FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY — Not! Bob Farmer’s mammoth new compilation of conundrums, challenges, bar bets, physical stunts, scams, swindles, and magic tricks is unashamedly designed to separate your friends and frenemies from their moolah.* This is the kind of stuff you might have previously encountered in Ibidem, Pallbearers Review, Epilogue, or by Martin Gardiner wherever he writes. Do with this information what you will, for the odds are in your favor.
The Bammo Flim-Flam CONglomeration—The Way of the Scamurai emerges mostly from the monthly “Flim-Flam” columns that Bob Farmer wrote for MAGIC (September 1992 - August 2000) and Genii (February 2004 - May 2006 or so). The Genii columns were more about magic than probabilities, hence were known as “Flim-FlamMagic.” The columns are reproduced in mostly chronological order, though Farmer explains that he has “added material, moved it around, and reorganized and indexed it, so that even if you have read the original columns, you will find much that is new and different here.”
My favorite, and most of the entries, involve playing cards, but there is also much involving coins, dice, poker dice, dominos, bills, bar glasses, a Dixie cup, a chain, Mojo Boogie Boxes, some pure mathematics, and a variety of gaffed decks and specialty gimmicks most of you have.
Beginning with Tsunami, I have enjoyed Bob Farmer’s imaginative and hilarious ad copy for decades, and such writing permeates these monthly installments. Indeed some pieces are purely for fun such as “Fifty Years Ago in MAGIC by Stan Allen III” (epistolary back and forth with various correspondents to President Max Maven) and “Tony Forgio, Tough Guy.”
As alluded above, this is a monster of a book at 472 pages, 71 columns, some 278 or so titled items, plus still more, including a Scamdex. Let’s cherry pick a few personal favorites:
Column 38 contains two false overhand shuffles and one Zarrow. Enjoy.
Column 45 is “Tuesday Night with Ahab, Einstein, and the Queen of Halloween. “ (How could you not read it?) Learn to memorize a string of cards with ease.
Column 68 contains the most complete and entertaining explanation I have seen regarding the Monty Hall problem. You know the one: Monty has three doors hiding a car and two goats. You pick A, and Monty shows you a goat behind B. Should you switch your choice to C?(Duh! Yes!) The essay concludes with 28 Rules for Fools (reasonings that make Marks be Marks). I‘ll add a 29th that has persuaded me on occasion: Somebody has to win. (Yes, it’s a fool’s game. But some fool is going to win a billion dollars. Or whatever.)
Column 69 is “Opti-Con Five-Packet Optical-Confusion Illusion,” a 37-page exploration of a super deceptive technique. A deck is cut into five face-down packets (a straight flush secretly lurks atop the deck). The top card of each packet is (apparently) turned up to reveal the straight flush. Or in “Jive-Ass Aces”the first phase results in four aces and a queen. The cards are reassembled and cut into five more packets, now revealing a royal flush. Other variants are taught. All derive from a general “Ace-Cut-Ruse Principle,” in which the deck is cut into four piles to discover an ace atop each. (The target cards are deceptively distributed in the process of turning the top cards face up.) A rather complete history of the principle cites methods by Joe Destefano, Francis Haxton, Bob Veeser, Ed Marlo, Ian Baxter, Jimmy Grippo, Paul Harris, Paul Curry, Al Smith, Frank Thompson, Harry Lorayne, Father Cyprian, Larry Jennings, J.C. Wagner, Gary Ouellet, Thomas Hierling, Shigeo Takagi (my longtime favorite of the genre), Roberto Giobbi, Mike Bornstein, Allan Ackerman, Bob King, Terry LaGGerould, Chad Long, Paul Cummins, Patrick Stenberg, Lewis Jones, Bill Goodwin, and Craig Stegall. Exhaustive!
Discussing Column 69 reminds me that the Tony Dunn drawings throughout are excellent, as always, but the selections of exactly what is illustrated displays more thought than one usually sees. This is a wonderfully designed book.
Move aside, you lesser tomes. This oversized hardcover, printed on 472 acid free pages, is the usual high quality production from Kaufman and Company, shipped free in the U.S. for $75. A most worthy addition to the Bammo line.
*In real life Mr. Farmer is an attorney and knows you cannot advise larceny or quote math facts that could be in error and cost you money. He therefore includes the usual caveats, my favorite bit being “Assume the author is mathematically challenged and has no idea what he is talking about.”
I am happy to note that Charlie Randall at H&R Magic Books is reprinting two of my favorite and long unavailable books, Nick Trost’s Subtle Card Creations Volume 1 and Seventh Heaven by Lewis Jones. The Trost book is the first of a projected nine volumes (we are almost there!), and the Jones book is the largest and best by this underground genius. Each will sell for $55 (pre-order at $45 through April 9). The Trost book is essentially the same as the original, and the Jones book has been re-edited and updated by Lewis Jones and Charlie Randall. (Mr. Jones passed away last year, but worked with Charlie on the book.) I highly recommend both books and am reprinting my initial reviews.
IT'S BACK -- (reprinted from November 2018) To repeat my previous thoughts on the book: First, in the Introduction, Nick Trost details what distinguishes his card magic: "Most of the tricks require little or no sleight of hand. They are based primarily on clever principles, procedures and subtleties. My goal has been to get the maximum effect with a minimum of effort." Second, and this is so far true of the series, this is the only volume to contain an appendix of sleights and subtleties. This appendix is one of my favorite spots in my library, with over 40 potent ruses (moves, counts, forces, false shuffles, etc.) for accomplishing most modern card magic. I refer to it frequently to keep my knowledge and skills in tune.
The book that started the H&R Trost library.
The series begins with a generous range of chapters: Unique Card Effects, Coincidences, Court Card Capers, Gambling Tricks, Poker Tricks, Predictions, Transpositions, Fake-Card Foolers, Special Decks - Part 2, Packet Tricks - Part 1, ESP Cards - Part 1, and (already mentioned) Appendix: Sleights ad Subtleties.
A few individual tricks I found special:
Jacks Are Wild with an Elevator Finish: Show a poker hand of five jokers. They instantly change into five jacks. The jacks are then inserted one by one into the deck where they travel up and down in elevator fashion. You end clean.
Sympathetic Suits: Deck is fairly shuffled. The hearts and spades are extracted and the hearts are set aside. Spectator reverses any card in the spade packet. The spades are now dealt to the table, switching whenever the spectator says so. The two packets are placed side by side and their order revealed, an exact match, even the reversed card.
Wild Bill's Poker Hand I: This one enticed me to re-read the entire book. Two hands are dealt. Wild Bill gets the expected two pair, aces and eights, and his partner Charlie Rich gets an unknown hand. A shot rings out! But not over a lowly two pair. Charlie has four eights, Wild Bill has a royal flush. Wild Bill's Poker Hand II is the same effect but with a different and just as easy method.
Ambitious Ace to Five: Show five cards, AC through 5C. AC is placed second from top and it rises to the top. This is repeated with the 2C, 3C, and 4C. The 5C changes to the 5D. It doesn't get any easier.
Fifteen-Card Mystery: Trost's version of the Traveling Card from Marlo's The Cardician. A selected card moves from one packet of five to another. And another.
Trost on Hamman's Magic Cards: With minor modifications* this is my favorite in the book. Three random cards are placed face down in a row on the table, say AD, 4S, and KD. A packet of three "magic cards" (jokers) is removed from the pocket and dropped onto the AD. All four cards are now shown to be ADs. The jokers are then dropped onto the 4S, and each of the four cards becomes a 4S. And so on with the KD. The displays look really clean. Finally, the three jokers are once again shown to be jokers.
I notice that my selections above gravitate to the use of the Diminishing Count, an easy and deceptive sleight. If you like the sleight, you will love the routines. But then all of the routines in the book are easy, which was Nick Trost's gift to us.
In all, a fine book of card tricks, harbingers of wonderful tricks to come. The book features a Foreword by Karl Fulves and a brief Introduction by Nick Trost. Hard cover, dust jacket, nicely illustrated by Tony Dunn, and decorative vintage line art, in what would become the usual H&R Magic Books/Trost series format.
BRIT LIT — (reprinted from March 2004) Back in 2001, I was sharply chastised for mentioning Lewis Jones, then a little-known British card genius whose manuscripts were closely guarded by those fortunate to have acquired them. Mr. Jones broke out of his relative obscurity via his large hardback collaboration with Jack Avis, Ahead of the Pack (reviewed here August 2002). And now comes a handsome whopper of a book, Seventh Heaven, for which Lewis Jones has sifted, sorted, and re-thought over 100 tricks and moves from seven earlier manuscripts ( Imp Romp 2, Shampagne, The Spring of 52, Con Sessions, Lusions, Counter Feats, and Cardiograms). What a treasure. For those unfamiliar with Lewis Jones, he is an original of the stripe of Jerry Andrus, Simon Aronson, and Lennart Green. In Jones' case, his originality lies in a depth of thinking that leads to why-didn't-I-think-of-that sleights or to devilishly clever mathematical (often self-working) mysteries. Jones' trick descriptions will tantalize you. They read like dealer ads, yet, unlike many dealer ads, they deliver on their promises.
Lewis Jones hardbound.
To mention a few: "Mint Sauce" is a self-working game of chance that will relieve a spec of his loot yet leave him laughing. "Aces in a Hurry" makes you look far more skilled than you are. "Six Billion to One" is a grand takeoff on Curry's "A Swindle of Sorts." "Deeper, Deeper" is a self-working con of the highest order. (Pit Hartling recently explored a different use of this conceit.) "Houdini's Hand" is a delightful seance number that uses Jones' "Invisible Cull" (a sleightless cull, also revealed). "Memory Deck" is the easiest memorized deck you will ever find, and it comes with two excellent effects. "Snibbets" will teach you how to calculate back and forth with a Si Stebbins deck. "DOP" is a multiphase red-black divination that keeps on building. "Demolition Derby" is a playlet involving Billy the Kid and Doc Holliday in a card game, but you wind up naming a card pocketed before it all began. "Twin" will find favor with fans of the "Epitome Location": it's the easiest, fastest way to clock a deck yet devised. "Ultra Red" is a fascinating routine to do with your favorite medium. But even it isn't as fine as "Thimble": A spec selects any card from a deck and returns it. The deck, which may be shuffled, is replaced in the case, and a thimble is balanced on the case. The spec takes case and thimble to your medium, who instantly knows the name of the selected card.
Stuff in magic worth noting …
BATTING 1000 — Records in magic are being set, and we should acknowledge them.The March issue of Genii proudly announces that it is the 1000th issue. Amazing. I have only been subscribing since 1959, but it feels as if i have read them all. Congratulations to the Larsen family, Richard Kaufman and Randy Pitchford, and Dustin Stinnett. Well done. One thousand is also the milestone recently set by Meir Yedid, with the 1000th issue of Meir’s Muses, his MyMagic eNewsletter. To make it special he included advice from his friends Harry Anderson, Gene Maze, Dai Vernon, Slydini, David Copperfield, Herb Zarrow, Jackie Mason, Orson Welles, Harry Lorayne, Lenny Greenfader, Frances Marshall, Frank Garcia, Juan Tamariz, Ron Wohl, Sol Stone, Eric DeCamps, Harvey Leeds, To check it out go here: http://magictimes.com/mymagic-one-thousand/ And 1600 is the milestone number of registrants it takes to fill the theater at the Orleans, just reached by Stan Allen and MAGIC Live for Stan’s twelfth sellout! I regret to not be attending (still a Covid wuss), but wish Stan and the gang all the best. MAGIC Live is invariably awesome.
Issue one thousand!.
YOU DON’T KNOW JACK— During the years that my daughter lived in Chicago, I had occasion to visit Magic, Inc., where I would usually encounter the delightful, curmudgeonly presence of Jack Clements. Alas, Jack passed away at 90, February 22 (1931-1922). Fortunately, Jack wrote a column for Magic, Inc. from 2008-2016, and these have been collected into a downloadable pdf titled “Little Jack’s Corner,” recently for free. (Log into Magic, Inc. and search for the title.) One of those columns, “You Don’t Know Jack,” makes it clear why Jack is such a witty author (he tends to write in one-liners). Over the years he wrote for Phyllis Diller, got booked into clubs through Phyllis, and wrote behind the scenes for the cartoon strip Ziggy. These columns are terrific fun to read and will perk up your day. Aloha, Jack.