This is a classic, a wonderful book now available as PDF. It contains the best of the best from 115 well-known professionals and clever amateurs. 193 tricks and routines from all branches of magic.
This latest compilation of feats of mystery is a volume of 384 pages, which include 145 pages of card tricks, 193 of miscellaneous magic, 32 of biographical sketches, four of index, and ten of prefatory material. The reader who is familiar with the literature of magic will soon learn that the title, My Best, is not to be taken literally; for he will already have met in print better tricks by a number of the contributors to this work, and will note that even the Editor finds it desirable to explain, in certain instances, that So-and-So's best trick has, for one reason or another, not been included. He will also find that the "115 leading magicians" (also called in the advertising "the best brains in magic" and "magicians whose names constitute a Who's Who Among the Inventors of Magic') include not a few persons who magically are scarcely of giant stature.
Having indicated thus briefly and mildly our feeling that someone with an excess of poetic license in his make-up has rendered it almost impossible for My Best to live up to its advance publicity, we hasten to say that Mr. Thompson has enlisted the help of a number of well-known writers, and others not so well-known, who have contributed many first-rate tricks to his collection. We shall not attempt even to name, much less to describe, all of these tricks - which we are assured reach a grand total of 193 - but may note a few that appeal to us as having special merit.
Among the card tricks are many which (as seems true of most of the recent developments in this field of magic) require prearrangement, special cards, or a good deal of "fooling 'round," such as "counting down" or "running through" the pack. Including only one or two tricks of this type, we select for special mention Dr. Raymond Beebe's Insto-Transpo Perfected, a simplification of a strikingly fine feat originated by the late Theo. Annemann; Guess It, by William H. Wilson, a very easy, non-sleight-of-hand trick with two cards and a small cardboard folder; Up My Sleeve, by R. M. Jamison, a flashy little item with four Jumbo cards; George H. Pittman's Card through Handkerchief, in which both handkerchief and card-case are penetrated by a chosen card; M. F. Zens' baffling Cards and Envelope feat, "the miracle pocket-to-pocket trick"; Paul Curry's Next, a really good card discovery, involving no sleight-of-hand except the double lift and a simple false shuffle; Mr. Curry's Follow Me, an excellent do-as-I-do feat which requires no digital skill; Encore, a card-spelling trick, by Frederick Mosteller, Frederick Braue, and Orville W. Meyer, which of course makes use of prearrangement but produces an amazing effect; and The Peek Deck, by Dr. Franklin V. Taylor, an ingeniously prepared pack, with explanations of many tricks that may be performed with its assistance.
Of the miscellaneous tricks (which are classified as "pocket," "home," and "stage" effects), we note the following: Paper Money, a quick, pretty little feat by Milbourne Christopher, in which a small piece of newspaper is crumpled into a ball and transformed into a banknote upon being touched with a half-dollar; Nelson C. Hahne's Ring of Thoth, an unusually good ring-on-handkerchief trick; R. M. Jamison's Spot Sticks, a fine pocket stunt; The Pedagogue's Nightmare, by William McCaffrey, a coin-and-paddle trick with many puzzling moments (5 pages, 5 illustrations); The Ghost Coins and Hornswoggled, two feats for which George Starke is widely known; Marbles and Marvels, by Stanley Collins, a fascinating series of passes with marbles and little potatoes; T. J. Crawford's Under the Pan, a fine routine with four small plastic pans and four small rubber balls; Finger Finger, by Bruce Elliott, an effective little mental feat which unhappily involves confederacy; Sid Fleischman's Trick Without a Name, an easy but baffling item, in which a marked page is torn from The Reader's Digest, burned, and then caused to reappear fully restored in its proper place in the magazine.
Also, The Morris Plan, by Chester Morris, which makes clever use of a folding coin, in connection with a handkerchief and ring; a startling, but not difficult, Telephone Book Test, by Jack Trepel; A Ring in Transit, by Eddie Clever, a new version of The Ring from Hand to Hand; John J. Crimmins' fantasy for children, entitled Humpty Dumpty Gets Around, a good routine with good patter, which employs familiar bits of apparatus; Greer Marechal's Linking Rings, a good series of moves with only four rings; The Ring from a Rope, an excellent feat by Tom Osborne; Moonlight Madness, Mr. Thompson's own telepathic act (10 pages), reprinted with a few minor changes from Annemann's Practical Mental Effects; Annemann's excellent Telephone Drama and his Test of the Tiber; The Arrowsmith Glass Penetration, with apparatus which is unusually innocent-looking for this type of trick; Hat 'n' Bunny, Dr. Raymond Beebe's production of a live rabbit from an open opera hat which has been picked up, closed, from a table; Franklin M. Chapman's Fountain of Silks, a bare-hand production of 45 colored silk handkerchiefs and a 6-foot silk: square.
Also, The Silver Shower, by Verne Chesbro, a coin-catching act with a metal pail, utilizing a prepared coin which can readily be discarded by anyone who can back-palm a coin with ease:
Henry Fetsch's "My Best" Flash Opening, in which the performer removes a large bouquet from a paper cone, apparently fills the cone with milk from a clear glass pitcher, and immediately produces a dove from the cone-described without an explanation (for the benefit of readers who might not know!) of how to cause the milk to vanish; My Favorite Trunk Routine (the first of the two stage illusions given in My Best), by Dariel Fitzkee, performed with substitution and tip-over trunks, a feat which requires three people and a corps of drummers for sound effects, and should prove both startling and diverting; Karson's Illusion, a la Diebox, a second stage illusion; the Lamarque Rabbit Vanish, one of the fine feats culled from Hugard's Magic Monthly; the no-assistant Watch and Nest of Boxes, by making it permanently accessible to magicians of the immediate or more distant future. But complete files of The Jinx, The Phoenix, and Hugard's Magic Monthly appear certain not only to be available indefinitely, but to be obtainable in clothbound, indexed form. The owner of complete files of these three journals will find in My Best much duplication of explanations already in his possession, and may well wonder why so large a portion of so expensive a book should be filled with what is to him of no particular value. In a specialized work (for example, in a book of mental effects, handkerchief tricks, or slate-writing feats), the advantage of a compilation is obvious, for the convenience of having in a single volume the best tricks in one's field of specialization may amply warrant the purchase of a volume even though it reprints some items that are already in one's library. But in the case of a general work, the answer is not so clear. For it is not, so far as we can see, appreciably easier to find a given trick in (say) My Best than in the bound files of The Jinx, The Phoenix, or Hugard's Magic Monthly, in which it was originally published. We have no desire to be dogmatic on this point, and are content to leave the issue to the buying public; but we hazard a guess that future sales of compilations of general magic will eventually be in inverse ratio to the quantity of reprinted material, already available in convenient form, that they contain.
As an example of book-making, My Best leaves something to be desired. The type is clear, but the use of a larger size of type would have greatly improved the appearance of the pages. The illustrations are, on the whole, satisfactory; but in some instances they are unduly small, or are placed too far from the text to which they relate, or again do not depict accurately the point under discussion - say, the exact position of the hands or fingers. The paper that has been used is not first-class. My Best is bound in durable cloth in a bright, cheery red, and is gold-stamped on front cover and spine. We do not envy Mr. Thompson the heavy burden he has carried in handling contributions from so many sources. We do congratulate him upon the successful completion of a difficult job of editing. He has taken what must have been a heterogeneous mass of manuscript, given it a degree of unity, and made of it a book that is clearly and smoothly written.