He Asked if I Liked Card Tricks

Magicians love card tricks. Each month dozens of them appear in magazines, books, videos, and online. I'm sure that 99% of these tricks are only ever performed for an audience of one - the magician who's holding the cards. That's okay, however, because card tricks are like tinker toys, we amuse ourselves by playing with them, seeking new arrangements, varying the moves, constantly seeking the perfect trick.

Part of this month's column was written on Pit Hartling's laptop computer in the very small village of Steineberg, Germany. I was giving some workshops for young German magicians, and the conference was being held in a youth hostel in Steineberg. It was exactly like going to summer camp. My roommate was Eric Anderson, the talented street magician/corporate performer from Georgia. He was barely able to fit himself into one of the small beds in the room. Eric lectured on a Saturday evening. As I sat in the audience, jet lag overwhelmed me; I couldn't keep my eyes open. So, at 8:45 I surreptitiously left the lecture room, returned to my room, and immediately fell asleep.

I awoke at 2 in the morning. Eric hadn't returned, so I dressed and walked over to the lecture room. Almost everyone was still awake, gathered around tables doing card tricks. I watched for about an hour and then went back to bed. The session continued till dawn. These marathon card trick sessions happened every night of the conference. We do love our card tricks.

This month's Marketplace features lots of card tricks, most of which are the familiar, friendly tricks we've come to expect. One book features material that is not so comfortable. We begin with it.

Life, Death, and Other Card Tricks

By Robert E. Neale. 6 x 9 hardcover with glossy dustjacket. 414 pages. $40 postpaid in US. From Hermetic Press, 1500 S.W. Trenton Street, Seattle, WA 98106-2468. Fax: 206768-1688. Email: [email protected]

I have often suggested to magicians that the magic tricks they do and the way in which these tricks are presented should be an expression of their lives and not a substitute for them. Adopting this suggestion immediately makes your magic unique. No one else on earth exactly shares your life experiences and your various interests. Incorporating your viewpoints and experiences into your presentations not only allows the spectators a chance to learn about you as a person, it can also provide interesting emotional hooks that allow your magic to be more meaningful.

Robert E. Neale is a very interesting person with a wide variety of interests. He is a former professor of Psychiatry and Religion at Union Theological Seminary in New

York, an author of numerous books and essays on psychology and religion, and a prolific author of magic tricks and origami folds. His books Tricks of the Imagination, Folding Money Fooling, and Magic and Meaning (co-authored with Eugene Burger) have been enthusiastically reviewed here in Marketplace. His new book, Life, Death, and Other Card Tricks, is as unusual as its title would suggest, for here are familiar card tricks cloaked in presentations that are designed to evoke a strong emotional response. These presentations express Mr. Neale's wide range of interests, from ribald jokes to commentaries on the workings of prejudice, from ghost stories to serious considerations of how death shapes our lives. It is hard to imagine a spectator who would come away unaffected by these routines. I can't imagine a thinking magician who will not have his approach to magic altered by studying this book.

There are over 60 routines in Life, Death, and Other Card Tricks, and these routines are divided into seven chapters. The first chapter, Jokes, uses presentations based on some classic jokes. "Fly Sport" is a retelling of an encounter with the greatest samurai in the world using a procedure based on Dai Vernon's "Twisting the Aces." (This effect, in fact, gets quite a workout in Life, Death, and Other Card Tricks, being cloaked in several different presentations.) Also in this chapter are presentations based on an atheistic Christmas play (!), a ghost story in which a hapless young man is doomed for eternity by a beautiful woman, and a dirty joke published in Readers Digest.

The plots in Chapter Two, titled Chance Destinies, are based on the themes of fate and ritual. There is a charming routine based on the familiar "He loves me/he loves me not" procedure, a routine in which the spectator finds his psychic twin, a routine that uses a playing card that has been folded into an origami die, and a routine in which Death does a card trick. (I can just see the dealer ads now: "Buy Bob Neale's new book and be the death of the party!) Chapter Three contains presentations based on short stories by authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson, and Albert Camus. Many of these stories are disturbing, and should you choose to perform them you'll have to carefully pick your audience and your setting. (Included in this chapter is "Fable," the only card trick I am aware of whose presentation is dedicated to the children who died in the Holocaust.)

Gambling tricks are the topic of Chapter Four. Mr. Neale introduces a number of novel conceits here, including a 180-degree restructuring of the classic Ten Card Poker Deal. Here you will also find a version of "The Story of One Card Pete" as performed by W.C. Fields, a presentation for Nick Trost's "The Horse Race," and an extraordinary demonstration of control over the laws of probability. Chapter Five, Odd Notions, contains tricks about things that go bump in the night. Monsters, ghosts, and demons are the lead characters here. Curiously, there are also two Gospel magic tricks included in this chapter.

Chapter Six features six tricks, several of which have death as the main theme. Of these, two stand out: "The Suicidal King," which has a Twilight Zone type ending, and "The Kind and Gentle Stranger," a presentation of Fred Braue's "Homing Card," in which four friends repeatedly murder and bury the title character. Finally, Chapter Seven contains effects based on unusual card stacks. While several of these items are not really performance pieces, they are all intriguing and fun to play with.

Life, Death, and Card Tricks is unlike any other book of card tricks you've ever read, and because of this I'm sure it will receive a mixed reaction from magicians. Some will love it, some will hate it, some will be outraged by it, and some won't understand it at all. Because of the subject matter of many of the routines I'm unsure whether they could be successfully performed in normal commercial venues. Whether a spectator's dining experience will be enhanced by a card trick that discusses the reasons behind ethnic cleansing is a matter of debate. My feeling is that these routines would be most effective in an informal performing situation, where you are already acquainted with your spectators.

Would I perform any of the routines in this book? Absolutely, but I would have to spend some time reshaping the patter into words that more suited my style and delivery. But whether or not you actually use any of the routines in Life, Death, and Card Tricks is not the point. The point is for you to understand how one magician has taken some standard card plots and infused them with his own experiences and interests, and in the process has elevated them so they are no longer trivial puzzles. Anyone who watches these routines is going to be affected by the performance; they will remember the tricks and they will remember the person who performed them. And memorability is one of the great goals of any performing art.

I found Life, Death, and Card Tricks to be entertaining, enriching, and informative, and I would highly recommend it to you. Even if you never do any of the routines, tracking down and reading the source material sited in the book will make you a more well rounded person. Fans of Robert Neale's earlier books will certainly want to read this one. If you have not encountered Mr. Neale before, I have a suggestion. Mr. Neale had a monthly column in the Linking Ring that ran from October 1994 through September 1998 . Track down some of these issues and read what he has to say. Several of the routines from Life, Death, and Card Tricks appeared in that column. If you like what you read there, you'll definitely enjoy this book.

Trickery Treats

By J.K. Hartman. 8.5 x 11 hardcover. 239 pages. $40 postpaid in US. From Kaufman and Company, 4200 Wisconsin Ave., PMB 106-292, Washington, DC 20016

Those seeking a more traditional approach to card tricks will find comfort in Trickery Treats, the new collection from J.K. Hartman. Mr. Hartman's name will certainly be familiar to all lovers of card conjuring. He has contributed material to most of the contemporary magic journals, and in recent years has produced two important books -Card Craft (1991), a very large collection of most of his early card creations, and After Craft (1995), the sequel to Card Craft. Trickery Treats continues his tradition of providing variations on a wide range of plots, requiring only average card handling ability.

The 61 items in Trickery Treats are divided into nine chapters. The first, Swap Exchange, features, as its name suggests, routines involving transpositions. In the chapter titled Four Scores you'll find routines using one or more four-of-a-kinds. Included are variations of the Hofzinser Four Ace Problem, Ken Krenzel's "Succession Aces," Reinhard Muller's "Three Card Catch," and the classic Four Ace Trick.

Other chapters feature gambling themed routines (including a full-blown gambling demonstration that establishes your skill with a deck of cards without requiring knuckle-busting moves), mind reading routines, routines in which you find chosen cards in interesting ways (including an excellent multiple-selection routine), prediction effects (including several variations of Karl Fulves' "Gemini Twins"), and four effects that use gaffed cards.

One routine that will certainly generate comment and variation is "A Process of Elimination," which Mr. Hartman considers a feature item. Elaborating on an idea of Ken Krenzel's, Mr. Hartman has constructed a script that allows you to equivoque down to one card, which has previously been established as a prediction. Reading from an eight-page script, the magician explains that the playing cards represent 52 passengers on an ill-fated pleasure cruise. A spectator makes choices, and as a result of these choices cards are eliminated until only one card remains. When the prediction is revealed it is seen that the spectator has eliminated all but the predicted card.

While the idea of using a script (to avoid the need to memorize all the possible alternative procedures) is a clever idea, I fear that there is a flaw in this approach. For example, at the beginning of the script the spectator is asked to decide which group of cards, the reds or the blacks, runs for the lifeboat of the sinking ship. If the spectator replies, "The blacks," the magician skips to the appropriate paragraph in the script and reads the following: "So it is the black cards that run like rats for the lifeboat.. .the lifeboat capsizes, trapping all 26 passengers as it sinks to the bottom." (This leaves the red cards to be dealt with in further decisions.) To me, this doesn't sound like equivoque, it sounds as if you knew somehow that the spectator was going to say "black" and wrote the script accordingly. Now, the effect of apparently predicting the spectator's choices at each point in a series of actions is a good effect (and is the basis of tape recorder tricks like "Animal Safari"), but I don't think it's the same effect as having a spectator eliminate cards and ending up with one that was predicted at the beginning. Fortunately, a loose copy of the necessary script is included with the book, so you can immediately try this trick out and come to your own conclusions.

Mr. Hartman's approach is thorough, and he writes in an easy to understand style. As in earlier volumes the tricks are accompanied by many drawings by Joseph K. Schmidt which makes the learning process a pleasure.

As I mentioned earlier, magicians seem to have an inexhaustible desire for more card tricks, mostly for the entertainment of themselves and their magic buddies. The material in Trickery Treats certainly fits the bill. Fans of J.K. Hartman's earlier books will need no further endorsement from me. If you enjoy card tricks, you'll certainly enjoy Trickery Treats.

PUT THE HOUDINI REVIEW HERE! (Or not, if you don't want to.) Mysteries for the Mind: Five Mentalism Routines

By Ray Rubenstein. 8.5 x 11 softcover. 22 single-sided pages. $20 plus $2 p&h. From Ray Rubenstein, 523 Augusta Drive, Rochester Hills, MI 48309

One consequence of the rise of powerful, affordable home computers is the proliferation of self-published magic manuscripts. It is possible for even a neophyte computer user to design, print, and distribute a publication. Unfortunately, while the computer can make your manuscript look nice, it cannot teach you to write well, and poor writing undermines the quality of the material. In the introduction to Mysteries for the Mind Mr. Rubenstein gives us the following sentences: "These pages of complete routines were taken from the original work portion of the collection and have now become the bases for the material in the following book." "I try to stay away from long complicated routines as these may loose the audience." "You need to establish a good repore with the audience early in the performance." "Don't loose your audiences attention by having things to show that are too small." The moral: a spell-checker can't tell you everything.

The five routines that follow are highly derivative and are of little interest. There is a Lie Detector routine that uses a marked deck, a telephone trick that uses a blatantly obvious mathematical principle, an effect where you pick a chosen marker out of a bag (the method requires that you are the last person to touch the marker before it goes in the bag), and a rehashing of the classic effect where a page vanishes from a book and appears in a sealed envelope.

For the privilege of wading through this mess, Mr. Rubenstein will charge you the sum of $20. Ouch. Under no circumstances should you go near Mysteries for the Mind.

Thoughts on Cards Volumes 1&2

By Larry Jennings. $29.95 postpaid in US. From A-1 MagicalMedia, 3337 Sunrise Blvd., #8, Rancho Cordova, CA 95742. Phone: 1-800-876-8432. Web site: www.a1magicalmedia.com.

There is no denying that Larry Jennings was one of the most influential creators of card magic in the 20th century. Those of us who love card magic are fortunate that much of his creative legacy has been published, and that other books of his material are scheduled to be released in the future. At the end of his life he struggled against serious medical problems, but he still made appearances at conventions and sessioned through the night with his friends.

In 1995 Mr. Jennings released Thoughts on Cards, a two-videotape set featuring 12 card routines and the famous Jennings "Single Cup & Ball Routine." Even though these tapes were quite pricey, it was possible to purchase an even more expensive "deluxe" set that included work on the Top Card Cover Pass and the Gambler's Cop. A-1 MagicalMedia has re-released these two volumes on one videotape, including the bonus material from the deluxe set.

The tape begins with Mr. Jennings performing at the Magic Castle, and routines from this performance set are scattered throughout the video. You should be aware that none of these routines are explained on the tape. Included are Mr. Jennings' handling for Dan Garrett's "Four Card Reiteration," and the famous "Open Travelers." There is a conversation with Earl Nelson, and then Mr. Jennings launches into the demonstrations and explanations of the routines.

The material offered here is a mixed bag. There are some really excellent effects, including "Oil & Water," "Card Up Spectator's Sleeve," "Outstanding Triumph," the "LarRoy Reverse," and the "Single Cup & Ball" routine. (One drawback to the latter routine is that it must be performed seated.) There are some routines that I find unconvincing, such as "Flawed Transposition," "Deck to Pocket," and "Cannibal Kings," and there is one routine, "Aces for Experts," that probably should have been cut. It is extremely difficult and the construction is such that each sleight screams out for attention. I don't think it would fool anyone. The work on the Top Card Cover Pass and the Gambler's Cop is also disappointing. Mr. Jennings offers useful advice, but these segments are very brief and fairly superficial. I was hoping for more.

It's important to remember that at the time these videos were shot Larry Jennings was not well. Consequently Thoughts on Cards does not serve as being representative of either his performing style or his ability with a deck of cards. However, if your ability with cards is intermediate or above, you'll probably want this tape for your library. Thoughts on Cards has its flaws, but it is very reasonably priced and gives us a chance for one last visit with one of the most creative magicians of our time.

Watch Bandit: The Ultimate Watch Steal

By Kevin King. $20 plus $3.20 p&h. From Kevin King, Inc., 1317 SE 22nd Avenue., Pompano Beach, FL 33062. Fax: 954-943-1765. Web site: www.kevking.com/reelmagic.

Let me admit something up front. Anytime a product has the word "ultimate" in its title I become very wary. Having been in the product reviewer chair for more than five years, and having sifted through a ton of product, it is very rare to find something that lives up to the term "ultimate." Watch Bandit, the new video from Kevin King bills itself as "The Ultimate Watch Steal." Is it the ultimate? No. However, Kevin does offer some practical, common sense advice for anyone thinking about adding the watch steal to their act.

The tape begins with Kevin performing the watch steal in front of a real live audience in a comedy club setting. Kevin conceals the watch steal within the actions of another routine, and you will be able to appreciate all the lines and the time misdirection that he uses. Next, the scene switches to a studio setting and Kevin explains his philosophy of the watch steal. I won't go into detail here, for to do so would be to give away too much; as I mentioned above, this is practical common sense advice. (There seems one small discrepancy, however, in that Kevin dislikes watch steals that involve violent movements of the spectator's arm to cover the steal. Kevin steals the watch under the cover of a violent, however extremely well motivated, movement of the spectator's arm.)

Kevin then discusses his method for stealing the watch. There is nothing new offered here, and in fact, Kevin's method is less elegant than the one taught by Chappy Brazil on his watch steal video. Ten years of performing this steal has brought Kevin to an impressive level of speed, but if you're looking for the best method for stealing a watch, you won't find it here. Kevin also gives some suggestions on how to practice the steal. Next is the explanation of the covering routine, a very visual card location created by Don Alan. In the course of this explanation, Kevin explains how and when he steals the watch. At the end of the video Kevin answers many questions that many arise when you begin to consider adding a watch steal to your repertoire. There are some funny outtakes at the end of the video.

The production values of the video are quite good, and the material is thoroughly explained. The problem here is simply one of implied expectation. If you think you are buying the greatest method in the world for stealing a watch, you're going to be disappointed. If you want practical advice on presenting the watch steal, you'll find it here. In all probability, if you simply sat down and thought logically about how to present the watch steal in as magical a way as possible you might come up with many of Kevin's suggestions. But if you want to save time and get the work from a pro who's been doing this trick for a long time, then pick up a copy of Watch Bandit.

Convention at the Capital: Live '99 The A-1 All Stars Video Series Volume 5

From A-1 MagicalMedia, 3337 Sunrise Blvd., #8, Rancho Cordova, CA 95742. Phone: 1800-876-8432. Web site: www.a1magicalmedia.com. Convention at Capital - $19.95 postpaid in US. A-1 All Stars Volume 5 - $29.95 postpaid in US.

We get hit with some serious hype on the front cover of the Convention at the Capitol: Live '99 video. Written in the lower right corner is the following. "Performances and explanations of the HOTTEST effects by the HOTTEST performers at the HOTTEST event of the year!" I've attended many of these conventions and I've enjoyed them very much, so I won't make a big fuss about the "HOTTEST event of the year" hype. But the first part of the above quote is a little misleading. It should say, "Here's the one trick from their lectures that each of these performers agreed to have videotaped." Not exactly snazzy, but at least it's closer to the truth.

There are eight effects on this video, one each from Aldo Colombini, Paul Green, Lee Earle, Gregory Wilson, Paul Wilson, Chad Long, Frank Balcerak, and Mark Strivings. The material ranges from the quite good to the less than overwhelming. The highlight of the tape is Chad Long's "Ninja Coin and Ninja Key" routine. This is a real world, almost impromptu setting for David Roth's "Karate Coin." Not only is this a great idea, but Chad's performance and explanation are very funny and a treat to watch. Not so impressive is Paul Green's "Tradeshow Transposition." Paul does say that this trick gets great reactions from laymen and has garnered him trade show work, but I can't imagine anyone but a neophyte magician being unfamiliar with it. Consequently, I doubt its effectiveness as a lecture item.

The routines from Colombini and the two Wilsons are also very worthwhile, so you're probably getting value for your dollar here. The most important function of a tape like this, though, is if you are unfamiliar with these performers. Most have videos of their own out, so if a particular performer appeals to you, you can track down more of his material.

The A-1 All-Stars Volume Five video features Michael Skinner, Paul Wilson, Jack Carpenter, Martin Nash, Rich Marotta, Martin Lewis, and Allan Ackerman. Card tricks are offered by all the performers except Martin Lewis, who gives some lines and bits of business for the classic Color-Changing Silk routine.

The highlight of the tape is Michael Skinner's "Ten Peeks" routine. The title is somewhat misleading. While it is possible to perform this multiple selection/revelation routine for ten people, using a riffle force technique, what is interesting is Michael's ploy that allows you to perform this for just a few spectators. The control and the subsequent revelations are not particularly difficult, and I think that many card workers will find this to be a useful addition to their repertoires. And as I mentioned before, if you are unfamiliar with these performers this tape will provide a good introduction.

Show Off

By Brian Tudor. $25 plus $3.50 p&h. From Brian Tudor, 1550 Ashwood Drive, Martinez, CA 94553

The name of this videotape says it all. Brian Tudor explains 10 flourishes, most of which are of the multiple-packet cut variety that are very popular these days. This is a single camera, amateur video quality production, and my guess is that you'll be hitting the rewind and the slo-mo buttons quite a few times before you figure out everything that's going on. The video ends with a strange rant in defense of flourishes. It should have been left on the cutting room floor.

There's no need for me to jump into the great flourish debate, I've stated my opinion on other occasions. You either like flourishes or you don't. If you like flourishes, Show Off has some flashy ones.

Pharoah's Magic Casino Cards

By Barry Govan and Pat-Trick. $20 postpaid. From Barry Govan, P.O. Box 64, Sebastopol, Vic., 3356 Australia. Email: [email protected].

(Before Max Maven has a chance to yell at me for misspelling "Pharaoh", I'll simply say that "Pharoah" is how it's spelled on the cards and throughout the instructions.)

Barry Govan and Pat-Trick have expanded on Danny Archer's "Lucky Lotto" cards to produce a "scratch-off' lotto card that allows you to do fifteen different effects. There are six different scratch-off boxes on the face of the card (which measures 2.5 x 3 inches). The upper three boxes contain a 14 of Diamonds, a 3 ^ of Clubs, and a "Tree of Hearts." The next two long boxes contain "Your Name" and "Correct." The large box at the bottom contains eight small cards, three Aces of Clubs and five other cards. The other printing on the face and the back of the card allows you to perform other effects. There are also brief instructions on the back of the card.

There are various ways you could use this card. You could perform any (or all) of the effects possible and leave the card as a souvenir. You could also simply give the card away and mention the effects on the back. Because of the cost of these cards (you get 25 for $20) you're not going to want to hand these out to everyone you meet. Barry suggests (and I agree) that you only give one away to those spectators who are prime prospects for future bookings. The card will allow the prospect to do some simple tricks for his friends, and in the process will remember you as well. These cards can also be personalized with your information. Contact Barry for details.

I think the "Pharoah's Magic Casino Cards" are a clever give-away. They're not cheap, but used correctly they could generate bookings for you.

(By the way, in his discussion of the 3 ^ of Clubs trick, Mr. Govan perpetuates the misconception that Milt Kort invented the trick called "MiKo." The trick is named for Mr. Kort, but he did not invent it.)

Business Card Production Wallet

By Michael Sibbernsen. $16 plus $2 p&h in US ($5 p&h elsewhere). From Michael Sibbernsen, 1503 Hammond Avenue, Waterloo, IA 50702. Email: [email protected].

The title of this little prop says it all. You remove a small leather wallet in order to hand out one of your business cards. Opening the wallet, you discover that it is empty. You close the wallet and then reach out into the air with your right hand, producing a fan of business cards.

The idea behind this wallet was published in Michael Sibbernsen's One Man Parade in the Linking Ring magazine (November, 1999). You may want to track this down to see if it appeals to you. The steal of the business cards is not particularly difficult, but it is not self-working. There is a moment during the handling that I think is rather awkward looking, and to minimize this unnaturalness you will have to practice so you can make the steal quickly. You will also probably have to treat your business cards with Zinc Stearate so they will fan easily. Most business card stock will not fan. The wallet is well made and with normal use should last you a long time.

If the effect appeals to you, the Business Card Production Wallet is worth checking out.


By Gordon Bean. $10. Available from most magic dealers.

"Password" is a cute, quick trick packet trick using three cards. The magician explains that he is functioning as the doorman of an exclusive club. In order to gain entry to the club you have to know the password, which is either "ace," "two," or "three." A spectator chooses one of those words. The magician spreads the cards and the spectator's choice turns out to be very different from the other two cards. (For example, if the spectator says, "Ace," it is seen that the lower two cards are the Two and Three of Clubs, while the upper card bears the word "ACE" on its face.)

Gordon has worked out three very logical outs, each of which gives impression that the selected card is very different than the others. The handling is very easy, and the three procedures are easy to remember. At the end of the trick the cards can be instantly reset for the next performance.

This is not an earth-shaking trick, but it would function well as an opener. You are provided with the necessary cards and clear instructions. No card handling skill is required. If the effect appeals to you I think you'll have fun with "Password."

The Oracle

By Charles Gauci. $69 postpaid. From Charles Gauci, 10 Stamford Court, Eltham, Victoria, 3095 Australia. Fax: +61 3 9431 2808

Australia's Charles Gauci offers the following mental effect. The mentalist shows a chart (about 8.5 x 8.5 inches), referred to as the Oracle Board. On the board are several concentric circles containing numbers or designs. The outer circle contains numbers from 11 to 42. The mentalist also brings out a tape recorder and a cassette tape. A spectator moves his finger around the outer circle of the Oracle Board, stopping on any of the numbers, for example, 33. The mentalist takes out a deck of cards and deals off 32 cards, placing the 33rd card aside face down. He then deals the next two cards face up on either side of the face down card, and then deals two rows of three face up cards above and below the first row. There are now nine cards on the table - eight are face up, the middle card of the layout is face down. The cassette is placed into the tape recorder and the recorder is turned on. A voice on the tape names all eight face up cards and then correctly names the face down card.

"The Oracle" certainly offers an impressive effect since the spectator's initial choice of a number is absolutely free. Built into the design of the Oracle Board is all the information you need to perform the trick, so no memory work is required. Unfortunately there is always a price to be paid and in this case the price may be too steep (in more ways than one). The first consideration is this. Where can this trick be performed? For the table-hopper I think this trick is impractical. Years ago I created a tape recorder prediction trick and I never found it to be practical in a restaurant situation. In "The Oracle" you not only have to carry a tape recorder table to table, you also need a lot of room for the layout. In addition, you will also tie up four of your pockets carrying the required props. Although not mentioned in my description above, when the deck is removed from the pocket it is loose, that is, the deck is not in its case. I think this is weak. Also, the cassette is not placed into the tape recorder until after the cards have been laid out.

Normally I wouldn't tear apart the method of a trick, but Mr. Gauci is charging $69 for "The Oracle." You receive the Oracle Board, the cassette, and a seven-page instruction manual. Basically, you're paying for the secret. Would this trick fool you if you saw it? Possibly, but tricks based on alternative procedure are always tough to figure out. If you have a venue where you could actually perform this trick it might be worth the high price tag, but otherwise you are just paying a lot of money for trick that can only be done for your magic buddies and people who visit you at your house.

As I was finishing up this column I learned of the death of Paul Swinford. Most of the younger readers of this magazine will probably be unfamiliar with his name, but Paul was very visible on the magic scene during the 1970's and 80's. He wrote two interesting books on the faro shuffle, and served as Parade Editor for the Linking Ring for several years. Most important to me, thirty years ago he showed great kindness and generosity to a young, knowledge-hungry magician from Indiana. Paul Swinford was a funny, creative man, an excellent magician, and a good friend. The world is poorer for his passing.

Spelling Department

If you had problems tracking down the book Effortless Mastery that I mentioned a couple of months ago, it may be because I misspelled the author's name throughout the review. His name is Kenny Werner, and his book is still very worthy of your attention.

Reminder Department

Each month a lot of product gets sent to Marketplace for review. To ensure that your product is reviewed in a timely fashion, please remember the following: Be sure to include all ordering information, including your address, the price, and whatever postage is required. If possible include a fax number, email address, and web site URL. Our foreign readers appreciate that information. Thanks.

It's Not Magic, But.

You probably don't need me to offer ways for you to waste time, but there is a wonderful computer game I'd like to bring to your attention. The game is called Thief, and it comes from Eidos Interactive (www.eidos.com). Where as the goal of most so-called "first person shooters" is to kill everything is sight, the goal of Thief is to get in, do what has to be done, and get out without anybody being the wiser. In this way it seems to parallel the goals of the conjuror. The graphics are gorgeous, you move through a completely interactive 3D world, the puzzles are challenging, and the suspense is palpable. You can find Thief I: The Dark Project at a low price at many discount houses. Thief 2: The Metal

Age has just been released, and it's as much fun as its predecessor. Pop in the CD, turn off all the lights, and start creeping around. You won't believe how much time you'll waste.

Continue reading here: My Friends Are Slowly Turning Into Books

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