Final Confession of Mabel Stark

Publisher: Vintage Canada
In the 1910s and 1920s, when circus was the most popular form of entertainment in North America, Mabel Stark made her name in a man’s world as the greatest female tiger trainer in history, the centre-ring finale act for the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. Brazen, courageous, obsessed with tigers and sexually eccentric, Stark survived a dozen severe maulings — and five husbands. Now, at age 80 and about to lose her job, she decides that there is one last thing she needs to do: Mabel Stark wants to confess.


Chapter 1: The Athenian Tailor

He is: tall, knobby-kneed, thin as a quarter pole, in his shop on Seventh Street, craned over his tailoring bench, applying white piping to a vest, when the pain in his lower right abdomen becomes a searing white-hot agony. He moans and keels over his work table, clutching at...
Read More


“Robert Hough pulls together fact and fiction to unfurl a life that invites sheer, slack-jawed fascination.”
--Lynn Coady, Time

“The frame story, of an octogenarian Stark in danger of losing her job at the JungleLand wildlife park, is reminiscent of both The Stone Angel and The Stone Diaries.”
--The Vancouver Sun

“A marvelous debut…narrated with delicious humour and warmth. Just about perfect. One of the most entertaining novels in many a year.”

“Never flagging, the compelling story thunders along like a runaway circus train bearing a dangerous cargo of painful memory, wild animals, grotesque characters and outlandish stories, all told through the distinctive, often humorous, voice Hough creates for his protagonist.”
--The Globe and Mail