Memoirs of a Sword-Swallower by Daniel Mannix. London. 1951. Hamish Hamilton. 230 pages.


memoirs of a sword swallower hamish hamilton 1951FROM THE PUBLISHER -


   ‘I probably never would have become America's leading fire-eater if Flamo the Great hadn't happened to explode that night. ’ So begins this true story of life with a traveling carnival, peopled by amazing characters who commit outrageous feats of wizardry. This is one of the only authentic narratives revealing the ‘tricks’ and skills involved in a sideshow, and is invaluable to those aspiring to this profession. Having cultivated the desire to create real magic since early childhood, Mannix rose to become a top act within a season; here is his inspiring tale.


Mannix DanielDaniel Pratt Mannix IV (October 27, 1911, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – January 29, 1997, Malvern, Pennsylvania) was an American author, journalist, photographer, sideshow performer, stage magician, animal trainer, and filmmaker. His best-known works are the 1958 book Those About to Die, which remained in continuous print for three decades, and the 1967 novel The Fox and the Hound which in 1981 was adapted into an animated film by Walt Disney Productions. The Mannix family had a long history of service in the United States Navy, and Mannix' father, Daniel P. Mannix, III, was an American naval officer. His mother would often join her husband on his postings, and the Mannix children would stay at their grandparents' farm outside Philadelphia. It was there that Mannix began to keep and raise various wild animals. In time, the cost of feeding them led him to write his first book, The Back-Yard Zoo. Following family tradition, Mannix enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy in 1930, but left the next year, moving to the University of Pennsylvania and earning a degree in journalism instead of zoology. Mannix served as a naval lieutenant with the Photo-Science Laboratory in Washington, D.C. during World War II. His varied career included time spent as a sword swallower and fire eater in a traveling carnival sideshow, where he performed under the stage name The Great Zadma. His magazine articles about these experiences, co-written with his wife Jule Junker Mannix, proved very popular and were reprinted several times in 1944 and 1945, and later expanded into book form in his 1951 account of carnival life Step Right Up, which in turn was reprinted in 1964 as Memoirs of a Sword Swallower. He was also at times a professional hunter, a collector of wildlife for zoos and circuses, and a bird trainer. The latter skill was showcased in the 1956 short film Universal Color Parade: Parrot Jungle, in which he is credited as the writer, actor, director, producer, photographer, and bird trainer. Mannix covered a wide variety of subject matter as an author. His books ranged from fictional animal stories for children, the natural history of animals, and adventurous accounts about hunting big game to sensational adult non-fiction topics such as a biography of the occultist Aleister Crowley, sympathetic accounts of carnival performers and sideshow freaks, and works describing, among other things, the Hellfire Club, the Atlantic slave trade, the history of torture, and the Roman games. In 1983, he edited The Old Navy: The Glorious Heritage of the U.S. Navy, Recounted through the Journals of an American Patriot by Rear Admiral Daniel P. Mannix, 3rd, his father's posthumously-published autobiographical account of his life and naval career from the Spanish–American War of 1898 until his retirement in 1928. In his role as a photo-journalist, Mannix witnessed the death of the famed herpetologist Grace Olive Wiley when she was fatally bitten by a venomous snake. On July 20, 1948, Wiley, then 64 years old, invited Mannix to her home in Cypress, California, to photograph her collection of snakes. She posed for him with a venomous Indian cobra she had recently acquired, and the snake bit her on the finger. At her instruction, Mannix put tourniquets on her arm, but unfortunately, in trying to administer her only vial of cobra antivenom he found the needle was rusty, and he accidentally broke the vial. At her request, he took her to Long Beach Municipal Hospital, but the hospital only had antivenom serums for North American snakes. Wiley was placed in an iron lung to assist her breathing, but to no avail; she was pronounced dead less than two hours after being bitten. Fifteen years later, Mannix wrote an account of the event in his book All Creatures Great and Small, in which he titled Wiley the "Woman Without Fear." Mannix was also a skilled stage magician, magic historian, and collector of illusions and apparatus. In 1957, he was one of the 16 charter members who co-founded the Munchkin Convention of the International Wizard of Oz Club. He contributed numerous articles to The Baum Bugle, including on the subject of the 1902 musical extravaganza, The Wizard of Oz. Mannix and his wife and sometime co-author Jule Junker Mannix travelled around the world and raised exotic animals. Jule Mannix wrote the book Married to Adventure in 1954 as an autobiographical account of her adventurous life with Mannix. The couple had a son, Daniel Pratt Mannix, V, and a daughter, Julie Mannix Von Zerneck. From 1950 onward, Daniel and Jule Mannix lived in the same house in East Whiteland, near Malvern, Pennsylvania. Jule Mannix died May 25, 1977. Mannix died on January 29, 1997, at the age of 85, and was survived by his son and daughter, four grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. According to Martin M Winkler's book, Gladiator: Film and History, Mannix's 1958 non-fiction book Those about to Die (reprinted in 2001 as The Way of the Gladiator) was the inspiration for David Franzoni's screenplay for the 2000 movie Gladiator.








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