THE BOX JUMPER is the second book I’ve read by Lisa Mannetti and I’ve had similar experiences with both books: they’re really difficult to write about. Lisa is such an out of this world good author, I feel like the works speak for themselves, and do so much more eloquently than I ever could. But I would be remiss in not sharing my experience of this lovely and magical book by the best voice in historical horror.
When I was between eleven and thirteen years old, while all my classmates idolized one sports figure/rock idol or another, I was drawn to three things: Dylan Thomas, Bob Dylan, and Houdini. So it’s safe to say I’ve read a few books on the subject of Harry Houdini. When Mannetti was doing her research for THE BOX JUMPER she read more than fifty books on subjects relating to Houdini. That’s more than twice the amount I’ve read. It’s this penchant she has for knowing before writing that makes this story believable, intelligent, and engaging.
THE BOX JUMPER is the story of Leona Derwatt, Houdini’s (fictional) magician’s assistant–or box jumper–and mistress. The story is told in surreal and somewhat unconventional sequences in both the 1920s shortly before Houdini’s death and in the 1950s. In the 20s Leona and Houdini team up to debunk and expose fake spiritualists and mediums and it is in this period that the terror to be sows it’s seeds. Those seeds come to fruition in the 50s when Leona finds herself battling personal demons. I won’t say more than that about the plot. It’s a short book and it would be easy to spoil.
The thing about Mannetti’s work that always stands out and makes it sing with magic greater than that of Houdini is her obvious love affair with the English language. She’s an extremely well read person–as are all great authors–her prose is spare and beautiful, not a word wasted, as in the beginning of THE BOX JUMPER:
” IT WAS the children who brought Houdini back. The ones who were dead or missing. He never had any of his own, but he loved children—made sure there were always free performances at hospitals and orphanages. “
and her dialogue is natural sounding and real, as is the character of her unreliable and tragic narrator, Leona.
Mannetti has an incredible talent for skin crawling suspense and bleeding edge historical horror. Every story she writes is her own creation, a thing of visceral sensation and intelligent engagement, and a thing that you take with you long after the last page has been turned. And I can tell you, I read this book through twice and regretted it both times when the last page was turned. Mannetti’s work is worthy of being mentioned alongside the likes of Peter Straub and Clive Barker, and I don’t say that hyperbolically, I say it because it’s true. If you’re a horror fan and you haven’t been exposed to Mannetti you should change that.
About Lisa Mannetti:
Lisa Mannetti’s debut novel, The Gentling Box, garnered a Bram Stoker Award and she has since been nominated three times for the prestigious award in both the short and long fiction categories: Her story, “Everybody Wins,” was made into a short film and her novella, “Dissolution,” will soon be a feature-length film directed by Paul Leyden. Recent short stories include, “Resurgam” in Zombies: More Recent Dead edited by Paula Guran, and “Almost Everybody Wins,” in Insidious Assassins. Her work, including The Gentling Box, and “1925: A Fall River Halloween” has been translated into Italian.
In addition to The Box Jumper, she has also authored The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, a macabre gag book, 51 Fiendish Ways to Leave your Lover, as well as non-fiction books, and numerous articles and short stories in newspapers, magazines and anthologies. Recent and forthcoming works include additional short stories, and a novel about the dial-painter tragedy in the post-WWI era, Radium Girl.
Lisa lives in New York in the 100 year old house she originally grew up in with two wily (mostly) black twin cats named Harry and Theo Houdini.
You can learn more about Lisa Mannetti and her work at http://lisamannetti.blogspot.com/ and on her Amazon Author Page. You can also find her on social media at http://twitter.com/LisaMannetti, http://www.facebook.com/LisaMannetti.Writer, and https://www.pinterest.com/lisamannettiaut/