By David Harkey and Eric Anderson

This new 21-item collection from David Harkey and Eric Anderson is a mixed bag: there are some really excellent items; there are some items which I would classify as "stunts," rather than magic tricks (and I'll explain more about this in a moment); and there are some tricks which I think are not deceptive at all. Compounding the problem is the fact that (with a few exceptions) it is not made clear exactly which author is responsible for what, consequently, I don't know who to credit/blame for the mishmash that we've got here.

Remember, as I mentioned in the introduction to this month's column, my goal is to give you enough information to make an informed buying decision. To do so, I have to take a moment to talk about the philosophy behind the creation of deceptive magic. My philosophy seems to be completely opposite to that of Mr. Harkey, and this situation colors my opinion of his work. Part of my creative/deceptive philosophy are these guidelines: repeating the same move several times during the course of a routine is a bad idea because an intelligent spectator is going to associate those actions with the magical result and this will present a pathway toward the correct solution; if a proposed method is a straight line solution to a magical problem then try to figure out a way to keep the spectators from following that same straight line back to the solution; unavoidable unnatural moves should be done under the cover of strong misdirection; and finally, avoid putting a move at the exact moment when the spectators are watching for something to happen.

Now that you understand where I'm coming from, let's take a look at some of the material in Ah-Ha!

First, the good stuff. (And when I say good, I mean really good. These three items could go into your show right now.) "Wingding" is basically the "Ash Trick" done with stickers. A sticker vanishes from a strip of stickers and ends up on the back of the spectator's hand. This is a wonderful trick for children, it resets very quickly, and would be perfect for restaurant workers. "Shufflesque" is Eric Anderson's in-the-hands false riffle shuffle. It includes a "waterfalling" of the cards and is extremely convincing. This was shown to me via the "underground" a while ago and I valued it so much that I have not shown it to another magician. It will take practice, but it involves more "knack" than actual skill. "East Meets West Meets South" is Eric Anderson's revamping of a bill penetration of Harkey and Jay Sankey. I commented very favorably on this in my review of Harkey on Video. Why do I like this? Because Eric has eliminated the straight line path. (In the original method the bill contained some odd creases which would easily lead the spectators back to the solution.)

Now let's talk about the "stunts." There are several tricks in Ah-Ha! which would produce momentary surprise (and perhaps even amazement) but which could be solved by the spectators almost immediately. For example, in "Zuzu's Petals" you pluck the petals off a daisy at the same time reciting, "She loves me, she loves me not." You run out of petals while saying "She loves me not." You blow on the stem and one last petal appears, allowing you to pluck it, saying, "She loves me." This is a pleasant and evocative plot, but the method is a straight line solution. Take a moment and try to guess how this trick works. In all probability the first method that came to your mind is the same one which is used here. And this is probably the first method that a spectator is going to come up with. Nothing in the presentation leads them away from this solution. There are several other "tricks" like this in the book. In "Fingerling" you apparently pull the thumb off of a small child and then reattach it; in "Airlock" you unlock your car door with the power of your mind. In both of these "stunts" there would a moment of surprise, but I believe that the method would be immediately obvious to the spectators.

Now, this may not be a bad thing, if you consider that these stunts are sort of like magical jokes. You get a moment of surprise, and then laughter as the spectators realize how the effect was accomplished. I don't think there's a problem as long as you the consumer know what it is that you are purchasing. The ads lead you to believe that you're getting miracles, and if you expect to get miracles you're going to be disappointed.

Now let's talk about some of the tricks that I don't think are good at all. In "Bonfire" you rip the matches out of a matchbook and place them into a shot glass. The matches spontaneously burst into flame. In order to produce this magical effect, you must pour a dark, powdered chemical into the shot glass. This is done using a move credited to David Williamson. In order to accomplish this move you must grip the glass in a very unnatural way. In Williamson's routine ("An Envanishment and Mysterious Re-appearance of a Quantity of Salt," Genii, May 1991) this loading is done under strong misdirection at the beginning of the routine, long before anyone knows that salt is going to be one of the components of the trick. In "Bonfire" you load the shot glass (via the unnatural grip) after the matches have been placed in it and while all the heat (pardon the pun) is on it. Is this a poorly structured method? I think so. In "If Looks Could Kill" you read four spectators' minds by getting one ahead. The same glimpse move is used three times in a row. The move is clever, but I think that by the third glimpse the audience is going to know how you're getting your information. (By the way, I think that the presentation for this trick is excellent. I just wish the method were better.) In "Bottom Feeder" you cause a selected card to vanish from the deck and appear trapped between two jokers which had been previously placed in the card case. The method uses a clever move I first encountered in Ed Marlo's "Who's Hockley?" in Hierophant #4. The move is deceptive, but the structure of the method requires the card case to come into contact with the deck at the exact moment when there will be the most heat, and therefore the most suspicion. I think this is a bad method.

There are three other tricks that I would classify as "not bad," and two that will be of use to almost nobody (unless you have the time and energy to make a plaster cast of a deck cards [which gets broken every performance] and to train your dog to do a trick).

I've probably taken more time and space then this little book deserved, but it's important that you understand why I found so many of the tricks in Ah-Ha! to be unsatisfactory. (I'm also hoping that by carefully explaining my viewpoint I will stave off the flood of letters from angry Harkey fans; letters which will vary in content only concerning the amount of bat guano that they think I'm full of.) I hope I've given you enough information that you can make an intelligent buying decision.

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