of the Wookey Circus School who perform all kinds or gymnastics and aerial feats.

The circus connection isn’t surprising, though, as Wookey Hole is owned by Britain’s most famous living circus man, Gerry Cottle, who bought the attraction after selling his share of the Chinese and Moscow State Circuses. Cottle’s idea at the time was to retire from circus. But, as they said in Cecil B DeMille’s film The Greatest Show On Earth, you can shake the sawdust off your shoes, but you can never shake it out of your heart.

For details of Wookey Hole opening times and bookings at the on-site 58-bedroom hotel, call 01749 672243 or visit www.wookey.co.uk.

If you want the full story of Gerry Cottle’s circus career and how he came to set up the Wookey Circus School... plus the story of how Bippo ran away with the circus as a 9-year-old... buy my book:

CIRCUS MANIA - THE ULTIMATE BOOK FOR ANYONE WHO DREAMED OF RUNNING AWAY WITH THE CIRCUS!

Circus Mania retails at £14.99, but you can save £5 by ordering direct from Peter Owen Publishers at the special offer price of just £10 postage free.

Send cheques to:

81 Ridge Road
London N8 9NP

Tel: 020 8350 1775

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Circo - review of a fantastico DVD about the Mexican circus!




Behind the big top of Gran Circo Mexico
in the atmospheric documentary Circo
In Mexico they have a saying: “Through good and bad - the circus forever!” Circo, a fantastico documentary shot and directed by Aaron Schock, shows both the good times and the bad times, while leaving no doubt that the circus will indeed endure forever.

The film, now on DVD, follows the fortunes of the Gran Circo Mexico, a small family circus touring impoverished rural Mexico. Tino Ponce, the mainstay of the show, was born into the circus tradition and is determined that his young kids will carry on the life of his parents and grandparents. The school age kids, who have never been to school, provide most of his acts, from lion training to aerial silk and contortionism.

A scene from Circo
But all is not well in the big top. Tino’s wife, a town girl, is unhappy with her children being driven so hard: “You are supposed to give your children everything, but our children give us everything.” Ivonne also resents all the profits from her their hard labour being passed to Tino’s aging parents, who own the circus.

“The circus always comes first, before anything else,” Ivonne moans, while Tino admits “I’m walking a tightrope,” between responsibility to his parents and responsibility to his wife and children.

While the marital tension builds, Schock’s unhurried film shows the harsh reality of circus life: the gritty, debris strewn circus sites “behind the gas station” in villages with the feel of a third world country; the endless travel and constant practise; the mud, dirt, Gypsy camp conditions and lack of basic amenities: at one point, one of Tino’s sons scales a wall and uses a long stick with a hook of copper wire on the end to rig a makeshift electrical supply from a nearby overhead line.

“We’re trapped in our circus world - caged,” comments Ivonne. But, despite the deprivations, those who leave the circus - even Ivonne, in the end - always come back. As Tino states, “My hope is to die here in the circus.”

With an atmospheric soundtrack by alt.country band Calexico, this fantastico film is released on DVD by Network Releasing, price £12.99, and is warmly recommended.

CIRCUS MANIA SPECIAL OFFER! 

"Circus Mania
is a brilliant account of a
vanishing art form."
- Mail on Sunday
And don’t forget, if you want to see what goes on behind the scenes of Britain’s circuses, check out my book, Circus Mania! To read about the lives, culture, history, superstitions and secrets of sword swallowers, trapeze stars and tiger trainers, order direct from:

Peter Owen Publishers
81 Ridge Road
London N8 9NP
Tel: 020 8350 1775

Or click here to buy Circus Mania from Amazon.

And, as we say in the UK, “May all your days be circus days!”

Saturday, 21 May 2011

CIRCUS GIRL NELL GIFFORD IN PICTURE OF THE YEAR



If there were an award for the best circus photograph of the year it would definitely go to this shot of Nell Gifford sitting side-saddle on a rearing horse in the May 21 edition of the Daily Telegraph. Circus has never looked more cool!

Take a look at this fantastic shot and Patricia Carswell’s excellent feature on Gifford’s Circus production of War and Peace at the Hay Literary Festival by clicking here.

My thanks, too, to Patricia for quoting me and mentioning Circus Mania! within the piece.

"Circus Mania is a brilliant
account of a vanishing
art form."
- Mail on Sunday
If the magic of Gifford’s Circus fires your imagination, check out Circus Mania! to discover the reality of life, death and danger that faces those who run away with the circus. Buy it on Amazon or direct from Peter Owen Publishers at the special price of £10 postage-free (a saving of £5 off the recommended retail price).
Send cheques to:
Peter Owen Publishers
81 Ridge Road
London N8 9NP

Or click here to buy Circus Mania from Amazon.
And may all your days be circus days!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

"Circus Mania reads like a novel!" - another great review of Circus Mania

Juggling at the
Great Yarmouth
Hippodrome
where my journey
into the circus world
began.
My thanks to writer Lynne Hackles for marking World Circus day by posting a glowing review of Circus Mania on her excellent blog I Should Be Writing. Among other compliments, Lynne said, “Circus Mania is one of those rare non-fiction books that you end up reading as if it were a novel. Great characters and plot and beautifully written descriptions.” You can read Lynne’s full review at www.lynnehackles.blogspot.com My thanks are also due to my local regional daily paper, the Eastern Daily Press for running a fabulous 2-page feature on Circus Mania in the run up to World Circus day last week. Among the EDP’s descriptions of Circus Mania: “Remarkable... captivating... beguiling... a real page-turner of a book that shines a bright light on a hidden world inhabited by an extraordinary cast of colourful characters.” Finally, thanks to David Whitely for inviting me onto his BBC Radio Norfolk breakfast show to talk about Circus Mania on Saturday 16, and, through the wonders of pre-recording, to BBC Radio Essex who had me giving a completely different interview about Circus Mania at exactly the same time. You may be able to listen to both on the BBC iPlayer (if you know how to work it...).

Don’t forget, you can buy Circus Mania direct from Peter Owen Publishers at the special offer price of £10 postage-free in the UK (£2.75 postage worldwide). Send cheques to: Peter Owen Publishers 81 Ridge Road, London N8 9NP.

Circus Mania in the papers
Click here to read a dozen more reviews of Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away With The Circus.

Friday, 15 April 2011

5 Ways to celebrate the sixth World Circus Day, April 18, 2015










Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Saturday April 18, 2015 is the sixth World Circus Day! Organised by the International Circus Federation under the patronage of Princess Stephanie of Monaco, World Circus Day is a global celebration of the glamour, excitement, tradition and spectacle of the sawdust circle - and it’s something EVERYONE can get involved in.

Here is the recipe for a perfect World Circus Day:

1/ Google ‘Circus’ and the name of your town or county. Find the circus appearing nearest to you and go along! If you haven’t been for years, you’re guaranteed to enjoy it! 

2/ Buy some paper plates and a can of shaving foam. Spray the shaving foam on the plates to make some nice big custard pies, then go into the garden and have a good old custard pie fight!

Sand-filled juggling balls
won't bounce away
3/ Get out your face paints and paint clown faces on your kids... and yourself!

4/ If you’ve got any circus skills take your stilts, unicycle or juggling balls out onto the streets and share your passion. If anyone asks you what you’re doing, tell them it’s World Circus Day!

5/ Buy a copy of Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed Of Running Away With The Circus by Douglas McPherson and read all about the unique lifestyle, traditions, culture, history, superstitions and secrets of the world’s greatest circus entertainers as told in their own words.

Click here to buy Circus Mania from Amazon.







Certificate from Princess Stephanie of Monaco
congratulating Douglas McPherson on participating
in the first World Circus Day with the launch
of Circus Mania
The Mail on Sunday called Circus Mania “A brilliant account of a vanishing art form.” The Eastern Daily Press called it “Remarkable... captivating... beguiling... a real page turner.”

Circus Mania retails at £14.99, but to celebrate World Circus Day you can SAVE £5 by buying it direct from Peter Owen Publishers at the special offer price of just £10 postage-free in the UK (£2.75 postage worldwide).

Send cheques to: Peter Owen Publishers 81 Ridge Road, London N8 9NP

Or click here to buy Circus Mania from Amazon.

May all your days be World Circus Days!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

CIRCUS MANIA USA!
Circus Mania gets American release in May!

If you’re reading this in America, the good news is that Circus Mania is released in America in May through publisher Peter Owen and the Independent Publishing Group (IPG) price $19.95. It can be ordered through all good book shops or direct from www.ipgbook.com (listed under Performing Arts).

A review in the April 1 issue of US book trade magazine Booklist describes Circus Mania! as “Full of stories and anecdotes that give readers a good sense of the thrills and dangers associated with the big top. The book should appeal to circus fans of all ages and levels of interest.”

Since its UK publication in the UK, Circus Mania! has received many great reviews including a full-page 4-star rave review in Britain’s biggest selling Sunday newspaper, the Mail on Sunday, which described it as “A brilliant account of a vanishing art form” and an “Excellent book.”

British circus and fairground newspaper World’s Fair called Circus Mania “A panoramic peek behind the velvet curtain, covering every imaginable aspect of what goes on behind the scenes. An unmissable read.”

Tina Jackson, on the Writers Hub website, wrote, “Like a good old fashioned circus – McPherson’s favourite kind, in the end – the book rollicks along at a cracking pace, delivering a cast of colourful characters, and a parade of stories of the life-is-stranger-than-fiction variety. There are thrills and spills, acts of derring-do, heart-in-mouth moments, and laughs aplenty. The circus deserves this book and, like the circus, McPherson deserves for Circus Mania to reach a very wide and appreciative audience.”

There have also been two 5-star customer reviews on Amazon, with one reader commenting, “I really loved reading this book!”

The inspiration for Circus Mania came in 2003 when theatrical newspaper The Stage asked me to review the 100th anniversary show at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome, which is Britain’s oldest building purpose-built for circus. I interviewed aerial silk artiste Eva Garcia... just days before she fell and died during her act.

Dedicated to Eva’s memory, Circus Mania is my behind-the-scenes journey through the circus world in an attempt to discover what makes people like Eva so devoted to the circus life. Along the way, I talk to clowns, trapeze artists, sword swallowers, animal trainers and circus owners about their lives, culture, history, traditions and superstitions.

Among the traditional and contemporary shows and companies described in detail are Circus Mondao (a traditional tent show run by descendents of Britain’s oldest circus family - they’ve been in the business since the days of Astley), Zippos, Great British Circus (a controversial animal show and its daily battle with animal rights protesters and tabloid newspapers), Cirque du Soleil, Cirque de Glace (contemporary ice show), Circus of Horrors (adults only freak show with rock music), Circa (Australia), Circ Panic (Spain), Circus Hilarious and Chinese State Circus.

Among the circus people interviewed in depth are circus bosses Gerry Cottle and Martin Zippo Burton; tiger trainers Martin Lacey Sr and Helyne Edmonds; father and son clowns Clive Webb and Danny Adams; Bippo the Clown - a boy who genuinely ran away with the circus; retired ringmaster George Pinder who tells fabulous stories of tenting in years gone by; and Pain Proof Man Hannibal Helmeurto, who gives a stomach churning account of the training to become a sword swallower.

To illustrate circus’ deep traditions, the contemporary stories are interwoven with the stories of historical figures Philip Astley, Jules Leotard, Joseph Grimaldi, PT Barnum etc. The book has a full-colour photo section plus line drawings (by myself) and I’m pleased to say the publishers have done a wonderful job of designing the book to reflect the contents, by making the contents pages look like a circus program, for example. Although it will also soon be available as an eBook, we wanted the print edition to be a physically nice object to own.

Circus Mania! by Douglas McPherson (IPG/Peter Owen) can be ordered through all good bookshops, quoting the ISBN 9780720613520, or ordered direct from www.ipgbook.com (where it’s listed under Performing Arts).

In the UK or other parts of the world, meanwhile, you can buy Circus Mania direct from Peter Owen Publishers for just £10 postage free in the UK (or £2.50 postage worldwide). Send cheques in UK currency to:

Peter Owen Publishers
81 Ridge Road
London N8 9NP
For credit card sales, more information, or to leave me a message about Circus Mania!, email admin@peterowen.com

May all your days be circus days!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Amazon 5-star review for Circus Mania!


“Highly revealing” and full of “Fascinating tales and reminiscences.”

That’s how well known and respected writer and PR man Tony Byworth describes Circus Mania in a cracking 5-star customer review on Amazon - the second 5-star Amazon review that Circus Mania has received this year.

Here’s the full review:

5-stars The circus life revealed, 15 Mar 2011
By Tony Byworth

This review is from: Circus Mania (Paperback) I must confess that my recollections of the circus are slight and my knowledge even more so, but this highly revealing book changed all that, filling in the gaps, restoring memories and providing an encyclopaedic wealth of information.

Author Douglas McPherson similarly lacked circus knowledge but, after being assigned to write a circus review, was fascinated enough to start fully researching the subject - an area of show business that rarely gathers headlines, apart from the occasional outcry by animal rights activists. His study is extensive and covers the widest expanses, from traditional circuses under the big top to theatrical Cique du Soleil, from Britain's Chipperfields, Cottle and Lacey, to Germany's Spiegeltent, America's Barnum & Bailey and China's State Circus. There's also Cirque du Glace, Circus Hilarious, Circus Mondao, Circus of Horrors (no, not the movie but a theatrical touring spectacle with freak show origins) and, even, a circus school (Circus Space) offering a BA degree.

During the course of his research, which stretched over seven years, McPherson visited a vast variety of circuses and interviewed many of their personnel - owners and ringmasters, animal trainers and clowns, trapeze artists and escapologists, building up a close friendship with many of them. In return, all relate fascinating tales and reminiscences, resulting in a greater insight than would have been achieved by the casual interviewer.

Then, at the book's conclusion, a six page Circus Chronology that commences with the Circus Maximus of Roman times and concludes in 2009 when the Great British Circus reintroduced elephants into the ring after a decade's absence.

Once into the book, it's hard not to be carried along by McPherson's very obvious enthusiasm. So, if you ever had thoughts about joining a circus, this book could provide the impetus!

CIRCUS CIRCUS CIRCUS CIRCUS CIRCUS CIRCUS CIRCUS CIRCUS

Thanks for that glowing review, Tony! And if that’s tempted you to check out Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed Of Running Away With The Circus, just click on the button above right and go straight to Amazon to buy a copy!

You can also order direct, for just £10 including postage, from:
Peter Owen Publishers
81 Ridge Road

London N8 9NP

admin@peterowen.com

CIRCUS MANIA EBOOK! CIRCUS MANIA EBOOK! CIRCUS MANIA EBOOK!
And with World Circus Day coming up next month on April 16, the good news is that Circus Mania will be among the first batch of Peter Owen books to be launched as an eBook. Stay tuned for further news! Until then, may all your days be circus days!

CIRCUS CIRCUS CIRCUS CIRCUS CIRCUS CIRCUS CIRCUS CIRCUS

Monday, 14 February 2011

AN AMAZE-ZON REVIEW!
Circus Mania gets Five Stars on Amazon!

The best critics are the book-reading public, so my thanks go to Catherine Howard for posting the following 5-Star customer review of Circus Mania on Amazon:

Running Away With The Circus!
Review of Circus Mania by Catherine Howard - 5-stars (Amazon)

I really loved this book. The author obviously loves his subject. He has an easy to read, relaxed style and has gone to a lot of trouble to speak to all the right people. Every page simply buzzes with memorable characters and quotes. There are so many different stories here, some funny, some sad, all fascinating. Every page was full of interest. It made me want to rush out and see another circus, straightaway. What I liked the most was the fact that the author doesn't preach. This is especially noticeable when he looks at animals in circuses. He handles this emotive subject brilliantly, managing to give both sides of the argument. I was left with the rather comforting feeling that the circus is here to stay. To quote the last line of this really excellent book - `Circus is very much alive and juggling.'
Thanks again to Catherine for that review. If you’re tempted to read Circus Mania just click on the link to Amazon above right. Or buy it direct from Peter Owen Publishers at the special offer price of £10 inc postage. Send cheques to Peter Owen Publishers, 81 Ridge Road, London N8 9NP.

Or click here to buy from Amazon.










Circus Mania
in the headlines
Click here to read another dozen reviews of Circus Mania.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Martin Lacey and the Great British Circus - A Life With Lions

Martin Lacey’s Great British Circus was one of the reasons I wrote Circus Mania. I’d already become fascinated with the daredevil lives of circus performers and had written several articles on the subject. But the shows I’d seen at that point had all been contemporary shows in theatres - a sanitised version of the art form that often preferred the media-friendly name ’cirque’ and which was safely removed from its red-toothed roots amid the thundering hooves and flying sawdust of Astley’s first circus in the grittier, gutsier age of the late 18th century.

Me and the elephant
The visit to the Great British Circus
that inspired
Circus Mania
Then, in the spring of 2009, the news was suddenly full of the Great British Circus, which had brought elephants back to a British circus ring for the first time in a decade. Most of the coverage was negative, focusing on the predictable outrage of animal rights protesters. But, when I opened the Daily Mail it wasn’t the words that caught my eye, but a stunning picture of Sonja, a huge, be-tusked African elephant being led into the GBC’s sawdust circle.

The elephant, the golden oasis of sawdust, the towering interior of the big top... that picture called to me. If you want to understand circus, that picture said - and at that point I sorely did want to understand it - If you want to see circus in its purest form and see where it came from, then this is where you will find it.

How the Daily Mail
reported the return of elephants to the
Great British Circus
I went along, and not without trepidation, because like so many other people of my generation I’d been brought up to believe that the idea of performing animals was cruel and distasteful. But I went along and what I saw - and what I subsequently leaned by interviewing half a dozen trainers, former trainers and showmen, both at the Great British Circus and elsewhere - changed my mind about the animal question. It also convinced me that there was a book to be written about this most elemental form of entertainment.

I went on to write about many other circuses, of course: the spectacular ice show of Cirque de Glace, the modern day freak show of the Circus of Horrors, the traditional acrobatics of the Chinese State Circus and, of course, the international phenomenon of Cirque du Soleil. But, throughout the writing of Circus Mania, the memory of my visit to the Great British Circus remained my touch stone - a reminder of what a ‘real’ circus was and a living glimpse into the art form’s origins.

Interestingly, whenever I’ve talked about or been interviewed about Circus Mania it’s always the animals people remember fondly, and it was with reference to the elephants - a supportive, sympathetic and nostalgic reference - that Roger Lewis opened his full-page review of Circus Mania in the Mail on Sunday, in which he described Circus Mania as “a brilliant account of a vanishing art form.” (Scroll down the blog to read the full review)

The highlight of that visit to the Great British Circus was watching Lacey in the big cage with his magnificent and beautiful tigers. Mesmerising is the only word to describe his relaxed and gentle interaction with his animals.

So it was great to learn that Martin Lacey has now written a book of his own. My Life With Lions is an apt title for his delightful photo-led memoir, as few can have enjoyed such an intimate relationship with big cats as Lacey and his family, his sons Alex and Martin Jr being big name lion trainers on the continent, and his partner Helyne Edmonds being currently Britain’s only lady tiger trainer.

The concise text, in which Martin shared his stories in conversation with Jeff Link, takes us swiftly through Lacey’s 40-year career in zoos and circuses, providing fascinating insights into the relationship between animal and trainer and revealing many tricks of his trade.

Among the many anecdotes are the time Lacey persuaded a lion to lay down with a lamb for an advert, and the time two cops mistakenly burst into his hotel room only to find a fully grown lion sleeping in the next bed to Lacey.

There’s even a romance worthy of a Hollywood movie, as we hear how Lacey’s partner Helyne Edmonds ran away with the circus, fell in love with the boss and - “Armed with not so much as a rolled up newspaper” - risked her life to save him from a mauling by two tigers.

The best part of the book is an extensive archive of 140 full-page photos of Lacey and family with many of the animals they have worked with over the years, not just lions, but polar bears, zebra, camels, elephants and even a rhino.

The sight of Lacey and family cosied up with their big cats, as if these born killers were as tame as pampered housecats, makes My Life With Lions an absolute treat. Published by Linctrek (ISBN 978 1 872904 47 4) the price tag is £25.



Read my interview with Martin Lacey.






Circus Mania
"A passionate, up-to-date
look at the circus
and its people."
- Gerry Cottle
You can can also read lots about Britain's last lion king in Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away With the Circus.

Click here to buy Circus Mania from Amazon.



Click here for 5 more circus books for Christmas.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Circus Mania is "The Greatest Show on Earth... in a book!"

The headline says it all!
Circus Mania reviewed in World's Fair



For a great start to the New Year, my thanks are due to showman’s newspaper World’s Fair for a fantastic review of Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book For Anyone Who Dreamed Of Running Away With The Circus! Here’s what they wrote:

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH... IN A BOOK!

The graft and passion of the circus industry won’t need highlighting to regular World’s Fair readers but those hungry for an all access pass into this extraordinary world should scribble Circus Mania at the top of their wishlist.

Circus couldn’t be a more applicable subject for Douglas McPherson’s first book as he hops from one chapter to the next like a constant flow of acts in a circus programme, kicking into touch any notion of a dying art form with every page.

With such a dense and rich history to pick from, McPherson delivers a concise yet elaborate summary of the circus industry featuring accurate accounts from those who have built their lives around the sawdust circle.

Eva Garcia
who's tragic death
inspired
Circus Mania
For all the childlike fantasy surrounding the idea of running away with the circus, just how arduous that life can be is laid out early on with the meeting of Eva Garcia, a wirewalker-cum-aerial silk performer who finishes with her boyfriend of nine years to travel the globe.

“It’s very tough, mentally and physically,” she reveals, “but I couldn’t give up my life, I’m still too young.” The following Thursday, Eva plummets 30ft to her death at Great Yarmouth’s Hippodrome.

Much of Circus Mania serves as a panoramic peek behind the velvet curtain, covering every imaginable aspect of what goes on behind the scenes. The incredible feats achieved by the acts during showtime could be considered a mre sideshow when viewed alongside the indomitable exuberance of Circus HilariousClive Webb (post quadruple heart bypass) or the freakish idiocy only a Circus of Horrors audition call could conjure.

BBC’s Big Top, Cirque du Soleil and the unavoidable matter of animal welfare are also explored. During a section surrounding Martin Lacey’s Great British Circus, McPherson bemoans the misunderstanding of persistent campaigners, notably detailing the ‘hypnotic grace’ with which Lacey’s elephants parade and how ‘it’s hard not to believe the tigers enjoy themselves.’

The otherworldly expedition, Douglas McPherson’s in-depth knowledge and obvious enthusiasm makes Circus Mania an unmissable read for anyone with the slightest tinge of circus curiosity.
.......................................................................................

CIRCUS MANIA

If that review makes you want to read Circus Mania, you can order it direct from Peter Owen Publishers at the special price of £10 including post and packing. Simply send a cheque to Peter Owen Publishers, 81 Ridge Road, London N8 9NP


Or click here to buy from Amazon.





WORLD’S FAIR

You may also like to consider a subscription to World’s Fair, the national weekly newspaper of the fairground and circus industry. It’s a great read and great to look at, stuffed as it is with full colour pictures of fairground rides, circuses, showman’s wagons and historic lorries and buses. UK subscriptions are £48 per year (£25 for six months) and can be ordered on 0161 683 8006. They’ll also be happy to supply back issues.