Nor Iron Bars a Cage

I was looking at Escape Everything! today and found myself feeling very happy and proud of it.

It’s really no bad book, you know. And it’s aged well.

This is a small thing, but I enjoyed the Houdini quotes at the top of each section and chapter. Each quote is appropriate for the words that follow. I’m especially fond of “Here follows a long description of a machine” for the section about “The Trap.” And I like “Tear it into little bits” at the start of the Bureaucracy chapter since it’s taken from a book called Houdini’s Paper Magic (you know, because Bureaucracy is paperwork and I’m about to tell you to scorn it).

I remember pouring over library books about Houdini and digital archive scans of his magic books, trying to find just the right quotes.

Earlier drafts mixed some non-Houdini quotes in with the Houdini ones and I’m glad I spotted the error of that: using Houdini quotes throughout the book reinforces the central “Escapology” metaphor and almost gives the impression that Houdini himself is guiding you through the book.

The illusion is only broken once. The introduction does not have a Houdini quote. Instead it has this:

Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage — Richard Lovelace.

Rar! I’m annoyed by this. The draft I submitted to the publisher attributed the quote to Houdini because I had a replica signed photograph on my fridge door on which The Master had scrawled those very words.

What I didn’t know at the time was that Houdini was quoting from a poem by Lovelace.

The fact checker sent a note about this, saying it would require correction. I considered an attribution along the lines of “Houdini, quoting James Lovelace” but it seemed a bit longwinded and, probably feeling the pressure of the deadline, I took the path of least resistance and gave the editors my nod of approval.

I wish I hadn’t. The fixed version is some artless No-Maj shit.


But never mind! The paperback version of Escape Everything! is called I’m Out and it’s once again available at our shop. The publisher recently sent me a box of 50 copies to apologise for something else, so 100% of the cover price will help to keep the lights on at Escape Towers. Get your copy here.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

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