Mabel Stark was the greatest female tiger trainer in history. In the 1910s and 20s, when circus was the most popular entertainment in America, she was the biggest attraction for the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus.Mabel was five-feet tall, brazen, suicidally courageous, obsessed with tigers and sexually eccentric. In The Final Confession of Mabel Stark, Robert Hough has used the documents of her life to explore the mysteries of her heart. His vibrant and moving fictional autobiography starts in 1968. Mabel is just turning eighty and is about to lose her job. Faced with the loss of her cats, she looks back on her life, her escapades and her tragedies, her love affairs with tigers and men. She also confronts her darkest secret, her guilt at committing, 'the worst thing one person can do to another.' Now, with the end of her life in sight, there is one thing above all else she needs to do. Mabel Stark wants to confess. Exuberant and inventive, The Final Confession of Mabel Stark transports its readers to an age before cinema and television, when circus performers were superstars. It is a delightful novel and an unputdownable biography of a gloriously idiosyncratic life.
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Robert Hough lives in Toronto and his non-fiction and fiction pieces have appeared in many Canadian journals, including Saturday Night and Canadian Fiction. This is his first book and it has just won the Trillium Award.From Publishers Weekly:
This ribald, rough-hewn debut novel by a prize-winning Canadian writer is based on the flamboyant career of Mabel Stark, arguably the greatest (certainly the greatest female) tiger trainer of all time. Recounted as Stark is turning 80 in 1968, the faux memoir follows her path to superstardom through the 1910s and '20s as she learns to tame tigers and men, and finally tours with the famous Ringling Brothers Circus. Stark, born Mary Haynie, is a teenage Louisville, Ky., nurse, when she is committed to a mental hospital after rebelling against her brutish husband's insensitivity. Aided by a smitten psychiatrist, she escapes to Tennessee, where she becomes Little Egypt, a headliner belly dancer with the Great Parker Carnival. Another marriage and another gig as a "cooch dancer" follow, until she is rescued at the age of 23 by Al G. Barnes, a carny pal, lately owner of a small circus. When the show's animal trainer falls for her, he teaches her how to work with tigers and a new career is launched. Famous for the act in which she wrestles Rajah, a 500-pound Bengal tiger she's raised from a cub, she is also known for her brazenness, multiple marriages ("My men. Whew. Had a slew of them") and black leather jumpsuit. Rich in the atmosphere of circus life, this graphic, slangy fictional reminiscence also offers some surprising, deft metafictional touches.
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Book Description Random House of Canada Ltd. Paperback. Book Condition: GOOD. Spine creases, wear to binding and pages from reading. May contain limited notes, underlining or highlighting that does affect the text. Possible ex library copy, thatâ€™ll have the markings and stickers associated from the library. Accessories such as CD, codes, toys, may not be included. Bookseller Inventory # 2812293420
Book Description Random House of Canada Ltd. Paperback. Book Condition: Good. Minimal damage to cover and binding. Pages show light use. Bookseller Inventory # G0679311327I3N00
Book Description Random House of Canada Ltd, 2002. Book Condition: Good. 1st Printing. Ships from the UK. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP96124018
Book Description Random House of Canada Ltd, 2002. Book Condition: Very Good. 1st Printing. Ships from Reno, NV. Former Library book. Great condition for a used book! Minimal wear. Bookseller Inventory # GRP97685709
Book Description Random House of Canada Ltd, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: Used: Good. Bookseller Inventory # SONG0679311327
Book Description Vintage Canada, 2002. Softcover. Book Condition: NF. Remainder mark. Finalist for the Commonwealth Writers Prize 2002. 430 pages. Bookseller Inventory # 1043883
Book Description Vintage Canada, Toronto, 2002. Softcover. Book Condition: NF. Novel imagined as the autobiography of the real-life circus performer. 430 pages. Bookseller Inventory # 1046440