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Finally unearthed: The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts from H&R Magic Books.
It's to die for!

Bruce Wayne wasn't Batman. Lloyd E. Jones was!

January 2009

"... and days of auld lang syne." As New Year's Eve ushers in a new 365 days, a new chance to get things right in our lives and in the world, it's always bittersweet to do so to that tear-jerky Guy Lombardo standard based on an indecipherable Robert Burns poem. For it's a time of looking back as well as ahead, to think of friends departed, of opportunities missed. I note that my book acquisitions (I've long recognized that I have more and more become an acquirer of magic books than a reader and student) this month fall into this "looking back" camp. Most of these are golden oldies. I did not buy them in hopes of discovering new classics, but to own and revisit old classics and old friends. Accordingly, my comments to follow are based on brief, enjoyable dips into material that I either did possess or should have possessed long ago. Perhaps my comments will encourage you to dig out such and such volume, dust it off, and spend some time with it. Happy New Year to all, and I hope to see you at the conventions.

THE BATMAN -- In my magic infancy, I enjoyed reading Lloyd E. Jones's "Light from the Lamp" book reviews in Genii, usually limited to one page. Talk about the good old days. When I moved to California in the late sixties, I became friends with Lloyd, through letters and phone calls, and I began to receive two of his magazines, The Greater S.O.B.(Son of the Bat) Jr. and Bat Droppings. Fine little journals, with columns by the likes of Phil Goldstein and Pete Biro. Prior to my association with Lloyd, he produced another journal, The Bat, which started it all. Recently, Todd Karr at The Miracle Factory has made available all 86 issues of The Bat, from 1943 to 1951, on CD in .pdf format. Here in over 800 pages is material by Charlie Miller, Bert Allerton, Dr. Jaks, T. Page Wright, and many others. Lloyd, it's nice to spend some time with you again. $50.

The Bat begat S.O.B. Jr. which begat Bat Droppings.


SIR FRANCIS -- One of the most popular entertainers during my early days of hanging around the Magic Castle was Francis Carlyle, and one of my favorite books to peruse in the old Magic Castle library was Roger Pierre's The Magic of Francis Carlyle. For some reason, I never acquired a copy of the book. Thanks again to Todd Karr, who is putting out a lot of product lately, the complete book along with additional Carlyle material and an audio lecture is now easily accessible on CD. It is particularly great to hear Carlyle again; he sounds like your favorite crusty uncle. A bargain for anyone interested in the history of close-up magic or who is looking for strong material. $30.
Uncle Crusty.

THE COLLECTION -- One of my early Richard Kaufman purchases was Richard's Almanac Volume One. Richard never published individual copies of Volumes Two and Three, but rather published all three as The Collected Almanac. A stubborn owner of "one-third" of the book, I just never felt the incentive to purchase the larger book. However, thanks to glowing reviews on the Genii Forum and to Richard's Ridiculous Super Sale (25% off all his books, only four days left), I picked one up, and all I can say is "Wow." First, it's greater than the sum of its parts, with over 90 pages of new frontal matter, including Richard's picks of the top 36 items in the book. Second, the quality of the magic in the second two years was staggeringly good and appeals to me more than that of the first year. Here are such groundbreaking assemblies as Michael Skinner's "SentiMental Aces" and Bob Stencel's "Stencel's Aces." Here is Larry Jennings' charming take on Daryl's "Diamond Bar" called "Make Me Small" (oh, yeah, Daryl's original version is also there). Here is Bro. John Hamman's "The Signed Card." All in all, some of the best magic of the late twentieth century first saw print in these pages. 398 pages, $60 ($45 through January 31).

HIGH JINX -- In high school I briefly subscribed to Bill Madsen's The New Jinx, not fully realizing at that time its place in history as a worthy sequel to Annemann's The Jinx and as a sort of illegitimate son of Practical Mental Effects. I just enjoyed it for its cool tricks and exciting artwork. Eventually other interests (basketball? math? my girlfriend?) caused my subscription to lapse, and it was therefore a pleasure to acquire a Kaufman hardback reprint of the entire file. It's 296 pages of more of what you grew to love in The Jinx, with many of the same contributors. 296 pages, $60 ($45 through January 31).

CAMP HARRY -- Most cardmen will claim allegiance to either the Marlo camp or the Vernon camp. I suspect that a great percentage of them could more accurately describe themselves as belonging to the Harry Lorayne camp, as Harry's writings have been an extraordinary influence ever since Close-Up Card Magic. Harry is not only one of the most prolific, clear, and exciting teachers, but the tricks themselves are first-rate pieces of entertainment, are practical (gaffs are rare in the Lorayne arsenal), and within the skills of most intermediate card handlers. Lorayne: The Classic Collection 2 contains updates of Reputation-Makers, Rim Shots, and Afterthoughts. Reputation-Makers was a particular favorite of mine growing up, mostly for its sequence of "To Catch an Ace" tricks and the oddball "The Magic Eraser." Any excuse to crack open a Harry Lorayne book of card tricks is going to ensure you a pleasant afternoon or evening, and this latest collection is an excellent excuse. 451 pages, $89.95.

Size matters.

THE WHOPPER -- I own a lot of books, far too many, but none have tipped the scale or impressed me physically so much as The Circus: 1870-1950 by Noel Daniel. This coffee table book, if you have a large coffee table, is staggering, an inch taller than 100 Years of Magic Posters, and at 670 pages it weighs in at almost 20 pounds. It's perfect if you want to do someone in with a blunt instrument or to pin down a burglar. As to contents, there are over 900 photos and posters of the golden age of these traveling road shows. The text is roughly one-third each English, French, and German. My favorite chapter was the one on performers being shot from cannons. Ricky Jay's favorite, I would guess, might be the piece on "The Amazing Maggie Udder in her titillating incomparable achievement." The poster shows a showgirl doing a sort of headstand, but instead of her head she is balancing upside down on the nipple of one bare breast. Quite a feat. The book is mentioned here because, according to Gabe Fajuri's report in MAGIC, Mike Caveney and Jim Steinmeyer are producing a companion volume on magic. I figured that I would like a matched set. $200, cheaper at Amazon.

MAGIC RADIO -- Thanks to Dodd Vickers' The Magic Newswire podcasts, I first learned about Alex Ramon, the new magic zingmaster of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Dodd's podcasts continue to entertain me during workouts at the gym. Recent favorite interviews include, in addition to Alex's, those with Bill Kalush, Ed Alonzo, Dan Sperry, and Jim Steinmeyer. None of this is old hat: I learn something new about everyone I listen to. Free!

GHOST STORIES -- I've received some very nice comments recently on The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts, and I've been especially pleased at those that mention how great it looks. Even if you don't want to frighten your audiences, but just want a book that's fun to look at, send H&R Magic Books an order. 230 pages, $45.

A scene from The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts.

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak' a right gud-wellie waught,
For auld lang syne.

Sarah and Simon (Vixen and Spike to old Gazette readers) were married on April 1, 2006. You may access their wedding photos at wedding photos.

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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Copyright© 2009 by Steve Bryant