Everyone knows who Harry Houdini was and in Winnipeg maybe even moreso thanks to people like Dean Gunnarson who performs some of the same escapes that Houdini did.

'Houdini believed there's value in this idea of magic and illusion but we don't need to be fooled into thinking it's real.' - Steven Galloway

Vancouver writer Steven Galloway was so intrigued by Houdini, he based his latest novel on him.

The Confabulist is a suspenseful novel that draws from the life and sudden death of Houdini told in a tale of intrigue and illusion.

Galloway has also written the bestselling novels Finnie Walsh, Ascension and The Cellist of Sarajevo. 

He's in Winnipeg to launch The Confabulist

Galloway says that a confabulation is a false memory that a person might not even realize is false. 

"We have childhood memories and when you actually fact check them you discover that maybe your brain has fudged the details," he said. 

Steven Galloway

Steven Galloway's latest novel is called The Confabulist. (Knopf Canada)

There are two confabulists in Galloway's book - Houdini himself and the narrator, Martin Strauss who lays claim to killing Houdini not once, but twice. Houdini died from a ruptured appendix after receiving a blow to the stomach in Montreal in 1926.

Galloway admits to weaving truth with fiction in his novel. He even goes so far as to say that a fiction writer is much like a magician in many ways. 

"Writing a novel is always a structural enterprise," he explained. "It has an architecture to it that you’re always struggling with. When you’re using historical facts it’s like a template for what you are trying to write. It can be limiting and freeing at the same time. The trick is to not let a fact get in the way of a good lie."

Galloway says Houdini teaches us about life. 

"Houdini was preoccupied with a crusade against spiritualism and these people who used the idea of magic to give people false hope and trick them," he continued. "There's a perception that Houdini was into all that but in fact he was a rational skeptic and very much against it."

Steven Galloway will discuss his book The Confabulist with singer/songwriter John K. Samson at 7 p.m.on Thursday May 15 at McNally Robinson books, 1120 Grant Ave.