A complete text on methods, mechanical devices, moves, techniques, figures, artifices, routines, etc., for performing one of the great classics in the repertoire of magic. It includes modern improvements, suggestions and ideas, together with routines eliminating the use of the key.
Once Dariel Fitzkee has determined to track down a magic trick or a principle of conjuring, there is virtually no stopping him until he has exhausted his subject; and the poor quarry has little chance of escaping its pursuer and the searching inquiry which will pierce its innermost secrets and bare them to the many magicians who seem to await eagerly every book that flows from Mr. Fitzkee's facile pen. This time the subject of investigation is the old but ever new Linking Rings - or Chinese Rings, as the trick was called by Robert-Houdin, Professor Hoffmann, Edwin T. Sachs, and other nineteenth century writers on magic.
If we wished to add to our program a feat about which much had been written, and expected the trick in question to become one of our feature numbers, we should expect to look up all important sources of information, examine carefully the material thus made available, sift the wheat from the chaff, and base our own performance of the trick on the best ideas of the "best minds" that had labored long over the feat - adding, we should hope, one or more points of originality, if only in such matters as the arrangement of the "moves," the patter to be used, or the general tone of the presentation. This, indeed, is essentially what Mr. Fitzkee has done for The Linking Rings, though he has produced a written record of his discoveries that is far more elaborate than a performer would be likely to make for his own use, and has very largely left to the individual readers of this extensive record the task of selecting, each for himself, the items which seem most suitable for his purpose. Robert-Houdin, Professor Hoffmann, Edwin T. Sachs, Jean Hugard, Al Baker, Will Blythe, John Northern Hilliard, C. Lang Neil, Harlan Tarbell, Ellis Stanyon, Herman L. Weber, Victor Farelli, L.L. Ireland, and Jack Miller are among the many authorities consulted by Mr. Fitzkee in his research into the mysteries of this ancient conjuring trick.
In the opening chapter, the author discusses the general effect of the trick, essential factors of presentation, fundamental methods (or principles) of operation, the various types of ring "sets" and "key" rings, and the order in which the rings are held by the performer at the outset of the feat. This is followed by five chapters dealing with such elements of technique as counting the rings in ways that will convince the spectators that they are all separate, though some are actually linked together; "switching" ordinary rings for prepared ones, or vice versa; pretending to link rings which are already together and to unlink others that are actually apart; using the key ring to greatest advantage under various conditions; and secreting the key ring and later getting possession of it.
Chapter 7 describes some forty "figures" of the kind that are included by certain performers in their presentations of the trick, but are frowned upon by Mr. Fitzkee (and by the present reviewer). Chapter 8 is a two-page exposition of effective ways to bring the trick to a successful conclusion. Chapter 9 consists of outlines of a score of routines that have either been originated or explained in print by Chung Ling Soo, Ellis Stanyon, Professor Hoffmann, Edwin T. Sachs, Charles Waller, Eugene Laurant, John Northern Hilliard, Jean Hugard, Mr. Fitzkee himself, and several others; and Chapter 10 explains four keyless routines by Wright and Larsen, Herman L. Weber, and the author. The 120-page book closes with speculations on possible changes in the size, shape, materials, and surface finish of The Linking Rings of the future, with some observations on the advantages or disadvantages which might result from such changes.
Physically, this book follows the general format of Fitzkee's trilogy, Showmanship for Magicians, The Trick Brain, and Magic by Misdirection. It is printed on good paper of ample weight, and is attractively bound in green fabrikoid with the title stamped in gold on the front cover, but not on the spine where it would have been vastly more useful. We regret this backsliding from the standard set by the author's trilogy, and also the use of smaller type than appears in that series. But we are especially sorry to have him fall into the all too common practice of placing his drawings in groups, instead of spreading them throughout the text in close contact with the explanations they illustrate. These 121 drawings are exceptionally good (though, in a few instances, a trifle small), but they have been put into sixteen "charts," each of which occupies a full page. The inevitable consequence is confusion and inconvenience. Surely the reader should be able, as he goes through the text with rings in hand, to glance from the type to the clarifying illustration without turning pages; but (to give a single instance) in order to find the figures cited on pages 55, 56, 57, 60, and 63, he will have to turn to page 58, where all of these illustrations are combined in Chart 8. This sort of thing strikes us as most unfair to the reader. We know something of the difficulties of placing a figure always on the page on which it is cited (or on the opposite page, which is quite as good), but we also know that in most cases it can be done. We emphasize this point, not because Mr. Fitzkee is unusually culpable in this respect, but rather because he is not. We have seemed to note a growing tendency in current magical literature to ignore the reader's rights in this matter, and we suggest that it is time for magicians themselves (if they are as greatly inconvenienced as we feel they must be) to insist upon better treatment in this regard.
This may well prove to be the book to end books on The Linking Rings. It is certainly the most complete treatise that has yet been written on the subject, and it seems unlikely that future developments will be of sufficient importance to justify the appearance of another such work on linking-ring technique for many years to come. This does not mean that the publication of Rings In Your Fingers has rendered useless the detailed explanations upon which the author of this book has drawn so heavily. We feel, rather, that our future genuinely serious students of The Linking Rings will naturally turn first to Mr. Fitzkee's comprehensive work, get from it a picture of what has been and can be done with the trick, and then (at least in many instances) turn to the original accounts of certain routines that appeal strongly to them. However well these routines may have been summarized in Rings In Your Fingers, they will almost certainly take on added meaning when followed, move by move, in what are in some cases the originators' own explanations, with bits of misdirection and stage "business" which are necessarily omitted from Mr. Fitzkee's outline description of routines in Chapter 9.
And so, with no thought of questioning the excellence of this remarkably thorough monograph on the technique of The Linking Rings, we may express the hope that the reader will supplement it with other expositions by specific performers and authors. If, for example, he should decide to adopt Eugene Laurant's fine professional routine, it would seem a shame for him to depend wholly upon the one-page outline that is given in Rings In Your Fingers, and miss the eighteen-page explanation, with Mr. Laurant's own patter, that appears in Volume IV of The Tarbell Course in Magic. But it would be no less distressing for any magical enthusiast, once he has resolved to master The Linking Rings, to fail to get the pleasure and profit that he could enjoy by making a careful study of Mr. Fitzkee's valuable work.