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

John and Chris discuss automobiles.

June 2009

June began as one of those rare months in which I failed to encounter any new magic in book form, on dvd, or in live performance. Accordingly, I planned to merely mention a couple of interesting internet sites at the bottom, and to devote most of this issue to rummaging among some old titles, as you'll soon discover. Alas, two issues of Kozmo's reel magic arrived just at the last moment, and the Kenner issue was just too funny to pass up. Full report below.

Meanwhile, I hope you are gearing up for the conventions. I plan to be in Nashville in a couple of weeks for the IBM and back to Las Vegas in August for MAGIC Live. Stop by the H&R Magic Books booth and pick up a copy of The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts for a hair-raising read.

Most of us, over a period of years that turn into decades in magic, acquire a library of hardback books that eventually becomes overwhelming. Here are hundreds, and in some collections thousands, of hefty tomes challenging to be read, understood, appreciated. It recently occurred to me that in merely trying to keep up with my burgeoning collection of hardback books that I have been slighting, virtually ignoring, some of the softcover books that were influential in my early life in magic. Here then is a fond look back at a dozen or so favorites. The next time you are at a convention and are sorting through the softcover sections of the H&R Magic Books or Andy Greget booths, these are some titles worth your attention. The books are listed in no particular order.

STERANKO ON CARDS -- Long before there was a David Blaine in the world, Steranko burst onto the scene and made magic, especially card magic, cool. In this book, and in two coveted issues of Genii, this young, good-looking, streetwise card man stunned the magic world with avant-garde ideas and riveting graphic design. It was the best $4.50 I've ever spent in magic, and my only regret is that, given that it was labeled Volume One, forty-nine years have passed without a Volume Two. The world of comics' gain was the world of magic's loss.

THE MAGIC OF MATT SCHULIEN -- In high school I walked home for lunch, and the mail would often have arrived. One lunch period delivered Phil Willmarth's whopping $5.00 softcover on Matt Schulien into my hands, and fortunately my first period after lunch was Study Hall. I've never had a better day in high school. Although I knew that Bert Allerton performed close-up magic in posh hotels, it was the Schulien book that taught me you could perform it for ordinary citizens in ordinary surroundings, establishing a future I would one day inhabit.

JIM RYAN CLOSE-UP -- OK, this technically counts as four books, and credit again goes to Phil Willmarth for compiling some of the most practical, commercial magic you can ask for. I finally got to see Jim Ryan perform, during a one-day magic convention in Chicago during my college years. What a charmer. If you can, get your hands on Sensational Stunners, Entertaining Card Quickies, Classic Card Routines, and The Famous Cups and Balls Routine.

BLACKPOOL 1995 THE SIMON LOVELL LECTURE -- Only thirty pages, and its cover says limited to seventy-five copies, but this slim, possibly rare, set of lecture notes contains the bulk of Simon's most commercial magic, just killer material that eventually saw more expanded treatment in Simon's massive hardback, Simon Says. The good news recently tipped in a Dodd Vickers interview is that Grandson of Simon Says is in the works. I'm pleased to own a copy of this original incarnation and refer to it frequently.

PRETTY SNEAKY -- This guy Don Alan was so cool he appeared on such shows as "The Ed Sullivan Show" and on Hugh Hefner's "Playboy's Penthouse." Don Alan was close-up magic during the sixties. Pretty Sneaky was one of two magic books that stood on my bedside table throughout high school, an enormous influence despite its small size and $2.00 price tag.

SICK SORCERY -- The other book that stood on my bedside table throughout high school was this one, permeated with an irreverent sense of humor from Bobs Olson and Pearce that made it read more like an issue of Mad magazine than like a book of magic tricks. I never owned a copy of Erdnase in my youth, and for better or worse was more influenced by these two nuts. Someone recently marketed a fake card tattoo and asked for routines for it; he should consult "The Tattooed Sailor" in this book. My favorite was "Sik Card Repeat," a loony version of Tommy Tucker's classic. Robert Olson recently described to me new gags for it, and it's still as fresh and usable as it was in 1961.

SECRETS AND MYSTERIES FOR THE CLOSE-UP ENTERTAINER -- Eugene Burger burst onto the scene with the gravitas of a real professor. He preached at us. He underlined words. You could hear him. And somehow he wrote in a way that made you understand you were encountering genuine wisdom. This book makes my list of influential books because it was the first I encountered from Eugene, but in truth all of his books have been influential. Fortunately you can find most of his early monographs (it was about the time the Eugene appeared that softcover magic books started being called monographs) in Mastering the Art of Magic, a hardcover reprint from Kaufman and Company. It currently has a pre-publication price of only $50.

BERT ALLERTON'S THE CLOSE-UP MAGICIAN -- Robert Parrish is my favorite magic writer, and his book on Bert Allerton was most influential in making me realize that magic could be A-list entertainment. Imagine having table cards on the white linen tablecloths of the snazzy Cotillion Room of New York's Hotel Pierre, cards that featured endorsements from Irving Berlin and Jimmy Stewart. Learn Allerton's "Nest of Envelopes" and you'll never need another gimmicked "Card in Wallet."

ADD COMEDY TO YOUR ACT! -- Comedy writer Lou Derman's tenure as Friday Night Lou in the Magic Castle's Close-up Gallery provided many of my favorite evenings in magic. This fifty-page treatise by comedy writer Lou touted itself as "A Complete Guide Book for Professional Comedians and Magicians," and so it was. In addition to the book's excellent and succinct advice on comedy performance, the book contains fifty excellent comedy card tricks.

100 CLASSIC HOUDINI TRICKS YOU CAN DO -- This book for the public by Dunninger convinced me even more than the Allerton book that magic could be A-list entertainment. The photos in the early section of the book show Dunninger performing for the likes of Edgar Bergan, Faye Emerson, President Hoover, Arthur Godfrey, Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, and Jack Benny. And the magic section wasn't bad, the first I had seen that used large photos to illustrate the effects.

MAGIC MADE EASY -- I reviewed this book by Carl March (aka Sid Fleischman) way back in The Little Egypt Gazette, July 1996, and it's still one of my favorite early influences. Click the link to visit this outstanding pulp magic book, with sleight-of-hand and parlor tricks that surpass most of what is taught in "public domain" books today.

THE ARTFUL DODGES OF EDDIE FIELDS -- This 109-page opus introduced me to two giants in magic, Eddie Fields (its subject) and Jon Racherbaumer (its young author). Here was a breakthrough book, unlike any I had encountered before. I loved the boldness of Eddie's magic and the boldness of Jon's writing. Check out a complete review of the original and its hardback sequel (The Greater Artful Dodges ...) in The Little Egypt Gazette, October 1997.

MAGIC BY GOSH -- I owned a set of Albert's lecture notes well before ever moving to Hollywood and seeing him at the Magic Castle, but his succinct notes made such good sense that they were a sort of close-up bible for me during college, and I thought his coin routines and newspaper routine were wonderful. Later, he would become my all-time favorite close-up performer, the one I most wanted my friends to see.

ASPEN BAR MAGIC -- One of several stunning "make-up" issues of Magical Arts Journal from Michael Ammar, this is the one that introduced me to modern bar magic, and especially the work of Doc Eason. But there was so much more, with A+ material from Doc, from Eric Mead, Steve Spill, Bob Sheets, Tom Mullica, Heba Haba Al, J.C. Wagner, Michael Ammar (including props!), and others. This is the best book on bar magic ever published.

CLASSIC SECRETS OF MAGIC -- This 1953 book by Bruce Elliott, issued in soft cover by Collier Books in 1962 (for 95 cents!), contains sufficient first-rate material with which to make a living in magic, arguably the strongest material of any book in this list. Delightfully illustrated by Stanley Jaks and entertainingly written by Elliott (he had me at "For Judy/The cutest trick I know"), it lives up to the author's promise: "What I have attempted to give you are the best, most efficient, and in many cases closely guarded secret methods of performing those classics about which I know most." Many books for the public have been written since 1953, but I know of none that stacks up to this one.

OH, DEBBIE -- Of all the famous wives in magic, one of my favorites is Mrs. Paul Daniels, aka Debbie McGee. She's the pretty blonde in the accompanying photo. Because of her fame, her multifaceted talents, and her killer good looks, she is a household name in England, and occasionally the target of parodists. Chris Moyles has written a song for her that runs on Youtube, one you are going to enjoy called Dreaming of Debbie McGee. Parody or not, it's a pretty great song.

Paul (not!) and Debbie.

Parodist Chris Moyles.

Not to be outdone in the parody department, Paul and Debbie recently pulled off a grand spoof of their own. When a magazine printed an unflattering photo of Debbie in a bikini (Paul and Debbie were on holiday), Paul defended her incredible looks by posting a takeoff of a David and Victoria Beckham Armani ad. Very posh!

The coolest couple in magic.

P.S. If you are a fan of Debbie, you can find lots of clips of her in action on Youtube, in situations both in and out of magic.

I LAUGHED 'TIL TEARS RAN DOWN MY LEG -- I wasn't going to post any product news this month because I didn't have any, but the first segment of John Lovick's interview with Chris Kenner in the June 2009 issue had me on the floor laughing. Do not miss out on this! (Unless, say, you have a big magic show at the Luxor.) As usual, both issues are great. Lovick interviews Mike Caveney in the April 2009 issue, also excellent, with a visit to Mike's home. Koz advertises these $10 video magazines ($55 for six issues, delivered) as the best bargains in magic, and I agree. Both the magic content and the video quality are first rate. I always view first the feature interview (Lovick is my favorite interviewer here), then Simon Lovell's rant, and then David Regal's review column. I have my money's worth at this point, and there is still much, much more to love. Starting soon, you will be able to export complete issues to your iPod. Awesome. Subscribe at reel magic magazine. P.S. A special bonus in the Kenner issue is a Bill Goodwin tour of the Magic Castle library. It's almost better than being there.

Check out Mike's home.

Spend some time with your dad.

Note: Magic by Gosh and Aspen Bar Magic were post-publication additions. They were always meant to be part of the list, but were hiding in a closet when this issue first posted.

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.

Past issues of this web site: Index to Past Issues

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Copyright© 2009 by Steve Bryant