The first blurb on the back of the jacket is by Michael Chabon, and that’s very apt, because this is a perfect companion piece to his Kavalier & Klay on just about every level. The comics period he covered was known as the Golden Age, and so was the stage magic world covered here. Both tie their tales in to real world events and people. The balance of lives and work is similar. Gold even thanks comic giants Lee, Kirby and Ditko in his acknowledgements.

Gold treads a fine line with his descriptions of magical effects, between giving us an insider view but not revealing all the secrets, not removing the magic. I think he pitches it about right, and doesn’t cheat to solve problems and resolve dangerous situations. The big set piece finale spans over 80 pages, and is a wonderfully sustained show of suspense, drama, excitement and twists, mixing fake danger on stage with real threats. I thought the characters were generally a little thin, a notch underwritten, and there was at least one story strand that rather fizzled and vanished, but generally it’s a very enjoyable and satisfying read.

Is it my imagination, or are there an awful lot of novels these days set in the past, telling a fictional story with strong ties to the real world? I guess it’s a natural consequence of some elements of Postmodernism, but are there any substantial analyses of this phenomenon and its meanings, if it isn’t just my mistaken impression?