Book Nook, Magic Edition (3)


Every once in a while I like to catch up and share the titles of conjuring books I’ve been reading, so here’s what I’ve been enjoying the last couple of months—and a little product review at the end as well:

1. Scripting Magic, Volume 2: Pete McCabe’s first volume, Scripting Magic, was one of my all-time favorite magic books. It contained scripts for dozens of excellent magic tricks, and what’s more, it told you why they were good scripts and compared them to the not-so-good examples. Anyone reading them could improve the effects they already did by following the advice in the book. Now, in Volume 2, McCabe continues with more wonderful tricks and scripts—including examples from America’s Got Talent winner Derek Hughes, and the script of Houdini’s performance of the Water Torture Cell. McCabe tells you not only what makes a good script, but also helps you to understand how to come up with a premise, and how to flesh it out. It’s terrific advice, but even if you choose to ignore it, there are some very good tricks here including “Pleasure To Burn” ( a fifty-two to one card equivoque) and the holiday-themed “Catching a Leprechaun.”  While it’s always great to learn new sleights (and McCabe teaches a few here in the context of a given effect) probably no investment of time will improve one’s magic so much as focusing on script and presentation.

2. Malini and His Magic: Dai Vernon was always humble about the debt he owed to the magicians whose work he studied, including Emil Jarrow and Nate Leipzig, but none impressed him more than Max Malini. I’ve written about Malini before, but it is hard to overestimate what an important influence he was on Vernon’s generation of magicians. In an age where magicians mainly entertained with large illusions on stage, Malini changed the paradigm. Whether he was entertaining on the stage of a large theater, a hotel ballroom, or an intimate dinner party of the rich and famous, he needed only a couple of decks of cards and some silverware to make his presence unforgettable. In Malini and His Magic, editor Lewis Ganson collated Vernon and others’ thoughts and memories of Malini in order to produce a slim but valuable volume. It starts off with some basic biographical information, and then describes the presentation and methods of Malini’s full evening show, the highlight of which was his card stabbing routine. Later chapters deal with Malini’s more informal shows, and it’s wonderful to read about how audacious his effects and methods were. Malini was also quite a self-promoter, and not a small amount of his success was his ability to “schmooze” and make friends with wealthy patrons. The one secret that remains is the famous dinner table production of a block of ice from a lady’s hat. While Vernon describes the production and one aspect of the method, he admits that he does not know how Malini loaded up. That will have to be a mystery to all but Ricky Jay, who you can see perform the astonishing trick for a skeptical journalist in the documentary film Deceptive Practice. (Hmm, I just got an idea of what may have happened.)

3. Our friend Ron Chavis is now well along with the publication of his “Official Magazine for Mentalists,” Mystic Descendant, having released a solid four quarterly issues to round out the first year. The magazine continues with its friendly, good-natured, bar-room mate outlook, and as I have mentioned before, it focuses mainly on the casual performance of mentalism, with a focus on storytelling. I’ve finally caught up with the fourth issue, and in it you’ll find a lovely true story about a seance that unexpectedly turns into a tribute to a recently deceased mentalist; a presentation of an effect that leaves warm feelings of a spectator’s meaningful relationship; and an interview with South American mentalist Mauricio Jaramillo who talks about preparing for the time when things go wrong in performance. It’s light, pleasant reading, that may well stimulate mentalism thoughts of your own; if you haven’t picked up a copy yet, you can go to to order any issue.

4. On some of the internet magicians’ forums, you’ll find endless discussion of what are the best cards to use, and it may seem amusing to run into spirited online discussions that go into scores of pages on whether blue-backed or red-backed cards are best to use. A lot of magicians take such things quite seriously. Anyway, much virtual ink has also been spilled about what brand of cards is most suitable for card magic. For the past few years, the product of a relative newcomer in the field, the Phoenix deck by Card-Shark, has found favor with many magicians. I like Phoenix cards a lot, but I recently became aware of the new release by the US Playing Card Company of a special edition of their Maiden Back cards. I’ve been using them for a few months now, and I really like them, maybe more than the Phoenix cards. Here’s what I think the advantages of them are:

  1. They faro out of the box very nicely. They are traditionally cut, so if you’re a top down faro person like me, you can just turn the cards face up. The cards are so amenable that I don’t mind the difference for me at all.
  2. The cards are slightly thinner than regular Bicycle stock, and seem more flexible. It makes shuffling and general handling easier.
  3. The cards fan well and keep their fanning ability even after a period of time.
  4. Each deck comes with two identical jokers, a blank card, and a DB. Good times!
  5. The cards will make fans of Boris Wild and Ted Lesley very happy, if you get my meaning, wink wink, nudge, nudge; quick, and from a distance too.
  6. The factory sealed decks are in Tamariz order. Even if you don’t know that system, what it means is that with a copy of Mnemonica to inform you (see chapter five, especially) you’ll be able to do poker routines, including any poker hand called for; bridge demos; story deck effects; and finally you can convert to stay stack and New Deck Order with some (admittedly fancy) finger flinging. All this straight out of the box. And if you do know the Tamariz system, well…
  7. The card box is subtly differentiated so that you won’t mix it up with your other decks.
  8. Penguin is selling them now for $60 a dozen, which is a totally ridiculous price for cards with the last three features. They can be your everyday decks.

So if this sounds like something you might be interested in, I’d advise you to try a brick soon, as I don’t really see how they can keep selling them at this price. Happy magishing.

Hector Mancha: From Nowhere


Magician Hector Mancha won the Grand Prix of the 2015 international FISM magic competition with his sketch of a poor man who for a brief moment is able to get money to appear at his finger tips.

Those wiggly fingers have a lot of magicians scratching their heads over where those bills are coming from.

Thanks to YouTuber  maxivolkmagic

I’ve Got A Secret


This particular 1956 episode of the once popular television quiz show features a contestant with a very surprising secret. Bonus points if you can also identify the names of the four panelists and the host.

Thanks to YouTuber HistoryFlicks4u

Limericks ‘R’ Us



At one of the online magic forums, there’s a game  I’ve contributed to through many years concerning limericks. One person suggests a first line for a limerick, and the next person has to complete the limerick. Many of the limericks have a magic-oriented theme, but that’s not a requirement. Here are a few of my better efforts. (Remember, all first lines were given by others):

A young man from the wilds of Peru
Bought a very new gnu from the zoo
But the gnu didn’t know
What a gnu ought to know
So he bought a new gnu who knew news.


I “invented” a new spelling trick
With 21 cards, it’s so slick
I deal seven piles
But I never get smiles,
They all want it over real quick.


When presenting the spec’s queen of hearts
Some magi take leave of their smarts
They prance and parade
(No, they’ll never get laid)
Not knowing they’re just some old farts


I considered a life on the stage
Not easy for someone my age
But I just got hired
No longer retired
Come see me, the geek in a cage.


I found in my old photo book
The claw of the mean Captain Hook
And also the mug
Of some vicious thug
For Sale: by Hook or by crook.


More limericks here

He Likes Bread And Butter


Monday morning, breakfast is served.

Who knew that lead singer Larry Henley of this 1964 hit was, as one YouTuber commented,  a white Bill Clinton lookalike?

They never had another big hit, but as the Beatles became more and more popular, they adopted Beatles-style haircuts in an effort to hold onto fame.

It didn’t work.

Thanks to YouTuber Carl’s Old Record Club


Last Writes



So, I was having my weekly freak out about what will happen if I die tomorrow—not that I have any indication that that is going to occur—and I realized that what I was worried about the most, besides my family, was my writing.

Specifically, what about the novel that I’ve been working on for the last five years, the one that’s still sitting on my computer? My nightmare is that it just stays there with no one even knowing that it’s there. Oh, my family knows I’ve been working on it all this time—how could they not with all the agita around it?—but they don’t know what file it is, or what version is the latest, and probably they’ll have other things to think of when I drop dead, so what am I going to do? It’s strange: we finally got around to making a will, so my family is okay; but I worry about my characters. I’m worried that they will not have a chance to live. It’s a crazy feeling, but it’s a real one. I want them to have a home if they don’t find one before I’m gone. I wonder if other writers experience this. Like Pirandello’s characters, my modest creations want to have a chance to play out their stories, too.

I mean, I have been doing due diligence, sending out my manuscript and query letters, but who knows if anyone will bite? A few close calls, but still nothing. But I believe in this book and these characters, and while I know the book is not going to appeal to everyone, I say immodestly that it is good and deserves to be read by those who would enjoy it.

So I finally figured out a way to lessen my anxiety around this whole thing. I decided that I would self-publish one copy, one copy that I could leave behind, so that when I go, at least there will be some tangible evidence of what I’ve been doing these last few years. It’s kind of amazing to me the effort it takes to write a novel, good or bad. At least, the effort it took me. I don’t claim it to be anything great, but I don’t want it just to disappear.

I went onto a popular online self-publishing site,, having no experience at all how this was going to play out. I assumed that I would have to order a hundred or more copies to get this done. It’s not really what I wanted to do, but I figured, okay, if I have a stack of these left in my office when I kick the bucket, they can give them out at my funeral or something. When I actually went to the website, though, I was pleasantly surprised. You don’t have to order a hundred copies. You could order fifty, or fifteen, or for goodness sake, you could just order one. Yes, one’s the ticket: that’s just what I wanted. Just one to document that I was here, that somewhere in my life I did this thing, and here it is.

The whole process was not too difficult to navigate. There’s a bit of a learning curve but if you follow the directions on the website, you can create your book without too much trouble. The first thing you do is choose the format for your published book: hardbound, softbound, paper quality, different sizes, and so on. I chose a 6×9 perfect bound paperback. If you eventually decide that you want to publish the book commercially, they recommend you ask for the premium paper. This option also provides you with an ISBN number should you ever decide to go commercial with the book. Next, you download a Word template from the website and import the Word document of your manuscript into it. You then upload that file back to Lulu, and they return a pdf that shows exactly how the manuscript will look when published.

When you’re happy with what you see, then it’s time to choose a cover. There is a very easy and flexible Cover Wizard which allows you to choose from a number of attractive looking cover themes. If you like, you can add photos to your front cover; also, on the back cover, you can add an author’s photo and any text you wish. In addition, the book automatically prints with the title of the book and the author’s name on the spine. Since I am not interested right now in publishing, I did not opt for any photos or even back cover text, so I just chose an abstract cover design that I thought was attractive.

At this point you can order your masterpiece, any amount from one proof copy to hundreds. There is a discount in the price per book as the quantity goes up, but I was amazed at how inexpensive it was, even for the one proof copy I wished to purchase. For a 250 page softcover, premium paper, with a designed cover, it only cost $6, plus $5 for shipping. In other words, it cost less than a paperback at the local book store, even with shipping.

I sent off my order and the book arrived about 10 days later. It was very exciting ripping open the package, and seeing the book. It looked and felt great—it was not just a cheap knock off. It was commercial grade paper, cover, and binding. I was very pleased with that. And when I read through my book, I was ready to weep, because the story actually worked as a book. It’s one thing to read a manuscript as a file on your computer, or a collection of printed out loose papers, but when you read it as a bound book, it is a whole different experience. I kept turning the pages, and kept feeling like I had done it. Of course, what I also found were typos and pages mis-formatted, even after literally dozens and dozens of revisions. My biggest mistake was something I thought I had accurately accounted for, but I was wrong—not all of the major chapter sections and title pages started on a right hand page. But I wasn’t too worried, because the cost of re-doing a proof was cheap enough that I didn’t mind just correcting the file, re-uploading it, and ordering a new proof. That’s what I did, and ten days later I was greeted by the new corrected copy.

I have to say this whole experience really helped me to put my mind to rest. Even if you’re not as neurotic as I am, preparing to keel over at any moment, I think that if you are shopping around a manuscript you would benefit from ordering a proof copy of your work. You will see mistakes and typos in a way that you may well have missed in electronic or loose manuscript form. If you do get an agent and a publisher, wonderful; but if not, you have the option of either buying copies from Lulu and selling them yourself, or you can have the book advertised on Lulu’s website. They will do print on demand if you wish, so that they only print the number of books that are actually ordered; Lulu, of course, takes a substantial cut of the cover price that way. You also have the option of listing the book on Amazon in a similar print on demand deal, but in that case, Amazon takes such a large cut, that it hardly pays for the author.

So, if my family is reading this, now you know what that book is that’s sitting next to my will…but I sure hope you get to read it before then.

Hang on Sloopy


Thanks to YouTuber TransatlanticMoments

Monday morning The McCoys urge Sloopy to hang on.

The woman in the video is Liz Brewer who was once married to the lead singer of the McCoys, Rick Derringer.**

Who was Sloopy? So far I’ve tracked down four stories:

  1. One of the credited co-writers claims that he wrote the song while in Cuba, and any attractive woman there would be called a Sloopy.
  2. Sloopy was the nickname of jazz singer Dorothy Sloop who was a girlfriend of one of the writers.
  3. Jean Sloop was the name of an Ohio waitress who claims to be the inspiration.
  4. A businessman in St. Louis claimed that when he was just a kid in high school he wrote the song and sold it on the cheap to the credited writers. Rick Derringer seems to most believe this story—but he still doesn’t know why the high school kid used the name Sloopy.

**Update: It may be that Liz Brewer had nothing to do with the video; here’s another claimant for the dancer:

Simon and Simon


In this rare live television performance, Paul Simon and his younger brother, Eddie Simon, play Davey Graham’s catchy guitar instrumental, “Anji.” Eddie, who looks remarkably like Paul, used to run the Guitar Study Center in New York City, and later he helped to manage some of Paul’s tours. He was also executive producer of some of the Simon and Garfunkel compilation albums. It’s fun to watch the two of them workout and exercise their chops on this one.

More at Simon and Garfunkel News