Reviewed by Timothy Arends
★★★★★ Date Added: Saturday 10 September, 2005
This is a charming book. It was originally published by the Johnson Smith Co., which published a large number of "pulp" reprints of older books in the pre-war years of the 20th century. In book form, this seems to be a Johnson Smith original. However, some of the
secrets were sold separately by magic companies as early as the 1920's.
It could be argued that this book is one of many that "tells the reader how something is done, not how to do it". All of the explanations are brief, and suffer from a lack of illustrations. Some of the explanations suffer from an almost humorous lack of details, such as the Crack Marksmen Act, which suggests that, in the effect of disrobing the assistant with a rifle, shooting birdshot at the assistant eliminates all danger. However, the effect of the Siberian Chain Escape is clearly explained and was worth the price of the
book if one did not know it already. Most likely this book was sold merely to satisfy buyer's curiosity, rather than to actually teach them how to be a "Handcuff King and Mystery Man".
There is also an article on "Locks, Their Construction How to Pick Them, Lock Breaking," which appears to have been added in later, perhaps in the late 1930's or early 1940's, while the earlier part of the book was written in the early part of the century.
Johnsons Smith's book reprints typically had a catalog section in the back that, in many cases, doubled the overall size of the book, and are as interesting to peruse as the book itself.
Some of the interesting advertisements on the inside front and back covers are for "Magic cards" (DeLand marked decks), "The magician's box of tricks" (a $1 magic set), and "Card miracles, containing 12 sets of magic cards, with which it is possible to perform a complete act in magic, no skill, no palming, no practice, no apparatus".
The contents of the book are: The Great Handcuff Trick, Escape From a Safe or Vault, The Vanishing Assistant, The Crack Marksmen, The Marvelous Levitation Act, The Excelsior Rope Tie, The Wonderful Trunk Escape, The Escape From 75 Ft. of Rope, The
Siberian Chain Escape, The Japanese Thumb Tie, Escape from a Chair Tie, The 20th-Century Escape, Escape From a Sack Trick, Escape From a Chair Trick, and The Dangerous Rope Tie Trick.