By Simon Lovell
Simon Lovell is a wild-and-crazy transplanted Brit who lives in a sleepy village in Connecticut with his patient and charming wife Kat, and a 900 pound feline named Harry. Simon has made many convention appearances, is an often-heard contributor to cyberspace chatter, and for several years has authored a column for Jim Sisti's magazine The Magic Menu. But his main gig is to work for real people in restaurants, bars, and hospitality suites. Simon Says is the first large, hardbound collection of routines from his professional repertoire, and it contains some excellent, commercial material.
The book begins with a section titled "The Thoughts of Chairman Lovell" which consists of seven essays discussing various aspects of performing close-up magic in the real world. I appreciate the fact that the viewpoints Simon offers are couched as suggestions rather than commandments. This section contains Simon's thoughts on approaching tables, opening and closing ploys, routining, resetting, tips, and flukes. There is also a fascinating discussion on the subject of invading the spectator's comfort zone. You'll find much of value in this opening section.
The 50 routines, gags, and bits of business which comprise the body of the book are divided into five sections. The majority of the effects explained are card routines. Simon includes all his patter, as well as giving you the psychology and theory behind each effect. In other words, you're getting the "why" as well as the "how." When a working pro tips this work, I sit up and take notice, because this is the type of information that I can apply to my own routines. Even if you choose not to incorporate any of the routines into your own repertoire, there is much to gain here.
Sixteen routines are gathered in the chapter titled "Openers, Middlers, and Closers." These are routines suitable for walk-around, table, or parlor situations, and none of them require difficult sleight-of-hand. Included are "Fingered Number Three," and "Fingered Number Four," which combine to form a very effective opening routine; "Another Departed Point," which effectively melds two Elmsley plots; "Sleight of Mouth," a handling for the venerable Card in Mouth effect (Note: even if you don't care for this effect, be sure to take a look at Simon's method for folding a card.); and "Who Killed Lilly Longlegs?" a fun (and apparently improvised) version of "Diamond Jack."
The next chapter contains nine routines which require that the performer be seated. Actually, that's not completely true, because my two favorites - "The Lemming Ace Exchange" (which is based on a wonderful and little-known effect of Roy Walton) and Morley Budden's "Pyramid Power" - can be done standing. They do require a performing surface, however.
Ten effects using gaffed cards are explained in Chapter Four. "Hyperpoke," "Heartless," and "Flashburn 2" are three which particularly appealed to me. One nice aspect of these routines is that even though they use gaffs, they are designed to reset quickly. This is the hallmark of a real-world routine.
Up till now, Simon has kept the digital work to a minimum, but the 11 routines in Chapter Five will require you to put in some practice time. Be sure to take a look at "Elmsley Cut Elmsley," which is Simon's handling of the classic "Diamond Cut Diamond" effect. Included in the description of this trick is Simon's handling of the Push-off Second Deal. Simon does beautiful dealing work, and he gives you all the details here. If you put in the necessary time, you'll add a very useful sleight to your arsenal.
The final chapter is titled "Gags, Stunts, and Other Bits!," and the title pretty much says it all. Included here is one of Simon's trademark bits, the "Pen through Tongue." I also liked the "Self-Writing Pen," "Sebastian, the Mind-Reading Chicken," and "Any Dog Called For!" Be aware, however, that you must use discretion as to when to perform some of these bits. In a bar situation, they would be hilarious.
Simon did the writing, Jim Sisti edited the book, and Hannah Ammar did the excellent illustrations. If you enjoy card magic, and you're looking for routines that will get the money, this book should be in your library. Highly recommended.
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