Making Magic by Martin Lewis
Review by Michael Close
When Martin Lewis was twenty-one years old, his father, Eric Lewis, took him to the Magic Castle, where he saw Albert Goshman perform. Until this visit, Martin showed no interest whatsoever in conjuring, even though Eric was a highly respected author and creator of original effects. Watching Albert changed that, igniting in Martin a passion for the study of magic. Living in Southern California at that time provided Martin access to the best of the best. As Mike Caveney writes in the Foreword to Making Magic:
“Most evenings were spent at the Castle, hobnobbing with the likes of Larry Jennings, Bruce Cervon, and The Professor, Dai Vernon. For the first few years, he focused his attention strictly on close-up card magic, but that all changed when he moved with his father to San Francisco and he wandered into The Magic Cellar. This was the nightclub that resulted from the surprising discovery of Carter the Great’s entire show. Martin was hired as the house magician, giving close-up shows to largely lay audiences. When a small stage was constructed, he was asked to step into the spotlight and perform stand-up magic. It was trial by fire and Martin rose to the occasion.”
From The Magic Cellar, Martin moved into the cruise ship market; he also developed and marketed a number of stand-up and close-up routines that have become modern classics, including Cardiographic, Sidewalk Shuffle, and Technicolor Prediction (a routine I used for many years in my stand-up show at Illusions).
In 1985, Mike Caveney published Martin’s Miracles, written by Eric Lewis, which contained commercial routines from Martin’s professional repertoire. In Martin’s personal copy of the book, Eric wrote, “So this is alpha – let it not be omega.” Over the ensuing years, Martin released a wide variety of products – props, manuscripts, and videos – through the continuation of his father’s company, Magikraft. It took thirty-seven years before another big book of Martin’s magic appeared, but it was worth the wait. Making Magic is a treasure chest of practical, commercial, and baffling routines for both stage and close-up. Every bit of vital information is explained, including artwork and construction diagrams, handling details, and Martin’s witty presentations. It is one of the finest resources for this type of material I’ve ever seen, and is a bargain at the price.
I could probably just stop here; at this point you pretty much know everything you need to know to make an intelligent purchasing decision, but I’ll fill in a few more details.
As I mentioned above, over the years, Martin has released a variety of products. Many of the routines previously released are included in Making Magic, but, because Martin never stops thinking about his creations, all the material has been rewritten and updated.
The important word in the book title is “making.” Martin is a craftsman and is comfortable building props. Many of the effects require some type of DIY ability. However, as Martin states, “For most of those [effects] all you need are a steel rule, a craft knife, and some care.” However, if you are not handy with tools (I am not), you might need to know someone who is (I do), or contact a professional handyman to help you. To this end, you are provided with a disc containing PDF files with all the construction information and artwork you will need.
Sixty effects are explained in Making Magic; thirty-seven are stand-up routines. If you’ve ever tried to put together a stand-up show, you quickly realize there is a dearth of great stand-up material. This is why so many performers use the same routines. In Martin’s book you’ll find fresh approaches to some classic plots (for example, Playing with Your Food, Martin’s take on the Mental Epic effect). Yes, you’ll have to spend a little time (and/or money) to construct the props, but if you do so, you’ll have some great routines not many others are performing.
But wait, there’s more. Many of the props, gimmicks, and gizmos Martin describes can be adapted to other routines, and Martin offers suggestions on how to do so. Plus, you’ll find tips, hints, and suggestions that will make your life easier when constructing these props and performing with them. This type of information only comes from spending years performing and thinking about a routine and is invaluable.
By the way, Martin is left-handed, and the instructions are written for a left-handed performer. Right-handed performers will have to make the mental substitution of left for right, but (to quote Ryan George in his hilarious Pitch Meeting videos) this is super easy, barely an inconvenience.
Finally, there are some great stories. Martin was fortunate to have been on the West Coast during the golden years of the Magic Castle; his reminiscences of those times are scattered throughout the book. In particular, the stories of Vernon and the pool table, Lou Derman and the greatest card trick ever performed, and Harry Anderson and the animal trap are personal favorites.
So here’s the bottom line: if you do stand-up magic (whether or not you’re a do-it-yourselfer) you need this book. If you’re looking for close-up magic that won’t bust your chops, you need this book. Or if you’re just interested in seeing how one of magic’s premier creators designs his miracles, you need this book. For what you get, the price is ridiculously low. Making Magic is one of the best magic books I’ve ever read. Buy it; you won’t regret it.
It has my highest recommendation.