by James Swain
I am a big fan of Jim Swain's work, and I'm not alone in my admiration; many of the top professionals in the country include some of Jim's creations in their repertoires. Jim's routines are characterized by intelligence, ingenuity, and a diabolical combining of sleight-of-hand with subtleties, set-ups, or gaffs. His new book, Miracles with Cards, may contain his best work yet, and if you're a card man it should be at the top of your Christmas list.
The book begins with a thoughtful essay on the state of close-up magic today. Jim makes the very important point that, since laymen don't get to see a lot of close-up magic, it is vital that we (as performers) choose the strongest possible material to present. Harry Riser drove this point home to me years ago. If there are two performers of equal presentational skills, then the difference in audience evaluation will depend on the level of their material. To this end Jim Swain has provided some remarkable routines, many of which do not require difficult sleight-of-hand. The book contains 45 routines, so I will just touch on some of my favorites.
"The Airmail Card" is the first routine in the book, and it is an extremely commercial version of Darwin Ortiz's "Dream Card." A card is selected using a very fair procedure. The card is signed, lost in the deck, and the deck is shuffled face up and face down. The cards right themselves, with the exception of the selected card. The deck is placed aside, and the magician removes his wallet. From the zippered compartment he removes a card which has been mailed to him. (The back of the card has the magician's address, and has a canceled stamp in the corner.) This card is turned over and it is the spectator's signed card. Although this routine requires some sleight-of-hand, it is not particularly difficult, and it incorporates an ingenious use of a move which was first published in MAGIC. I had the pleasure of seeing Jim perform "The Airmail Card" in Las Vegas, and it leaves nothing to be desired.
"Clue" is a wonderful variation of Brother John Hamman's "Sealed Room Mystery." It's an excellent presentation piece which requires no skill whatsoever. "Card in the
Matchbox" showcases Jim's ability to combine several disparate ideas to produce an almost self-working trick. Using an ancient principle and a standard gaffed card, Jim duplicates an effect of Tony Giorgio's which previously required a great deal of skill.
There are, of course, routines which do require some work, but the effects are worth it. I would particularly draw your attention to "The Impossible Card Trick." Here is the effect: Four spectators are asked to think of a high-valued card among a particular suit, except a King. When each spectator calls out the card they are thinking of, the magician deals down to that number, and there is found the Ace of the corresponding suit. Then the top card of each pile is turned over and the mentally selected cards are on the top of each pile. Finally, each pile is turned over, and there is a King on the bottom of each pile.
Jim Swain is also known as one of the country's finest exponents of the pass, and he provides several routines which make use of this artifice. However, what will be of most interest to you (especially if you don't do the pass) is a chapter called "Tips on the Pass." There is information revealed here which I don't believe I have seen anywhere else. If you've been struggling to learn to do the pass, this information should help to put you on the right track. I would also draw your attention to the various routines which use the Larry Jennings Card Box, a prop which is little known to magicians. Jim has come up with some mind-boggling routines using this prop.
Toward the end of the book there is a routine called "Rules of the Game." Preceding this routine is an essay which should be required reading for anyone who wants to perform magic. The routine itself is a knockout: the magician produces all nine possible poker hands (one pair up to a royal flush) from a shuffled deck. The productions build in a logical way, and the routine ends with the magical transformation of a straight flush into a royal flush.
Interspersed between the routines are some very useful sleights, including a marvelous method for palming cards from the top of the deck into the left hand.
I can't say enough good things about this book. The routines are excellent, the explanations are clear and concise, and the photographs by Warren Torzewski are great. I'm adding a few of these routines to my repertoire, and I wish I was the only person who had them. If you are a card guy (or you want to be a card guy) this book is a must buy. Highly recommended.
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Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.