Chasing the Last Laugh: Mark Twain’s Raucous and Redemptive Round-the-World Comedy Tour

Richard Zacks. Doubleday, $29.95 (480p) ISBN 978-0-385-53644-8
In 1895, at the age of 60, Mark Twain, the nation’s highest-paid author at the time, faced financial disaster. To raise cash, he launched a yearlong lecture tour of 122 performances spanning several continents. As Zacks (The Pirate Hunter) relates in this deeply entertaining account, Twain’s rugged journey was redemptive. While restoring his spirit through the excitement of travel, the laughter of audiences, and the admiration of global high society, Twain made good money. Zacks’s book brims with side adventures, including intercontinental sea voyages and visits to African diamond mines. Australia welcomed Twain as a superstar with billboards calling him “the greatest humorist of the century.” Twain was fevered and sick in India, a land he nonetheless ended up adoring. His precarious finances became a well-known gossip item, but Zacks stresses that the public loved him all the more for his fortitude in crisis and successful efforts to pay off his debts. Twain spent four years in Europe after the tour and then returned to America to receive unprecedented tribute and adulation. Zacks’s narrative is well-researched with rich detail, some drawn from unpublished archival material at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, and it will strike ardent Twain fans and history lovers as fresh and inspiring. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/15/2016
Release date: 04/19/2016
Compact Disc - 978-0-553-55115-0
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-0-345-80253-8
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio

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