Note ye ed's email address:

Finally unearthed: The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts from H&R Magic Books.
It's to die for!
Check out Jamy Ian Swiss' review in our Bookstore.

Derren Brown, boxed.

February 2011

Happy Valentine's Day.

Even though I didn't see it coming a few weeks ago, February has turned into Derren Brown month here at the Little Egypt offices, and I couldn't be more pleased. His new book and DVD box set are first-rate. Also on tap are some incredible card tricks from Caleb Wiles and 49 other guys (OK, 48, as Caleb is one of those contributors as well) who participated in Peter Duffie's latest endeavor. Append to this a look at the Magic Castle's Who's Hoo. Too much material, too short a month.

As mentioned last month, I am also excited about this year's World Magic Seminar, now only a week or so away. It's a stellar line-up, the must-see acts for me being Sophie Evans, Simon Aronson and Ginny, and Juan Tamariz. And that's only for starters. Hope to see you in the desert.

MY DINNER WITH DERREN -- Derren Brown's Confessions of a Conjuror is a grand conceit. Its action is slight: the author, full of self-loathing at having to approach a restaurant table to inflict magic tricks on its occupants, finally does so and performs one card trick. (The trick is a good one, Derren's Three Card Routine from The Devil's Picturebook, and its reception is marred only somewhat because the alpha male of the party is in no mood to be entertained.) Attached to this slim framework is an ambitious stream of consciousness memoir, with numerous tributaries, the streams themselves interrupted by footnotes that go on for pages. The subject matter, always prompted by some aspect of the magic trick in progress, is wicked observational humor, more Larry David than Jerry Seinfeld, and always couched in eloquent flights of language.

... I am in the lift of my apartment building and happen to have a credit card or business card in hand. It occurred to me that on such occasions I habitually swipe the long edge of the card down along the millimetre-or-so gap between the closed lift doors just before they open. This allows me to pretend that I have myself caused the throwing wide of the doors, and in turn that I had gained access to a glittering private penthouse suite, by the use of the special key-card. Or a secret underground vault, very much like Batman's, but which contains all my mentalism tools, mind-control devices and general secrets. It depends whether I'm going up or down.

Derren's topics are too diverse to summarize, a random scattering including his reading list for the loo, an embarrassing celebrity encounter with Hugh Grant, ruminations on nose picking and bottom wiping, frustrations with hotel bath mats, early magic inspirations, and a Toy Story 3 encounter with a childhood toy, Mr. Bunny. Despite the book's target being the general audience (assuming there was any audience in mind), Derren tips most of how the card trick works, especially the psychology behind it. It's a terrific card trick, and the explanations herein make it a fine complement to the instructional video. All in all this is quite unlike any book I have ever read, in or out of magic. I suppose all of our minds wander as we do a card trick for the umpteenth time, but few, I suspect, have wandered as entertainingly or as informatively as Derren Brown's. Hardback, 329 pages, about $25 delivered to the U.S. from Cheaper in the UK.

A la James Joyce.

SHOW TIME -- My early impressions of Derren Brown as a close-up magician (based on his books and instructional videos) didn't really prepare me for how much I would also enjoy his work on stage in a theater. Thanks to his three-DVD box set Derren Brown Live Collection I've just been privy to the best seat in the house for three of his live shows, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Enigma, and An Evening of Wonders. Derren connects with his young, good-looking British audiences with extraordinary personal appeal, refreshingly original and contemporary lines, and the occasional just-right expletive. And with material that devastates.

A Victorian Spirit Cabinet.

In Something Wicked, he not only walks on broken glass but lies on it as a large man stands on his head, he instantly counts dozens of buttons (think Rain Man) selected by an old lady who has just slapped him silly, and he predicts a word torn from hundreds of pages of newspaper. In Enigma, he makes a lady weep with a presentation of Coin in Ball of Wool, he presents such manifestations of somnambulism as suspending a fellow between two chairs and having a lady drink a glass of vinegar and scry the change in a man's pocket via automatic writing, and he presents a funny and eerie Spirit Cabinet in which all its occupants are random audience members. In Wonders (my favorite) a gorilla steals a banana sight unseen, a telephone subject divines the serial on a bill, and a table charges about the stage in what I assume is a genuine demonstration of table turning. Fascinating. Derren then stuns the audience with a dramatic staging of a levitating table followed by the Oracle act, a Q & A act he has done 114 times and has become very, very good at. Of all the fine things on these DVDs, this was the most worth watching, mentalism at its very finest. Robert Nelson once wrote a book called Sensational Answers, and Derren Brown provides such answers indeed.

Lighter than air.

The lighting and sound effects for all the acts are appropriately creepy. Structurally, all three acts end with a different, surprising recap, a la Alex Elmsley's Dazzle act, in which Derren demonstrates that everything witnessed was predicted and inevitable, including what had apparently been minor screwups. Forget about Annemann and Corinda: these videos set the bar for how well mentalism can be presented. Must viewing.

Now, for the good news and the bad. This box set is available from for just under $30 delivered to the U.S., an incredible bargain. All three performances were beautifully shot and edited, and watching these DVDs is perhaps better than being there. The bad news is that they are Region 2 DVDs, so if you live in the U.S. you have to either own a multi-regional DVD player (perfectly legal and under $70) or monkey with the limited number of times you can change regions on your computer, as I did. I hope some warm room in hell is reserved for the movie industry attorney who dreamed up this punish-the-innocent and now quite outdated restriction. But do what you must to view these DVDs; you will be glad you did.

WELL PACKED -- My hopes of attending this year's Magi-fest were revived when Ron Spangler found me a last-minute room, but ultimately dashed by a nagging winter cold. One of Magi-fest's draws the past few years has been Caleb Wiles, who kills in after hours sessions and who was scheduled to lecture this year. Fortunately, Caleb's new book, Six Pack, from Vanishing, Inc., landed in my mailbox on opening day, so my deprivation was considerably ameliorated. As its title suggests, Six Pack contains six effects. All are strong (an act in itself if you wish!), but I'll highlight two. Clue is a stunning revelation using four "clue" cards that capitalize on Paul Harris's Pointer Anomaly. I never quite appreciated that ruse until reading this effect, and now I am one of its biggest fans. The dang thing should fool you as you do it. Caleb uses Armchair Mind Reading, an exceedingly direct revelation, to fool other magicians in late night sessions, and it certainly should. As it was with one of Andy Nyman's effects mentioned last month, this could be done using a stacked memorized deck, but Caleb's oh-so-easy method saves you all that trouble. Owners of High Spots should need no further encouragement: Six Pack is another winner. Softbound, 28 pages, $20 from Vanishing, Inc. P.S. Caleb began a lecture tour this month. Watch for him at a meeting near you.

MAGIC RED, WHITE, AND BLUE -- Peter Duffie is not only one of the most creative guys in magic, but is also one of the most generous. So, when he invited card men from the U.S.A. to contribute to his latest e-book, they responded in droves. Card Magic U.S.A. features 49 contributors (including posthumous entries from Roger Klause, Gene Maze, Michael Skinner, Paul Swinford, and Frank Thompson). J.K. Hartman's Position Possession, an unusually entertaining version of ACAAN, may be the best of the lot. I was also quite intrigued by Harry Lorayne's 3-4-1 and Bill Malone's The Incredible Six-Card Trick. I was familiar with Bill's trick from his Here I Go Again DVDs, but it was great to see it written up (nicely by Lance Pierce) and I hope a harbinger of a big book of Bill's magic some day. With over 80 routines and over 280 pages, you are sure to find something you will use in this excellent compilation. $29.95 at

Via Scotland.

THE MAGIC CASTLE CHANNEL -- One of the disadvantages of Midwest life is the lack of regular access to the Magic Castle. If only. Remote membership nevertheless has its advantages: 1. You can make four friends really happy by giving them VIP passes (no cover charge!) to the Castle. 2. You can enjoy reading Milt's weekly Friday lunch menu ramblings online. And 3. You can enjoy Who's Hoo, wonderful video interviews with Castle regulars. This feature began its life hosted by Rob Zabrecky, the interviews interspersed with delightful television commercials from the fifties, and it is now hosted by Rob's friend Fitzgerald, who brings his own wit and cool factor to the project.

Fitzgerald relaxes before a taping.

Fitzgerald conducts live tapings, complete with a band and an opening stand-up routine. Both hosts have created delightful segments, all archived, and it's worth your time to catch the likes of Milt Larsen, Ron Wilson, John Lovick, and Tony Picasso with Rob, or Neil Patrick Harris, Irene Larsen, and Paul Green with Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald's most recent guest was underground master and Castle librarian Bill Goodwin, who not only speaks but performs two card tricks. Nice!

Chatting with Bill Goodwin.

Who's Hoo is one of the most delightful secrets in magic and one of the best reasons for non-residents to join the Magic Castle. Check it out. (At, members only.)

My favorite valentine ...

February 14, 2011.

I loved the above design that I received for Valentine's Day, and I thought it might give you card guys ideas. The artist is Bloomington, Indiana, resident Jim Hull, whose works are sold at

Spend some time with your mom.

Little Egypt Magic is the erratically updated web site of Steve Bryant, spawned (the site, not Steve) by a former internet magazine known as The Little Egypt Gazette/for magicians only.

Steve Bryant is an obscure magician and writer who generates this site from an iMac in Bloomington, Indiana. He frequently journeys to and performs magic in Little Egypt, the local name for extreme southern Illinois, where the towns bear such names as Cairo, Thebes, and Karnak.

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