A novel by Richard Watson

April 1, 1993 • 6 x 9 • 192 pages • 978-1-56689-006-9

Niagara is the story of two daredevils whose lives are changed forever when they challenge the swirling waters of Niagara Falls.

Jean Francois Gravelet has lived much of his life performing on a wire high over the heads of admiring crowds below. But the reputation of a tightrope walker is as precarious as the possibility of a misstep, and Gravelet decides to leave France to make his name by risking the ultimate fall: a wire walk across the great American landmark, Niagara Falls.

Widowed schoolteachers in Nebraska of 1901 don’t have many options. So it looks as though Anna Edson Taylor’s life will be just what people expect, until she answers an advertisement offering a brave “man” the chance to put his name in history books by riding inside a barrel over Niagara Falls.

When Taylor is the only person brave enough to ride a wheelbarrow across Gravelet’s high wire, the exploits of the two are irrevocably entwined. They tell their stories in parallel, but contradictory, narratives, speaking eloquently about the natures of men and women, how to find balance in life, and living together on the edge of the abyss. A fast-paced story that uncovers profound truths about obsession, courage, and love, Niagara is based on actual historical figures who never met in real life—but who, as these pages reveal, belong together.


“Richard Watson’s prose is as swift and cool and clean as Niagara water, and knows equally well where it goes: which is to combine two kinds of accomplishment—an active courage, which requires training, the balance of the bird, a ferret’s daring, and then a passive one, which allows itself to be carried into danger, which endures inside its burrow, surviving, somehow, even its success. Which sort of reader will you be: the one in the barrel or the one on the wire? Which journey will you take: the walk above the falls, or the swift plunge through it? Either one will take your breath away.” —William H. Gass

“Richard Watson, extraordinary recorder of adventures in deep caves, now extends his territory to the high wire, in an aerial adventure that is really a ‘how to’ for life—a wonderful balancing act.” —Ronald Sukenick

“Richard Watson’s Niagara is a delightful highwire act over the abyss of ‘truth,’ well-balanced and brave.” —Robert Coover

“Watson’s sparkling, delightful new novel . . . is a witty meditation on miscommunication between the sexes.” Publishers Weekly

“An intense, highly focused study of character in history—compulsively readable.” —Paul Ingram, Prairie Lights Bookstore