The Final Confession of Mabel Stark

Mabel Stark, a centre-ring attraction for The Ringling Brothers circus, was one of the most famous circus stars of the 1920s, and perhaps the most innovative tiger trainer of all time. Brazen, courageous and sexually eccentric, Stark survived a dozen severe maulings, five husbands, a determined rival, a stay in a psychiatric institution, and the countless peaks and troughs of a life devoted to the circus. Now, at age eighty, and about to lose her job at a California theme park, Mabel Stark needs to do one last thing: confront the most painful episode in her long, illustrious career.

Robert Hough pulls together fact and fiction to unfurl a life that invites sheer, slack-jawed fascination. Hough brings this fiery, bawdy and wildly courageous performer vividly and intimately to life and in the process narrates a life story too unbelievable to be anything but true… In this book, Hough has created one of the most remarkable, sympathetic and finely rendered characters I have come across anywhere. He gives Stark a distinctive, believable first-person voice with the earthy, no-nonsense attitude one cold expect only from a woman who had spent her life criss-crossing the continent in the company of freaks, grifters, thieves and wild animals… No one’s life story – not even Mabel Stark’s – could be so compelling without the deft hand of a pretty great writer, Robert Hough is himself a very impressive act.

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