I can't remember which Sid Fleischman book I read first. I think it was probably By the Great Horn Spoon. But it might have been Humbug or Jingo Django. Or even The Whipping Boy, which I didn't actually realize was written by the same guy until I started reading this book. I associated his name with the off-kilter humor of his children's books set in the west, like the first two I mentioned. A few months ago, I stumbled across SidFleischman.com, which features a page of tips for writers drawn from his autobiography, aka this book.
I knew at once that I wanted to read that autobiography, but my library didn't have it, so I put it on my Christmas list and, lucky me, my mom got it for me! Of the five books I got for Christmas, this is the one I chose to read first, and I'm so glad I did, as it's loads of fun.
Fleischman begins with his childhood, particularly his love of doing magic tricks. He had quite some success as a magician, and the first book he ever published, Between Cocktails, was a collection of simple tricks for amazing your friends. While detailing his youthful exploits, he points on what events, people, and places would later inspire some of his books. He infuses his narrative with humor and snappy descriptions, as anyone familiar with his novels might expect.
I think the biggest surprise I got while reading this is that Sid Fleischman wrote a novel named Blood Alley, which he then turned into a screenplay at the behest of none other than my beloved John Wayne -- Wayne starred in the movie version, along with Lauren Bacall. I actually have Blood Alley (1955) as part of a collection of John Wayne films, but I haven't seen it yet -- I plan to watch it very soon.
If you're a fan of his novels, or are looking for a good book about what it's like to be a writer, you can't go wrong here!