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Chasing the Last Laugh
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In the 1890s, Mark Twain came back from the dead. The famous author's career was collapsing, his masterpieces were at risk of falling into oblivion, and he was even mistakenly reported dead. But Twain orchestrated an amazing late-in-life comeback from bankruptcy, bad reviews, and family disaster by setting out on an unprecedented international comedy tour to restore his fortunes. Richard Zacks's Chasing the Last Laugh captures some of Twain's cleverest and funniest moments--many newly discovered in unpublished notebooks and letters--as he rode elephants in India, sorted diamonds in South Africa, and talked his way out of hell ninety minutes at a time. This untold chapter in the author's life began with ridiculously bad choices and ended in hard-won triumph.
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About the Author

Richard Zacks is the bestselling author of Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt's Quest to Clean Up Sin-Loving New York; Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805; Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd; History Laid Bare; and An Underground Education. His writing has been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Harper's Magazine, and many other publications. He attended the University of Michigan and the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. Born in Savannah, Georgia, he now lives in New York City.

Reviews

"A colorful and fun read." --The Washington Post "An intimate and fascinating account of what was basically the world's weirdest book tour, starring the funniest writer America has ever produced." --Carl Hiaasen "An impossible-to-put-down book. . . . Zacks manages the nearly impossible feat of maintaining the momentum of his narrative while filling in the behind-the-scenes factors. . . . The result is a joy to read and a lesson in what can be done to bring an era to life." --Mark Twain Journal "Zacks's engaging account . . . shows the raconteur at his best and his worst: charming, childish, ribald, and intemperate." --The New Yorker "Zacks is a gifted storyteller in his own right, which is as it should be; a master storyteller such as Mark Twain deserves nothing less. . . . A beautifully researched work. . . . A funny and revealing reminder of just how great he was." --Main Edge "Twain could not have picked a better chronicler than Zacks. . . . Zacks' writing . . . shines." --St. Louis Post Dispatch "Dense in action and experience. . . . Brings Twain's comedy close to its wider context, and enlivens both. By situating the writer in his world and his time, biography actually makes Mark Twain funnier." --Flavorwire "Zacks's absorbingly detailed reconstructions of [Twain's] performances--the carefully honed timing, the shrewdly reworked and reshuffled greatest hits--will increase your appreciation of him as a show-biz craftsman. . . . Zacks packs page after page with the flavorful marvels he's culled." --Bookforum "Zacks does an admirable job of giving us a taste of Twain's performances and quoting his best commentary. . . . Zacks also casts new light on Twain himself." --Washington Free Beacon "Deeply entertaining. . . . Zacks's narrative is well-researched with rich detail and it will strike ardent Twain fans and history lovers as fresh and inspiring." --Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) "An amusing, singular account of the world tour by the nation's most famous humorist. . . . [A] rollicking history perfect for Twain's countless fans." --Kirkus "Fast-paced. . . . A diverting--and revealing--look at a neglected episode in Twain's life." -- Booklist "Impeccably researched and thor-oughly engaging. . . . Zacks . . . is an accom-plished guide through Twain's travel escapades." --Bookpage "Funny and poignant. . . . Zacks has a brilliant eye for detail and the narrative gifts needed to bring out all that is strange, zany, and ultimately inspiring in this remarkable story of money, honor, and literary genius." --Stephen Greenblatt, Pulitzer Prize-winning author The Swerve: How the World Became Modern and Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare "Mark Twain's own notes and letters enrich every chapter, illuminating not only his cranky genius but the private fears and turmoil that compelled him to pack up his family and hit the road." -- Carl Hiaasen, bestselling author of Bad Monkey and Strip Tease "Chasing the Last Laugh is something of a miracle. This book will be a joy and revelation for Twain fans. There is a lot new here. Twain's trip around the world--in which he speaks truth, through humor, everywhere--is a wonderful lens through which to see the dawn of America, the collapse of the British Empire, the early stirrings of colonial discontent in India. A new world is just being born and we're along for the ride as the sharpest observer watches and narrates it all. It is, also, a really good business book." --Adam Davidson, Co-Host of NPR's Planet Money "If you read only one book on Mark Twain, I would recommend Chasing the Last Laugh. There is everything you could want here: Twain's infinite humor and forbearance, the glistening world of the British Empire at its peak, five years on the road with possibly the funniest and wisest American of his time. Richard Zacks manages this vast subject with enviable skill. It's a great read, entertaining as well as deeply moving." -- Jay Parini, author of Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal and The Last Station "A fresh and absorbing account (involving carbuncles, platypus jokes, and a surprising bottom line) of an aging Mark Twain's outlandish passage from ruin to glory." -- Roy Blount Jr., author of Save Room for Pie

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