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MASTERS OF ILLUSION: a Novel of the Great Circus Fire

MASTERS OF ILLUSION: a Novel of the Great Circus Fire

by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith

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Overview

With a reporter's eye, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, the acclaimed author of ten books, re-creates an unforgettable and horrific tragedy--the Great Circus Fire--that left 169 people dead and more than a thousand injured, almost all women and children. Their husband and fathers were off fighting with the Allied Armies in Europe, and the Naval forces in the Pacific.
Emerging from the tragedy is the story of two people whose lives were shaped by the disastrous fire--Margie Potter, the youngest survivor, who will grow up unable to remember the event that took her mother's life, destroyed her father, and left her with horrific burns, and Charlie O'Neill, a fireman, who was ten years old the summer of the fire. His terrifying memories have stayed in his mind so vividly that he will never forget them.
It was exactly one month after D-Day, July 6, 1944, and the excited crowd of 6,000 had gathered for the matinee performance in Hartford, Connecticut, of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth. They came to the circus to forget the war for a few hours and watch the Flying Wallendas navigate the high wire; laugh at the antics of Emmett Kelly, the most compelling clown ever; and thrill at the circus's four-hundred wild animals, featuring Gargantua, the Giant Gorilla. Under the Big Top--three city blocks long--the audience was spellbound until a pillar of flame shot up the side of the tent and then quickly spread, creating pandemonium. In the chaos that followed, the Merle Evans Circus Band broke into "The Stars and Stripes Forever," a song played only in the most dire emergencies, a signal to the Ringmaster to clear the tent. The musicians played until their red and gold jackets, and their hair, too, began to smolder.Then they ran for their lives amidst the mad stampede of circus-goers.
When she is seventeen years old, Margie meets and then marries Charlie, the fireman. He and Margie, her back and shoulders covered with scars--including a thumbprint of whoever saved her--are determined to find out how the catastrophe could have happened. Was the fire an accident? The careless flip of a cigarette into the tent wall waterproofed with a mix of paraffin and gasoline? Or was it the work of an arsonist bent on committing a mass murder? If so, it was the worst crime in Connecticut history. As Margie and Charlie become more and more obsessed with finding the truth, they will unearth hidden secrets in each other's lives that affect them with unmerciful consequences.
The author demonstrates that the truth may be stranger than fiction, but it is never truer than fiction. MASTERS OF ILLUSION has been optioned for a film by Amazon Studios.


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Product Details

BN ID: 2940151361941
Publisher: Mary-Ann Tirone Smith
Publication date: 06/06/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 211
File size: 463 KB

About the Author

Mary-Ann Tirone Smith was born and raised in Hartford, and has lived in Connecticut all her life except for the two years she served as a Peace Corps volunteer on Mt. Cameroon, an active volcano rising 14,000 feet above the West African equatorial sea. She has published eight novels, and collaborated on a ninth with her son, Jere Smith Her memoir, Girls of Tender Age, was selected as a community read by many communities and is an ongoing favorite of book discussion groups. Her work has been reprinted in paperback, audio and e-book editions in seven languages. Her short stories and essays have been included in several collections. She was awarded the Diana Bennett Writing Fellowship at the Black Mountain Institute, UNLV, where she worked on a Civil War novel recently completed and available in an e-book edition: THE HONOURED GUEST: Anne Alger Craven, Witness to Sumter, in Her Words. Her novel of the Great Hartford Circus Fire, MASTERS OF ILLUSION, has recently been optioned for a film by Amazon Studios. She is presently working on a new memoir, MY CLEAVAGE HAS A SCAR, the story of Starbright, her left breast, whose brush with cancer triggered a collusion with her twin, Starlight, in the besiegement of Mary-Ann—all three desperate for succor, assurance, statistics, accommodation, and Xanax.

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