A detailed analytical treatment of the principles and methods. Explores the psychological basis and its adaptation to the performance of magic. Many detailed ruses included covering the entire field. How to develop misdirection to fit all situations. What it is and how it works. The first concrete work on a subject that is common to all effects and all performers.
Every magician knows - or ought to know - that misdirection plays a vital part in the creation of a perfect conjuring illusion. We recall, as an outstanding example of perfect misdirection, Harry Kellar's performance of The Kellar Rose Growth, in which a rose bush, crowded with dozens of full-blown flowers, was produced in each of two empty flower-pots which Mr. Kellar had covered momentarily with an examined fiber cone. The cone had to be "loaded" twice as the performer stood or walked behind the deeply draped tables on which the flowerpots rested. In the hands of some magicians, it was painfully apparent that the performer was "doing something" when the "load" was made. But not in the hands of Harry Kellar! We saw him do the trick many times, and though we knew the "mechanics" of the feat thoroughly we were never able to claim that we had detected him in actually making the necessary "move." The reason, of course, was that at the "psychological moment" Mr. Kellar had skillfully misdirected the attention of the audience.
The literature on this important phase of magic is very limited. We are not overlooking the excellent essays on the psychology of conjuring by Binet, Dessoir, Jastrow, and Triplett; the first-rate chapters on misdirection by S. H. Sharpe and Nevil Maskelyne; and the many instances of "applied psychology" that may be found in the works of Robert-Houdin, Professor Hoffmann, and David Devant. But we are prepared to accept Mr. Fitzkee's statement that his is "the first book devoted solely to the subject of misdirection," and to agree that the world of magic needs more of this sort of thing. We do not find (as he predicts, in the preface, the reader will find) that Misdirection for Magicians is "hard, difficult reading." On the contrary, we find it very interestingly written, with an abundance of concrete examples to make the "principles" understandable.
It is almost impossible to write a satisfactory review of a book of this kind. Perhaps the best procedure is to say that Mr. Fitzkee apparently has the idea that every trick has a "weak point" and that the performer can get past that point safely only if he misleads the audience by diverting its attention (by means of a word, a gesture, a bit of music, a pistol shot, or some other device) away from the "danger spot." The success attained in misdirecting the spectators will depend upon the magician choosing a device which is psychologically sound, and which, moreover, is suited to his personality and style of presentation. The author gives so many excellent examples of clever pieces of misdirection that the reader is certain to find some that he can put into practice. Better still, a careful study of the book will, we may hope, develop in the reader the habit of analyzing all his tricks and then working up for himself the precise bits of misdirection that appear most likely to produce the desired results.
Though Misdirection for Magicians is a treatise on the "real secret" of magic - that is, misdirection - and not a book of tricks, it does incidentally give some explanations which will interest many readers. It is a 67-page poorly mimeographed pamphlet, bound in soft boards. We do not regard it as by any means the "last word" on the subject. Indeed, we hope that Mr. Fitzkee himself will some day soon undertake to revise and enlarge his book, and that it may then be printed and bound in a manner befitting a work of such importance. In the meantime, the book in its present form is deserving of careful study. It may provide just the information the reader needs to make "that trick" perfectly deceptive.