Product Reviews

Closely Guarded Secrets Ebook by Michael Close

Closely Guarded Secrets Ebook by Michael Close 0

Review by Dustin Stinett (from Genii

During my “magic lifetime” (a tad over thirty-five years) magic publishing has experienced two major paradigm shifts. When I started buying magic books in earnest (a nice way of saying “out of control”), most new publications were usually paperback. Generally octavo in size, perfect-bound, stapled, or comb-bound affairs, many with questionable production values – but they were quite affordable ($5-$15). There was the occasional hardbound book (at premium prices, about $15-$25), and many of the older books (those not yet reprinted by Dover) were hardbound as well. But the majority of the new stuff was inexpensively produced (keep in mind that there were, of course, many exceptions).

Sometime in the late 1970s somebody got the wild notion that magic books could be better – a lot better: quarto in size, quality boards, and acid-free paper with prices that matched this premium level of quality. Pretty soon everyone was in the big-book, big-price ($35-$45) business. Hardbound books in the $25 to $30 range were bargains! Paperbacks at $20 were steals since that’s how much lecture notes were beginning to cost.

Now books in this price range are cheap. We had become accustomed to paying $40 to $50 for a good book when the next change occurred: bigger, better, “deluxe.” Somebody else decided that we would be prepared to pay $100 (give or take $20) for a quality book – sometimes more. “Trade” editions routinely sell for $50 to $100; their deluxe, slip-cased, and signed/numbered counterparts – the “must have” editions – sell for at least twice the price. Some of these books are mammoth in size; many hundreds of quarto-size pages with color plates and work-of-art dust jackets worthy of framing. And the publishers were correct: we shelled out the cash – willingly, sometimes wantonly.

There are, of course, reasons for this major price escalation, but one in particular stands out. For centuries, the only way magical information could be disseminated...

  • Michael Close

The Aretalogy of Vanni Bossi Book - By Stephen Minch 0

Vanni Bossi BookAs I left my forties behind and entered into late middle age, I became aware of a sad, odd occurrence. Some of my friends were turning into books. They had left flesh and blood, heart and bone behind, transforming into a form that allowed one-way (but sometimes surprisingly comforting) communication. I would regulary head to my library, not so much to seek information, but to visit again with Stewart James, Billy McComb, Howard Lyons, Arturo Ascanio, Barrie Richardson, T.A. Waters, Tommy Wonder, and Dai Vernon. And now, eight years after his death, another friend arrives from the printer in a beautiful and most fitting presentation.

The Aretalogy of Vanni Bossi features a portion of the creative output of a true polymath – a collector, historian, craftsman, performer, and creator. Concerning Vanni’s collection, Roberto Giobbi writes in the Foreword, “He possessed practically every important book of magic, from the beginning of printing to modern times, in many languages, but above all in Italian. He also knew what was in them, how to place their contents in the evolution of magical ideas, and who invented what. He was one of the most educated and well-informed people in magic that I’ve ever met.”

  • Michael Close

Extreme Dean By Dean Dill - Volumes 1 & 2 0

Dean DillDean Dill intrigues me. He is one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met. He is trusting to the point that “punking” him is no fun at all; I feel way too guilty to ever play magical practical jokes on him anymore. On the other hand, this gentle person would like to fool you to such an extent that your brain explodes. His two most successful marketed effects, Blizzard and Dean’s Box, will bother anyone for a long, long time.

Dean loves coin magic. The new DVDs Extreme Dean Volumes 1 & 2 contain some old favorites and some new creations. The production values of the DVDs are very high. Dean performs seated at a beautiful table. There is no audience. Two different explanations are offered: one shows the same viewpoint as the performances, the other gives an overhead shot of the action. The performances are well done, and the explanations are very clear. Dean performs while seated, but many of these effects can also be done standing. However, for most of them you will need a soft surface to perform on.
  • Michael Close

Destination Zero Book By John Bannon 0

John Bannon Destination Zero(Source: M-U-M Magazine July/Aug 2015)
Traditionally, self-working card tricks fall into the purview of two groups: beginning magicians and those who sell books and DVDs to beginning magicians. Magic neophytes want to show tricks to their families and friends. Prop magic (like the simple effects found in beginner magic kits) provide a way to perform without the need for technical ability. Books of self-working card tricks provide a lot of bang for the buck: a deck of cards is a relatively inexpensive prop; a book provides dozens of effects at a reasonable cost. And so begin endless demonstrations of cards being dealt into three piles and burglar-Jacks robbing apartment buildings.

Many famous magicians have released books of self-working card tricks. John Scarne had a good one, published sixty-five years ago. In his introduction he wrote: “Five years ago, I decided that the card-trick enthusiasts deserved a better grade of card tricks than they had been accustomed to performing. On the whole, the tricks performed by the non-sleight-of-hand card enthusiasts at that time were so simple that the secret was easily discovered by the person or persons they were intended to mystify.” To rectify that situation, Scarne brainstormed with some of the best minds of that era (Dai Vernon, Francis Carlyle, Martin Gardner, Bill Simon, Al Baker, Bob Hummer, Cliff Green, Clayton Rawson, Jacob Daly, Stewart James, et al.) and created a great collection of self-working card tricks, Scarne on Card Tricks. (As a side note, I’ll mention that I still have my copy, purchased when I was a kid. One trick in the collection, The Stapled Card by Joseph Prieto, has been my great white whale for fifty years. I keep trying to fix it, but...

  • Michael Close

Max Maven’s VideoMind 0

Review by Michael Close

Max Maven Video Mind SetMax Maven needs no introduction to the readers of this magazine, nor to anyone who has been in magic for any length of time. He is a prolific creator, a commanding performer, and an eloquent spokesman on the art of magic. L&L Publishing has released three videos in which Max performs and explains mentalism effects suitable for close-up, parlor, and stage conditions. The material is first rate, Max’s performances are thoroughly enjoyable, and the production values are among the best I’ve seen.

The first video of the series offers mental effects suitable for parlor conditions. Six items are explained including: “The Mockingbird,” a remarkable card location from the “Birds of Prey” series; “Autome,” an absolutely terrific book test; “Zenvelopes,” in which a spectator manages to pair up ESP symbols contained in opaque envelopes (this really fooled me when I saw Max perform it on Swedish television); and “Kurotsuke,” a previously unreleased routine in which the mentalist does some dowsing using five spectators and some marbles. The best thing about this routine is that it can be done completely impromptu.

Video two contains Close-up mentalism, and seven routines are explained. Among my favorites are: “Shape Up,” in which the spectator chooses an ESP card in a very fair manner and yet manages to pick one which matches a previously isolated prediction; “Isolation,” a word divination to which Max has...
  • Michael Close