I don't think I've ever seen anyone perform the trick known as "The Electric Chairs." The effect is that a spectator is invited on stage and is seated on an ordinary chair. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, the man jumps from the chair as if he has received an electric shock. The chair is thoroughly examined, the man sits down, and he again jumps from the chair. Another man is brought up from the audience, another chair is brought on stage, and, simultaneously, both men jump from their chairs.
There are probably a couple of reasons why this routine is so seldom seen. One factor is that information on this subject is very scarce. The other reason is that because the secret of the trick is so simple (I could tell it to you in one sentence), the demands placed on the performer are increased. It takes a real showman to pull this stunt off.
Ricki Dunn has provided solutions to both this problems with his new book Zapped! - A Complete Performance Guide to the Electric Chairs. In addition to explaining the method of the chairs (and several ways of implementing this method), Ricki also discusses management of the assistants, psychology, "outs," some possible gags, and several routines. This book won't make you a showman (you've got to do that yourself), but if this effect appeals to you I know of no better source of information. Recommended.
Bizarrists will want to check out The Book of Aleister Crowley by Larry Baukin. Larry has taken nine standard effects (such as John Bannon's "Shriek of the Mutilated," Jack Tillar's "Blister," and the classic "Ashes in the Hand) and has wrapped them in presentations based on the life of "the wickedest man in the world." Most of the routines provide strong effect for minimum effort, and there are some excellent handling touches, most by way of Washington's Al Cohen. Be aware, however, that some of the routines require that the performer be seated.
Anthony Owen of England sent along two items of interest. The Magician's Yearbook 1996 contains a brief rundown of the highlights of 1995 (including convention and product reviews), followed by an interview with Max Maven, a directory of British booking agents, magic clubs, dealers, and lecturers. There is also a twenty page section of tricks, including contributions from Peter Duffie, Jon Allen, and Aldo Colombini. As I have mentioned a while ago in this column, I find the British slant on conventions and products to be a refreshing change from the often "party line" approach taken many American reviewers. I very much enjoyed The Magician's Yearbook 1996, and I think you will too.
The other item from Mr. Owen is The Sticky Blue Book which contains eight routines which utilize a product called Changin' Glue, a container of which is included with the book. Changin' Glue is the space-age equivalent of magician's wax, and I don't believe it's available in the United States. The routines are very clever, and the glue works very well. (One hint: The glue tends to bead up on the glossy surface of the card. Smooth it out with your fingers.) If you're a card guy, this is definitely worth your consideration.
Corporate Punishment is a small booklet detailing four routines from the professional repertoire of Nigel McCullagh (who uses the stage name Pat-Trick). Included are a single cup and ball routine, a "Wild Coin" routine, a version of Sankey's "#@X!" in which the signed card and the clipped card have different colored backs, and my favorite, "Cardwatch," a routine in which the spectator's card ends up in a folded condition underneath his own watch. Overall, I think these routines are well constructed and will be of interest to the close-up performer. However, the booklet is in desperate need of a proofreader; the myriad mistakes make the text very difficult to read. In addition, the "Cardwatch" routine would have benefited from some illustrations; it's very difficult to visualize what's going on from the written word. If the effects appeal to you this little booklet is worth a look.
Finally, if there is a young person you'd like to give a magic book to, check out Steve Trash's The Ecology of Magic (ISBN 0-9652542-0-8). The book is geared for 8-12 year olds, and takes simple, standard public domain tricks and cloaks them with an ecological message. The book sells for $14.95 and you should be able to find it at any large bookstore.
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