The Little Egypt Gazette presents:
The Greater Artful Dodges of Eddie Fields, by Jon Racherbaumer. Illustrated by Earl Oakes. Published by Kaufman and Company. 156 pp. $35 postage free in U.S. From Kaufman and Company, 4200 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Suite 106-292, Washington, DC 20016. Phone or fax (202) 237-0497.
THE ORIGINAL ARTFUL DODGES
The Artful Dodges of Eddie Fields, which first appeared in 1968, is one of the great titles and one of the great books in magic, the title courtesy of Jay Marshall and the text and design courtesy of a young, untried and unconventional New Orleans writer named Jon Racherbaumer. Although Jon has gone on to many other books and magazines and journal contributions, he earned his star in magic with this first effort, much as a young Phil Willmarth did a few years earlier with his Matt Schulien book.
Artful Dodges was anything but traditional. It's more of a published notebook of tricks and
thoughts, "cobbled and scribbled into existence," as Racherbaumer says, on a Smith-Corona
portable typewriter. That typewriter look persists in the published work. Titles and emphasized
words that would have looked better in italics appear either in all caps or underlined. And there
are a lot of underlined passages. (Jon Racherbaumer was steeped, then and now, in the writings
of Ed Marlo. As Marlo's Revolutionary Card Technique series of that era bore the same look, I
doubt that Jon saw anything unusual in the appearance of the book.) But there was far
more that differentiated Artful Dodges from the competition than mere typesetting. The
notebook feel extended to the material itself. There were no chapters and seemingly no real
organization to the tricks. Looking something up in Artful Dodges, which I have done frequently
over the past three decades, takes a bit of hunting. Famous quotations that illustrate some of
Eddie Fields' philosophies (or Racherbaumer's?) were dropped in willy-nilly. (One, by W.
Somerset Maugham, appears on page 29 and then again on page 79. And why not? It bears repeating.)
They added a certain charm to the book as well as wisdom, and my own views on life and magic
have been occasionally enhanced by consideration of these aphorisms.
These stylistic considerations aside, what truly made Artful Dodges unique was Eddie Fields and his material. Artful Dodges was a personality book, in that it introduced an individual and his thinking to a much larger magical public. Actually, not that much larger on first printing. The initial print run was 500 copies, and they were numbered in green ink. I am the proud owner of copy 194, which I purchased in Pasadena from Lin Searles. Lin urged me to buy it because he was very keen on "Way Ahead Card to Card Case," the first trick in the book. This trick is an appropriate one to bring up, because the trick is really a bold con. Fields' methods throughout the book rely more on sneakiness than sleights, which not only imparts a great degree of secret satisfaction, but which also makes the routines accessible to most magicians. Over the years they have become familiar to many. Titles such as "Jack the Bartender's Deal" and "Quintile" and "Silent Transmission Telephone Mystery" are not just trick titles; they are old friends.
ARTFUL DODGES REDUX
Interest in Eddie Fields blossomed in the nineties, with the publication of Stephen Minch's Fields bio, A Life Among Secrets, and the video visit with Eddie, Reminiscing with the Artful Dodger . . . A Day with Eddie Fields. Eddie Fields is currently an established superstar in magic, standing alone as magic's only combination pool expert, card hustler, pitchman, astrologer, magician, and mentalist. The announcement of a new version of Artful Dodges, "annotated, emended, and expanded" by Jon Racherbaumer and published by Richard Kaufman, was surely exciting news for all Fields fans, new and old. [OK, I must confess I had to look up emended. It means, appropriately: "to make scholarly corrections in."]
The book is here at last, reborn as The Greater Artful Dodges of Eddie Fields, and it's a treat. Jon
opens with a new introduction in which he recalls his first meeting with Eddie, watching Eddie's
and George Martz's code act at a dime store. Jon watched for three days, at which point Eddie
finally approached him and said, "You must be a magician. Wanna' join me for lunch?" Upon
reading this episode I was filled with envy that Jon got to watch this legendary code act in action
as well as to get to meet Eddie over lunch. [In fact, I have dined with Eddie, at a lovely Chinese
restaurant in Chicago a few years ago. I was among a group of magicians attending a Tony
Andruzzi Invocational (see elsewhere this issue), and I found Eddie to be as charming in person as he is purported to be in
his books and as he comes across on his video.] Alas, I've never seen Eddie do the code act.
One of the enhancements in the new book is the addition of chapters, so let's take a chapter by chapter look at a few of the highlights.
Box Bound -- The first chapter introduces the previously mentioned "Way-Ahead Card to Cardcase." Frankly I never liked this basic card trick -- it's a bit too bold for me -- but there are Marlo variants that are worth considering. Especially interesting is ""Marlo's Second Variation," which introduces a bold ringing in of a card case that could find use in other effects.
The prize in this chapter, indeed the prize of the new material in this book, is "Bux Stop," a Racherbaumer-Hideo Kato item that is oh-so-easy and produces an astonishing effect. You have a spectator cut a shuffled deck and place the cut cards on the table. She then places the remaining cards behind her back. She looks at the top card (the one she cut to) and replaces it, but into the center of the cards, which she still holds behind her back. She places the cards into the case, again still behind her back, and only then hands you the cards. With the half deck still sealed, you name her card. Not only that, you cause her card to reverse itself inside the case.
Nail Nicks -- The title tips the methods here. This chapter contains two of Eddie Fields' classics, "Invisible Pen Mystery" and "Tripartite." In the latter, a shuffled deck is cut into three piles. Spectator indicates a pile. There is no way you can know the value of any of the cards. He looks at the top card of his selected pile, then reassembles the deck and shuffles it. You find the card. These are examples of several impossible location effects in the book, one of Eddie's specialties.
Sleights, Subtleties, and Applications -- A chapter of sleights: glimpses, forces, add-ons, double turnovers, a pass, etc. I think there is something good buried in a new item, the "Thompson-Marlo False Shuffle," but it eludes me so far.
Daubling and Doing -- This chapter contains my favorite Eddie Fields effect, "Fields' Zodiac Card Miracle," and yet I've never performed it. It's a clock effect in which the cards are distributed around a zodiac chart. Through a combination of subtle principles you wind up knowing far more than you should. (I've not done it because I don't possess an appropriate zodiac chart. I'd like to find one on cloth.)
Waikiki Killers -- "Silent Transmission Telephone Mystery" is a remote location effect. You phone a friend who selects a card from his own deck, and you name the card. In a new entry, Ron Cohen exploits the Waikiki principle even further, naming off three cards remotely. Check out "Calling from Waikiki." "Dropsy Diddle" uses the "Card Under the Coin," with which I've opened all my close-up shows for the past 25 years or so. Eddie's effect is more elaborate than the one I do. Bob Sheets further elaborates on the effect with "Zinger," a fast version with a triple discovery.
Not Cards -- Various bar stunts. One of the best is a Corinda's "Powers of Darkness" effect in which a blindfolded spectator takes a drag off a cigarette, only to open his eyes and observe that the cigarette was not lit. Everyone else sees how it was done.
Varied Dodges -- The largest chapter in the book and full of great material. Just a few:
"Cool Spell" is a location effect, a big hit from the original book. A card is selected and returned to the deck. After the usual shuffling rigmarole, you place the deck on the table. Only then does the spectator name his favorite female. You then slowly spell the female's name, arriving at the selected card.
"One and Only" -- Five cards bear the names of a spectator's suitors. Slowly the cards tell you which of the suitors liked her the most. This is more a stunt than a magic trick, but absolutely perfect in the context of a fortune telling routine.
"Jack the Bartender's Deal" -- An automatic deal in which you locate the selected card (the two of spades) by dealing two random piles. The top card of one pile is a two, the other is a spade. The "two" pile is now shown to be all twos, while the "spade" pile is shown to be a royal in spades. New this time around: Jon has traced the origin of the effect to Stewart James.
"Calling Your Hand, Again" is the best reason I know to learn a bottom deal. The spectator names any number of hands, what kind of hand (straight flush, full house, etc.), and who will receive the hand. You oblige, dealing the highest possible version of that hand. This is essentially the real thing. [Nick Trost has a non-sleight version in his new book, but the deck is gaffed.]
"Tell A Phony" -- Another remote phone location. This is easier that the one mentioned earlier, and also quite impressive. (You can do either of these effects locally, by turning away.)
"Dial Oz" -- A piece of history: the real origin of "The Invisible Deck."
"Sweet Spell of Success" -- A spelling effect, but impossible. The card is found by spelling to a spectator's mother's maiden name.
The new book is an attractively laid out hardback of the usual Kaufman quality. A rushed schedule did permit a few more typos to slip in than one expects from this house -- a word processor's maverick hyphen, an incorrect verb tense, and, my old favorite, the shouting out of a musical instrument instead of a French behold! (viola instead of voila). But these are minor quibbles: it's a lovely book, befitting its rich subject.
So what's new here relative to the first book? The original Artful Dodges was illustrated by a few crude line drawings and mostly by clear photographs. The trick material of the new book is expertly illustrated by Earl Oakes. The new book also contains numerous new photos of Eddie, with those of Eddie and George Martz performing at a dime store of special interest. There are also several new shots of Eddie and George with various lady friends. (Readers of the Minch biography know that Eddie was quite a romancer along with his other accomplishments.) Most of the quotations and one photo is missing. The original book closed with a photo of Eddie sitting at a card table, smack in the middle of a residential street. The cards on the table are spread into the shape of a question mark. This photo always made me consider this to be the "Eddie Fields Challenge Card Location": "I can find your card before I'm run over by a Mack truck!"
As to material, a Marlo effect with "Color Vision" is missing, while there is considerable new material from Eddie, Ed Marlo, Ron Cohen, Paul Cummins, Tony Kardyro, Bob Sheets, Michael Skinner, Frank Thompson, and Jon Racherbaumer. To distinguish between new writing and old, Jon and Richard have used an indented column and large drop cap to highlight new text. Organizationally, there are now chapters and a table of contents, so it's a snap to return to the new volume as a reference source.
Owners of the original volume should be more than pleased with this new edition (where did the 30 years go?), and readers new to Eddie Fields are in for a treat I can only envy.