The surprising thing, really, is that in the electronic age conjuring should have changed so little. The decline of the waistcoat has affected magic more than the invention of communications satellites.
Christian Scherer is a well-known performer, card expert and prolific author from Switzerland. Among his many credits are also translations of the works of Henning Nelms and S.W. Erdnase into German. His most recent contribution is Magicians in Action 1980-2015, a huge three-volume documentary containing photos plus autobiographical and anecdotal texts (in English) of 250 magicians from 28 countries whom he has photographed on stage over the last decades.
A while ago, Scherer published a big book of his original magic in German, titled Schlaglichter (“Bright Lights”). What I particularly like about it: It is accompanied by a website that features performance videos of all routines for close-up, parlor, and stage featured in the book (almost 30 in total). What a great way to experience the look and feel of the tricks and to judge your personal mileage from of the book! I only wished more authors would go this extra mile!
Here’s one example I particularly liked, an innovative ball routine well suited for the Golf & Country Club performer. I am sure you will be able to enjoy it, too, even if you don’t happen to speak German. (Be premonished, though, that it will take more than two minutes before the magic actually starts, reflecting the unhurried, low-key style of the performer and probably celebrating the proverbial slowness of the amiable folks of Switzerland.)
There is a great deal of great literature out there, old and new, about the history of our art. Some names that come to mind immediately are Sidney W. Clarke, Dr. Kurt Volkmann, Milbourne Christopher, Dr. John Booth, Edwin A. Dawes, David Price, Ricky Jay, William V. Rauscher, David Charvet, Mike Caveney, and many others.
Over the last decades, however, probably nobody elso has added more significant chapters on magic’s rich history, especially from the golden era of the 20th century, than Jim Steinmeyer.
Recently he has teamed up with Peter Lamont, another scholarly and witty author of oeuvres like The Indian Rope Trick. Together, they have apparently undertaken the task of writing a comprehensive history of magic. The Secret History of Magic: The True Story of the Deceptive Art has recently been announced on Amazon for publication in mid-July 2018.
What to expect:
Two renowned historians of stage magic team up to produce this definitive, engaging history of stage magic, from Ancient Egypt to David Copperfield. Fifty glorious illustrations throughout.
368 pages, ready for pre-order. There will also be a Kindle edition.
In late 2017, the U.S. Postal Service Office has announced a wonderful series of five stamps celebrating “The Art of Magic”, see below. I quote:
The Art of Magic
The Postal Service celebrates the art of magic with this pane of 20 stamps featuring digital illustrations of five classic tricks magicians use to amaze and delight audiences: a rabbit in a hat (production), a fortune teller using a crystal ball (prediction), a woman floating in the air (levitation), an empty bird cage (vanishing), and a bird emerging from a flower (transformation).
I have yet to see the trick of a flower transforming into a bird in real life, but hey! I like the design of this series and will gladly add it to my collection. However, no exact publication date has been given yet.
The latest addition to my magic stamps collection came from France, where a series of circus images was issued last year, one of them featuring the proverbial rabbit in a top hat.
For more on magic stamps, look here within my world.
Speaking of Pros: Horst Vegas, self-proclaimed Senior Boy Wonder of Magic and an unfailing Lota Bowl of Wizzdom, shares another of his tinny-tiny Golden Showbiz Rules & Recommendations:
There are a million details that separate the great performer from the average one, but these are the most obvious ones to me: full technical, psychological and theatrical mastery of the trick, stage movement, efficient routining, showmanship, and audience command on the one side; haste, overproving, lack of drama and lack of personality on the other.
Addendum: There is a good discussion on this matter over at the Genii Forum!
The best advice is usually found in the books written by experienced pros, when they have decided to share their pet tricks, bits and routines after decades of performing and polishing them. One such book in my possession is McComb’s Magic: 25 Years Wiser, written by Billy McComb himself and published by Supreme Magic.
Sure, some of those routines are obviously outdated by now, the markets for a “Magic Fishing Act” or “The Clay Pipe” having disappeared. Other fine tricks and bits of business have stood the test of time or are awaiting resurrection. In addition, there is a lot of advice, wit and anecdotal material to be found in these 184 pages. Here are some excerpts:
If you wanted to be an earth-shattering Mentalist, I think you could do worse than become an expert thumb-writer.
With any luck, you will never ever work a night-club . . . Try and keep it that way. You’ll be the saner for it.
This is one of those things which magicians who are new to magic cannot understand. After half-a-lifetime of doing a trick, it gets to be polished smooth and easy for the performer. There may well be better methods of doing it but the way you are used to is often the very best because your brain and muscles have become co-ordinated over the years. You can relax, know it’s going to happen because it has happened many times before. And, best of all, you can give all your time to the presentation and showmanship.
It was the scene of the prize presentation after the Magic Competition. The winner had done fantastic things with flicking and catching cards; the billiard balls had rolled all over his hands; his dexterity was most impressive. The principal judge handed him the cup … and he promptly dropped it!!!
Carl Hertz was rumoured to have a bird-cage pull so strong that it once pulled him up his own sleeve after the cage.
True story! There was a well-known dealer who, when asked for “Invisible Thread” would gravely open an envelope, wind off several lengths of nothing and place it in an envelope and hand it to you with a laconic – “That will be one and sixpence, please”. I’ve often wondered how many people fell for it.
We’re a funny, inconsistent lot, magicians, tho’ as friends, I’d never swop them.
Following a recent thread on the Genii Forum on the versatility of the Svengali Deck and possible combinations with an Ambitious Card routine, I came up with this little piece:
1. Start performing your ACR with the generous help of “the Sven” (forcing the card, having the spectator cut or count to his own card etc.).
2. Finally, turn all cards of the deck into copies of the ambitious card.
3. Transform half of the deck back into regular cards.
4. Put the “all alikes” half aside, but have one signed by a spectator. (Regular size may help. Of that card, not of the spectator.)
5. Continue and close your Ambitious Card routine with the regular half deck. Obviously, your finale should be even better than step 2.!
Just a thought.
More tricks & ideas can be found here on this site.
Addendum: For lots of advice on the moves, ruses and subtleties of “the Sven,” check these sources:
Mulling over the famous figure 101 that comes with the trick “The Three Aces” within TEATCT, here is a thought I have enjoyed nurturing for quite some time: What if there was a secret connection between the opening of the book (the original title on the frontispiece, to be precise) and this more or less closing feature of the book, the final drawing?
Unlike the other figures, this one does not only explain the ruse; in fact, it does deceive you, the reader. The display of the aces looks totally regular. Only when you know that there is a subterfuge involved, you will understand that the Ace of Diamonds is not what it claims to be, but something-or someone-else (the Ace of Hearts).
Now the same may be said about the triple of ARTIFICE, RUSE and SUBTERFUGE (= ARS (lat.) = art). I have always wondered why Erdnase used three nouns with roughly the same connotation here: You are being deceived expertly and artfully at the card table. Precision? (Erdnase obviously loved describing things in detail by doubling or tripling words.) PR blurb to make his book sound utterly important? Or simply a clever means of hiding something in the middle, in plain sight? That something might be “RUSE and.”
What is more, in American handwriting, figure I0I can be read forward as well as backwards. A hint at an anagram or at shifting words around?
Finally, the book’s frontpage promises “over one hundred drawings.” The total of 101 figures delivers this promise, but only by the smallest margin. You may not call this cheating, but probably another artful subterfuge…
Pure conjecture, I admit. This could be more convincing if, say, figure 101 were really displayed on the very last page of the book, maybe on page 202, and if the book’s title went more like ART, ARTIFICE and ACES at the Card Table to resemble the three Aces in figure 101 even more closely.