"Nearly every modern conjurer of any pretensions of skill commences with a card trick," wrote Edwin T. Sachs some seventy years ago, in his Sleight-of-Hand, one of the great classics of magical literature. "There is something about a good card trick well executed that always takes with an intelligent audience," he continued. "When a performer does not commence with cards, it is generally because he does not possess skill enough to do anything effective with them, although he will generally make a virtue of necessity (at which conjurers are particularly apt), and give some totally different reason." This emphasis upon the skill needed in performing card tricks was far more warranted in Sachs' time than it is in 1948, though it is only fair to say that practically all the card sleights he explained are still used, in one form or another, by the most expert card magicians of the present day. It is equally true, however, that many new and easy methods have been devised which enable one to perform a considerable number of excellent card tricks with surprisingly little practice.
In support of this statement, we cite Chapter I of the present work, in which the learner is taught to false-shuffle a pack of cards. This exceedingly simple sleight can be mastered readily by anyone who is able to do a genuine overhand shuffle. Yet the false shuffle, as here employed, is a most worthy substitute for the pass, a difficult sleight which was once considered the most basic of card principles, but which, in the present treatise, does not make its appearance until the student is halfway through the book and has been taught dozens of extremely effective tricks. The pedagogical method adopted by the authors - that of first explaining the "mechanics" of a sleight, and then showing its practical application in several striking feats - is an admirable one in teaching conjuring. Not only is the student led, step by step, from the easy to the more difficult and from the simple to the more complicated sleight, but throughout the procedure he gets encouragement and enjoyment in the actual performance, from the very outset, of really first-rate magic. Indeed, the amateur who masters no more than the first chapter of The Royal Road to Card Magic will have at his command a half-dozen very good card tricks!
We may safely assume that our amateur, delighted at having made such rapid progress, will proceed with speed and enthusiasm to the study of the riffle-shuffle, glide, glimpse, palm, backslip, double-lift, pass, reverses, force, and top- and bottom-changes building, as he moves from wonder to wonder, an effective program from the feats which the authors explain in connection with each of these sleights. Nor (if he is wise) will he overlook the two chapters which explain the mysteries that are made possible through the use, respectively, of the "key card" and the prearrangement of a portion of the pack.
If our count is correct, the reader of this book is taught sixty-seven tricks, plus a score or more of card flourishes, by the time he has completed his course in card "principles," which are explained in eighteen chapters. Of the two remaining chapters, one discusses the important question of how to "routine" a program, and outlines five complete "acts" for occasions of various types. The other, and in some respects the most important chapter in the book, presents in detail, with all necessary instructions and essential patter, nine really great card classics, which, in the hands of such famous magicians as Conus, Comte, Robert-Houdin, Alexander Herrmann, and David Devant, have made conjuring history. One of these - a 9-page lesson of The Cards Up the Sleeve - is the best explanation we have yet seen of this unbeatable feat of card magic. We strongly suspect that it is Mr. Braue's own presentation of this great trick.
The previous collaborations of Jean Hugard and Frederick Braue - Expert Card Technique, the four-volume Miracle Methods Series, and The Invisible Pass - are a sufficient guarantee that any book produced by these authors will be well worth owning. Though The Royal Road to Card Magic is primarily a book for beginners, with whom it should be immensely popular, it will also bring pleasure and profit to advanced students of card magic, for these experienced writers have imparted many touches of originality to the sleights and tricks they have brought together in this volume. If the well-informed reader finds here relatively little that is strikingly new, he may be sure of finding much that is strikingly presented, and all eminently practicable. The Royal Road to Card Magic is a genuinely worthwhile book.
The publisher, too, has done a good job. The book runs 310 (xviii +292) pages, is well printed on good paper, illustrated with 121 first-class drawings by Frank Rigney, and bound in dark blue cloth with gold-stamping on the spine. It will doubtless be, as it deserves to be, a standard work on the subject for years to come.