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."

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

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 (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 (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

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!


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

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!