Anyone reading this review will find it odd what I'm about to say: I'm an atheist who loves to read the Holy Bible. For many people, it's a contradiction they can't seem to wrap their heads around, but to me, there's nothing counterintuitive about it.
The Holy Bible is considered the greatest story ever told for a good reason. It's as relevant now as it was in the times of Martin Luther. As you open its pages, you step into a beautiful piece of literature written over thousands of years by dozens of authors. Every page is filled with fantastic stories and complex characters and is steeped in poetry that can fill a person's heart with joy and enduring truths.
As a magician, I found the gospel magic concept fascinating. I think it's a fresh approach to bringing these timeless stories and ancient wisdom to life. But "Magical Gospel Lessons" by Rev. Lawrence Burden was a huge disappointment.
It's not that I was expecting simple magic tricks geared towards evangelizing children to be at the same artistic level as the apostle Paul's writings in Romans and 1 & 2 Corinthians. My problem with the pamphlet was this: All but one of the nineteen tricks presented called for expensive store-bought props.
One thing especially irritated me—the Rev. Burden's insistence on pushing the Abbots Magic Company on his readers. Eight of the tricks called for equipment sold explicitly by that outfit. Here's a list:
After a while, I began thinking that the Reverend owned Abbot's Magic Company stock or was getting a kickback of the profits.
Maybe someone should have reminded him before he wrote this book of Proverbs 22:16: "Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty."
Sorry, Reverend Burden, but in the Gospels, Jesus met people's spiritual and physical needs through his use of parables, not thumb tips, and magical chafing dishes.
While the messages in this book pushing home the glories of God are commendable, the prohibitive price outlay for the recommended equipment is unnecessary and ridiculous. Spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ shouldn't cost you an arm and a leg.
If you're a minister or Sunday school teacher looking to add gospel magic to your sermons, save the $4.00 price of this E-book and put it in the collection basket. Check out some free online resources instead.
After reading a positive review by Jamy Ian Swiss about the book "Much Ado About Something" by Karrell Fox, I purchased a copy of "Comedy Ala Card" by the same author.
I decided that $6.95 was a small price to pay for some card tricks that could maybe give me a good laugh.
According to Swiss, Fox is a master of comedy magic. But comedy is subjective, and Jamy Ian Swiss and I seem to have a glaring difference in opinion about what we find funny. "Comedy Ala Card" left me stone-faced as silent movie comedian Buster Keaton.
Puns and prop comedy in the right hands, like Tommy Cooper's, can slay an audience. But Karrell Fox's reliance on stale bits using oversized playing cards and wind-up chattering teeth purchased in the toy aisle of the $1.00 store is on life support, struggling to stay alive.
To be fair to Mr. Fox, he wrote this slim 32-page treatise in 1960 when Milton Berle was considered the zenith of comedy. But times have changed, and this book's gags haven't aged well.
But that doesn't mean that "Comedy Ala Card" completely wasted an hour of my life. It was refreshing that someone devoted time and energy to developing a card trick's comedy potential, not just writing another magic book filled with boring sleights that most magicians will only discuss at conventions but never use.
Fox has a discerning eye for visual humor, using simple and practical methods. And his writing is as easy to understand as directions for microwaving a frozen pizza. Some of his best ideas are written in brief, easy-to-digest snippets, no longer than a few sentences.
It's a truism that if you get one useable trick from a book, you get your money's worth. And I got at least three ideas from "Comedy Ala Card" that I can adapt and put into practice.
One gag, in particular, caught my eye. It was a card reveal using a large beach towel with a giant playing card printed on it wrapped around your head like a turban. After forcing a card, you unwrap the towel from your head at the finale of the trick, revealing the card's identity. My version involved gluing a playing card to the crotch of my underwear and dropping my pants to show the spectator's selection.
Now, that's funny!
I feel almost embarrassed about writing a review for Inner Secrets Of Card Magic. What could a ham-and-egger like myself possibly have to say about professor Dai Vernon that better men than me haven't already said? Is it even necessary to write another gushing puff piece extolling the genius of a man who many consider the Pablo Picasso of card magic?
The answer is yes, and I'll tell you why.
I never knew the man or currently know anyone who did know him. Nor have I ever studied under his former protegees like Ricky Jay or Richard Turner.
I've only read about him over the years, and his name pops up like a bad case of herpes in so many magic books that I started to loathe him. I've consciously gone out of my way to avoid anything related to him.
And this complete lack of hero-worshipping makes me the perfect candidate to look at Vernon's work with a fresh eye and give an unbiased review.
I've learned that if you try to take your skills with a pack of cards to the next level, steering clear of Dai Vernon is impossible. So, I decided it was finally time to wave the white flag of surrender and put my willful ignorance and prejudice aside. And brother, let me tell you, am I ever glad I did.
At first, I was a bit hesitant. Vernon's oeuvre has been so mythologized over the years that I was expecting a perplexing dissertation on quantum physics. No person wants to feel that they're too stupid to comprehend a card trick. But as I worked through the chapters, cards in hand, I realized that the only thing I had to fear was fear itself.
This ease of understanding is partly due to co-writer Lewis Ganson. I've read other works by Ganson, and all share a common trait: clear, unambiguous descriptions that leave the reader with a complete grasp of the text.
That's not to say that I didn't find many of the sleights difficult. I found myself regularly dropping cards all over the floor. Some of the moves might even take months to master. But you can safely dismiss any fears that the material in Inner Secrets Of Card Magic is too complex. In Chapter Two: A Little Thought Required, a few tricks require zero sleight-of-hand, relying instead on subtle moves and misdirection.
Even if you were to read this book and not practice one move in it, Vernon's sly sense of humor and breadth of historical knowledge turn what could have been a tedious exercise into something fun and enjoyable.
I've now read the book three days in a row. It's so full of exciting, inventive ideas and subtle touches that I experiment with the information at hand like a mad scientist until my hands begin to ache.
I feel like a guitar player discovering Jimi Hendrix for the first time.
Do I have anything negative to say about this book? No, I don't. But let me make a recommendation that may ruffle some feathers.
After reading Inner Secrets Of Card Magic cover to cover, I believe that only those with a high reading comprehension level will have an easy time grasping this work. While simple to understand, the text has complex sentence structures and is peppered with words like "commence" and "endeavor," which may be over a casual reader's head.
If a college freshman's reading level is too difficult for you, I suggest you purchase a DVD or download one of the many videos featuring Vernon's work. Otherwise, you'll be in for a frustrating time.
If forced to list any faults, it's this: the photos illustrating some sleights can be grainy. But a lack of hi-def photography is a minor, practically nonexistent point to quibble over.
This ebook is more than a bargain at the going price of $9.90. It's the year 2022, and inflation is at a record high. The other day ago, I spent almost eleven dollars on a loaf of bread and two dozen eggs. In the future, if I have to choose between spending my money on food or Dai Vernon, then I choose Vernon.
If you love card magic and take it seriously, buy this book. Now!
What makes a book on card magic underrated? Some will argue that most works are woefully under-read by much of the magic community, choosing instead to watch DVDs and YouTube videos to further their knowledge base. But even within the tiny bubble of hardcore card magic fanatics who read over every available card magic book word for word, some great books fall between the cracks or are ignored. Others are unfortunately not as admired as much as they should be or once were. They are either ranked below their value or not ranked highly enough.
With that said, let me tell you about Cy Endfield's Entertaining Card Magic. Seeing that I'm not a copywriter trying to sell you soda pop or toothpaste, I won't insult your intelligence with over-the-top hyperbole: BEST EVER! GREATEST! OUT OF THIS WORLD!
But I will say this: Cy Endfield's Entertaining Card Magic is a superb book and deserves to be read by a wider audience.
I consider myself to be a professional hobbyist when it comes to card magic. I'm no master of the pasteboards but know enough sleight of hand to spice up any self-working trick. In my heart, though, I've always aspired to be a proficient finger-flinger. My bookshelves are lined with must-have classics like Expert At The Card Table and Greater Magic. I'll be honest with you: those books scare me. To quote movie icon Clint Eastwood in Magnum Force: "A man's got to know his limitations."
But Endfield's book was altogether something else. I never felt like I had just read a complicated textbook or technical manual. Instead, I felt like I had taken a private, one-on-one lesson from one of the forgotten greats of card magic, personally learning the best of his repertoire.
Initially published in 1955 in three separate parts, It's not the typical book of advanced card magic packed with complicated tricks and sleights that only other magicians can appreciate. Studying advanced sleight-of-hand from a book is a formidable task and can be about as dull as reading Marx's The Communist Manifesto, not to mention utterly confusing. But, writer Lewis Ganson uses his incomparable talent to simplify descriptions, step by step, to their utmost essentials.
From refreshing twists on classic tricks like the Ambitious Card to gambling effects like the three-card monte, Cy Endfield has created these routines to not only bewilder and amaze fellow performers but also to provide high-caliber entertainment to the lay public.
And he leaves nothing out, not only teaching you the routines and sleights but the psychology and motivation behind the moves.
Endfield was also a screenwriter and director of such classic action films as Zulu and its sequel, Zulu Dawn. So, it is no surprise that some of his effects highly emphasize storytelling and delivery. Tricks like Two To Divine, "Blackie Is With Us!" and Conjure Bones have plots that seem to have jumped from the pages of depression-era pulp magazines like Weird Tales or Adventure.
But don't just take my word for it. Endfield's legacy is hailed by none other than his former student and conjuring virtuoso, Michael Vincent. It's easy to assume that Vincent praises his former teacher's work out of a sense of loyalty or rose-colored nostalgia, but that would be a mistake. He praises the book because it's good.
Cy Endfields Entertaining Card Magic is a minor classic, but a classic nonetheless worthy of your attention (and your $19.00). Its title says it all. It's a guidebook for learning advanced magic that charms, delights, and entertains its audience. It should be read by every magician looking to add unique, tested material to their collection of tricks. From happy hobbyist to major-league move monkey, there's something in this book for everyone at every skill level.