This is not a book for beginners. But it is a book that will lift up the devoted student by two or three levels of proviciency in card handling. Buckley, born in Australia, was one of the masters and innovators of card magic. He studied the card gamblers as well as the top magic performers. This book with over 300 photos, of which most have been enhanced by drawing lines over them to increase contrast, and 40 outstanding routines, is a gold mine and challenge for any card worker.
Arthur Buckley's "post-graduate course on practical methods" of card magic, which has been eagerly awaited by card conjurers ever since its coming publication was advertised several months ago, is now a reality. It turns out to be a somewhat smaller book than was expected, with 219 instead of the promised 256 pages - a discrepancy which doubtless resulted from undertaking to estimate the size of the book before the type had been made up into pages. In another respect, however, the author-publisher has given exceedingly good measure; for he has provided 297 photographic halftones in place of the 247 illustrations that were announced.
Card Control consists of four chapters of substantial size and a six-page glossary, in addition to the table of contents, a short preface, and Harlan Tarbell's two-page biographical sketch of the author. The 200 pages of explanatory material have been divided into chapters of varying length, with about two-thirds of the space being devoted to principles of card conjuring and the other third to their application in the form of complete tricks. Chapter 1, entitled Sleights, runs 83 pages; Chapter 2, Conjuring at the Card Table, 27 pages; Chapter 3, Manipulation, 27 pages; and Chapter 4, Forty Experiments with a Pack of Cards, 63 pages.
In the first chapter, Mr. Buckley explains 75 card sleights, some of them quite difficult and others very easy, using 170 illustrations to make clear every detail of position and action. The force, glimpse, slide, pass, shift, palm, false shuffle, principles are described here - sometimes in practically orthodox form, but more often with what will be (for most readers) some element of novelty. Unless the student is extremely well acquainted with this branch of magic, he will be surprised by the striking developments that have taken place since Erdnase wrote his famous Expert at the Card Table; and in any case he will be pleased with the many versions of certain sleights from among which he may choose the one that best meets his individual needs. Of the many forms of shift (which the author defines as "secretly transferring a card from one position in the pack to another"), the reader is made acquainted with the Greek shift, the Hindu shift, Buckley's Slap Shift (especially useful in tricks of the Stop type), his Single Card Shift (for bringing to the bottom of the pack a card that has been "peeked at"), his Multiple Card Shift, and, finally, Vernon's Multiple Shift - in which four cards, placed in the pack at different points, are brought to the top in one move. In praising this Vernon sleight, Mr. Buckley declares that "no more perfect piece of deception could be devised."
Card locations are given a considerable amount of attention.
Among those explained in Card Control are an "invisible" (one hand) location, the glide location, Buckley's diagonal location, and one each by Carmen Domico and Richard Cardini. Another example of the abundance and variety of methods of performing a given sleight is found in the explanations of card palming. In addition to the Buckley "side steal palm," original procedures for palming cards from the bottom of the pack, "perfect" card palm, "novel" palm, and "top palm slide off," there are "top palms" by Joe Berg, Bert Allerton, and the late Judson Cole. There is also the "palm unsurpassed," an original sleight which the author considers "probably the best method yet devised of palming off the pack either one, two, or three cards." However that may be, it is unquestionably a very novel method and one which many magicians will probably find useful, and possibly even (as Mr. Buckley suggests) "worth more than the price paid for this book." The sleights we have cited are merely illustrative, and are mentioned chiefly to indicate the wealth of information that the author presents with respect to several specific principles. There are, of course, many sleights of which but one version each is given, such as the "card transfer" of John Brown Cook, for bringing to the top a card that has been replaced in the pack, and the very pretty Buckley procedure for exchanging a packet of five red cards for a packet of black ones. There are, also, enlightening observations by the author on the right way to execute the pass, the side steal, the second deal, and other standard sleights.
Chapter 2 should appeal strongly to that considerable and apparently growing group of card tricksters who delight in showing how gamblers cheat, by demonstrating their ability to deal themselves winning hands. To this worthy end, Mr. Buckley contributes instruction in stocking, false shuffling, false cutting, second dealing, bottom dealing, using the bridge, restoring the cut, and other moves that must be employed if the wizard is to be sure of getting the desired cards. This section of the book is illustrated with 42 halftone cuts.
Card manipulations of the kind designed to show the spectators that marvelous things are being done, in contrast to sleights of the kinds noted above (which, to rate as successfully executed, must not even be suspected), constitute the "flashiest" feats - though certainly not the most deceptive - in the whole field of pure sleight-of-hand with cards. They have the advantage of being suitable, in many instances, for audiences of large size, as has been amply proved by such notable card experts, past and present, as Howard Thurston, Paul Valadon, Arnold de Biere, J. Warren Keane, Harry Blackstone, Paul Le Paul, and Richard Cardini. The 27 pages of text and 75 illustrations that make up Chapter 3 are devoted very largely to an exposition of back and front palming. Every magician knows the broad principles of back-hand manipulations and the general procedure to be followed, but many readers are sure to benefit by a study of the details which are here presented. Mr. Buckley explains how to do the back and front palm "without swinging the arm and without using the thumb"; how to transfer the palmed cards from hand to hand by means of the "change-over-palm" (two methods); how to shift palmed cards from the back to the inside of the hand while openly displaying a "produced" card, so that the back will be seen to be empty (Le Paul's method), and so on. He also explains three widely different ways to cause the disappearance of a fan of cards and later reproduce them, and how to back palm a full pack of cards and then produce them in a series of fans - a feat which he "originated, developed, and used" as early as 1918, and one which has more recently helped to make the reputations of a number of card manipulators. Magicians who specialize in this branch of card magic will read with interest and profit Mr. Buckley's advice on lighting and music, and his instructions on preparing the cards of a pack for use in card manipulation.
To the "forty experiments" mentioned on the half-title page which precedes Chapter 4 (63 pages, 10 illustrations) another, unnumbered feat has been added by way of bonus. This trick, The Card in the Pocket Book ("an old plot with a new and simplified method") strikes us as one of the best of the lot, partly because it is one of the few tricks explained here that are suitable for audiences of large size. Most of Mr. Buckley's effects are of a kind which cannot be described at all adequately in the space at our disposal, nor would their nature be revealed by listing them by name, except in the case of his original versions of such well-known feats as Bird of a Feather, The Ambitious Card, and The Four Aces. We must content ourselves, therefore, with the observation that these tricks will doubtless arouse the enthusiasm of the thousands of magicians who revel in new card mysteries, and should enable those who practice them faithfully not only to do wholly incomprehensible tricks for the uninformed but also to outwit any of their colleagues who are less well read.
Though some of these tricks are relatively easy, others are quite difficult, and some will tax the abilities of any but the most skillful. In many instances, a single feat requires the performance of five or six sleights, and each of several tricks demands skill in the execution of ten sleight-of-hand principles. Hence, this is a book for the serious student of card conjuring and not for the trifler, as the author warns in his preface. "This is a compendium of advanced principles, master sleights, and card effects," he says, "and it is therefore assumed that my reader is already in possession of a marked degree of skill and aptitude for such things with cards; furthermore, that he is a student of other practical works on card magic by such authors as Hugard, Erdnase, Merlin, Tarbell, Downs, and many others. The sleights of this compendium are of major importance and great practical value. They are unsurpassed by hitherto known and published methods; many are difficult to accomplish, and require patience and constant practice before they can be mastered or performed in a creditable manner."
Physically, the book is marred by several shortcomings which, though they may go unnoticed by the casual reader, will be regretted by all who are interested in improving the quality of magical bookmaking. Our chief complaint is a lack of uniformity which manifests itself in various forms. There is great unevenness in spacing between lines, as may be seen (to cite but one of dozens of instances) by reference to pages 142 and 143. There is lack of consistency in the type used in titles, as will be observed on pages 90-91 and elsewhere. There is (to mention one further lapse) a great deal of confusion in the use of "half-title" pages, which are often used to mark the main divisions of a book. Traditionally, the half-title always occupies a right-hand page, and is followed by a blank page. In Card Control, only two of the four needed half-titles are on right-hand pages, one is on a left-hand page, and the one which should precede Chapter 1 (and is particularly important for separating this chapter from the table of contents) is omitted entirely; and the customary blank page is missing in each of these cases!
In pointing out these defects in bookmaking, to which additions could readily be made, we have no thought of criticizing Mr. Buckley, the author, but are interested rather in indicating how these errors might easily have been avoided. A few years ago, Carl Waring Jones was able to impress the magical world with the physical excellence of three of his publications, Greater Magic, Magical Ways and Means, and Expert Card Technique. The books were well made because Mr. Jones had the work done by a firm that manufactures books for the great commercial publishing houses. There is no reason to expect an author to know about the details of bookmaking - that should be the responsibility of the printer. But if Mr. Buckley, the publisher, had entrusted the making of Card Control to a concern genuinely experienced in book manufacture, that concern would have seen to it that the accepted standards of good bookmaking were not violated. We think it worthwhile to stress this, because altogether too many books on magic give evidence of having been turned out by job-printers or manufacturers of catalogs, who simply are not equipped to produce books either artistically or economically.
On the credit side of our physical appraisal, we are happy to record the fact that the book is printed on heavy coated paper from type of good size, with especially excellent presswork on the halftones, and is stoutly bound in black fabrikoid with goldstamping on front cover and spine. We happen to know that Mr. Buckley went to the extra trouble and expense of having the text re-set in 10-point type, because the original 8-point seemed to him too small for easy reading, and also had the photographs re-touched and a new set of halftones made in the interests of greater clarity. We heartily applaud this expression of consideration for the reader. The result of these changes is clearly evident. The pages can now be read without effort, and the nearly 300 halftones comprise one of the handsomest and most thorough jobs of illustrating to be found in any textbook on magic.
We bring this review to an end with a realization that we have necessarily failed to do full justice to the book under discussion. We have been able to note specifically only a few of its treasures, leaving unmentioned others which are equally certain to bring joy to the hearts of card conjurers. It is hard to believe that anyone who does sleight-of-hand tricks with cards could fail to benefit greatly by the information found in this latest treatise on the technique of advanced card magic.