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We've been expecting you.
Last month's September issue included reviews of Handsome Jack etc., The Jerx Volume One, and The Secrets of So Sato; a look at new products from Meir Yedid; and more photos from MAGIC Live 2016.
Happy Halloween, boys and ghouls, and welcome to the Haunted Hotel edition of Little Egypt Magic.
We've reserved a special room for you at McGrave's Hotel, title of my new novel from Month9Books. The reservation lines are open (the book is now shipping), and you are encouraged to check in before Halloween. Dare to survive one night of 1936 New York City nightlife and hobnob with vampires, ghosts, a mummy, and mutant Nazi spiders.
I also have a second book out this month, Milt's story of 60 years of It's Magic! Check it out below.
Also this month: a reluctant farewell to MAGIC magazine and the hardbound resurrection of America's only magic weekly, Talisman. There was far more to my friend Jules Lenier than I realized.
YOUR ROOM IS READY -- To celebrate the publication of my newest middle grade novel, McGrave's Hotel, it's my pleasure to welcome back zombie broadcaster Gus Grime from radio station WZMB. Gus recently appeared among the gravestones and cenotaphs of a local cemetery to interview me, and his transcript follows.
GG: Hello, afterworld. I am on the air once again with Steve Bryant, author of The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts and Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show. Lucas was the surprise hit among the undead in 2015. Tell me, Steve, is McGrave's Hotel a sequel?
Steve: No, not really. There are similarities, but McGrave's is more a straightforward adventure tale. For those old enough to spot the inspiration (and I don't expect this of my young readers or their parents), McGrave's Hotel is a takeoff on the Academy Award-winning movie Grand Hotel. That is, it's a story about a single night in a large hotel in which some characters interact and others don't. In both stories a narrator proclaims that "nothing ever happens." In truth, something extraordinary happens every night. Which you might expect at McGrave's, because it is haunted. It caters to ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and the like. It's set in New York City in 1936, in the dark days before World War II.
GG: I'm all a-tingle. What is the story?
Steve: My young hero is James Elliott, almost twelve years old, a bellhop at McGrave's ever since his parents were killed on a spying mission into Nazi Germany. James craves a goodbye message from his parents, deals with three sets of troublesome guests (a ham actor auditioning actresses for Dracula, Egyptian museum officials whose priceless mummy vanishes, and a bridegroom whose head goes missing), and strikes up a romance with none other than Death's daughter, Fawn. James and Fawn risk death themselves as they resolve the guest situations and team against monsters and Nazis in a climactic rooftop battle.
GG: Busy boy! So it's a love story too?
Steve: As was Lucas. All my books, one way or another, are about young love.
GG: You said that there were similarities with Lucas Mackenzie. Can you elaborate?
Steve: Anyone who enjoys Lucas should enjoy McGrave's. Although not a sequel, McGrave's is related in that a repertory company of actors could play the lead roles in both novels. Lucas and James share similar ages and temperaments. Each boy has special skills. Each boy is “orphaned.” Each craves communication with family on the other side of the life-death divide. Each has a love interest that is impossible. Each encounters hostile vampires. Each “grows” at the end of the story. Then there are totally unexpected coincidences. Each book features triplets. Each has animated skeletons. Each has someone dressed in black and white stripes.
GG: Weird. Most of the main characters in Lucas Mackenzie were ghosts. Are the main characters in McGrave's dead as well?
Can a magic trick inspire a story character?
Steve: Oh, no. James is a normal, living boy, as are the other bellhops. The night manager, Martin Nash; his assistant and psychic, Miriam Charles; the hotel's medical advisor, Dr. Otto; the newspaperman, Walter Quinn; and three sets of guests--all are quite alive. We can't quite say the same about Death himself; his daughter, Fawn; or the Beaumonts, a pair of society ghosts who dance at McGrave's nightly. And have I mentioned the problem of a mutant Nazi spider as big as a desk? Alas, she seems to have it in for James and Fawn. Spoiler alert: not everyone survives the night.
GG: Ah, I love arachnids. What inspired you to write this story of love, death, and spiders?
Steve: It's a tribute to my parents, who lived through the big band era of dining and dancing and danger played out in hotels and night clubs. As I mention in the book, I also found inspiration at the movies, especially the Saturday matinees of my childhood. I particularly loved the classic black and white horror films that featured multiple monsters, sometimes Frankenstein’s monster, Count Dracula, and the Wolf Man all in the same feature. It is no wonder that I would one day write a story that contained vampires, mummies, oversized spiders, and assorted ghosts and ghoulies. I hope everyone has as much Saturday-afternoon-type fun reading it as I did writing it.
GG: I'm sure we will. Um, this cemetery is lovely after midnight, don't you think? Care to lie down and rest your eyes?
Steve: You zombies are such kidders! Um, thank you for having me on your program again. I'll be going now.
DIAMOND JUBILEE -- This month marks the second of "my" books to have its "grand opening." Milt Larsen has announced the availability of his new book, Sixty Year Celebration It's Magic! Anniversary. The book began as a lengthy interview with Milt re the 50th anniversary of It's Magic! for The Little Egypt Gazette. Milt and I later met at MAGIC Live 2015 to add 10 years to the story. He then solicited tales and anecdotes from past performers; Carol Marie compiled, laid out, and edited the whole thing; and Randy Pitchford provided the financing to allow the book to be a 138-page hardback in full color. Huge thanks to all concerned.
Milt's new book, 60 years in the making.
Following a sea saga--the books were arriving from China, but the shipping company went bankrupt while the books were still at sea--the books have landed and are available at the Magic Castle gift shop and will be available at the Wilshire Ebell on the night of the 60th anniversary of It's Magic! Only 1000 have been printed at a bargain price of $25; don't hesitate to add a copy to your library. And of course don't miss the October 29 show itself if you are in southern California, with its amazing cast of Justin Willman, Jonathan Pendragon, Alex Ramon, Darren Romeo, Jeff McBride, Jay Johnson, Dimmare, Goldfinger and Dove, Chuck Jones & Company, and David & Dania. Wow.
Milt's world famous hometown magic show.
DEATH KNELL -- MAGIC is dead? That sounds like something from a book of dire quotations by Max Maven. As late as mid-August, I had not expected to be writing a eulogy for MAGIC magazine. The magazine has been a welcome monthly visitor for a quarter of a century (certainly the fastest 25 years to whoosh by in my lifetime), always in groundbreaking full-color print form and also, more recently, in electronic form. (Its brief incarnation as an iPad zine was the best any magic magazine has looked online.) In August there was still hope that something would continue from Stan Allen, and that was finally, albeit briefly, announced as 25 more issues called Legacy and featuring a stellar array of contributors.
Alas, it isn't happening, and so there are two deaths to report, MAGIC itself and the stillborn Legacy. (Note to self: Hmm, you mean one doesn't have to publish something every month, forever?) I can bemoan my fantasy of what Legacy might have been as well as my reality of what MAGIC was. Let's look back on a very fine 25 years ...
By the way, here is proof that it really has been 25 years. Issue number one sports Lance Burton on the cover, with a feature article on him by Mac King. Lance was just opening at the Haceinda, and his 90-minute show cost just $15.95.
First, I was honored to have contributed to its pages at pivotal issues. I had a Letter to the Editor in the first issue (Stan nicely asked me to), and my cover story on Bill Malone's bar appeared in the first issue that was perfect bound (November 1998). I have reviewed MAGIC Live for seven of the eight years I attended and was thrilled to have two of those reviews appear in the magazine (October 2009 and October 2015). I wish I could have done more.
A favorite pastime when I was younger was to spend an afternoon with issues of MAGIC strewn across the bed, simply to dip into them. (In retrospect the primary fun was to dip into the Jim Steinmeyer tricks. More on that later.) Here's a five-years-at-a-time sampler ...
1992 was the first full year of publication. Flipping through its pages I see Michael Weber doing all the reviews. I wish he still were. Richard Kaufman is writing the tricks column, and his artwork elevates the magazine. Max Maven's voice informs "Parallax." Jim Steinmeyer's column "Conjuring" excites us with Jim's original tricks, especially the illustrations. Steinmeyer, Nelson Hahne, and Paul Osborne all made me believe I could go on stage and look like those guys in the illustrations. Wonderful. Favorite covers from this year include Richard Kaufman's Mysto magic sets and Johnny Carson.
My favorite of 25 years of covers.
By 1997 Michael Close is reviewing tricks, Jon Racherbaumer is writing the new ones. Jim Steinmeyer still fuels my dreams with dazzling material, and we come to appreciate how fine his presentations and patter are. This is most performable stuff. Favorite covers include Guy Hollingworth and the late Harry Blackstone Jr.
By 2002 the text looks modern (seminal issues looked a bit like Magic Manuscript), and the magazine is perfect bound. John Moehring is editor and Joshua Jay is writing up the tricks. Josh's run becomes one of the best in any magazine ever. Mike Close's fine reviews continue. (As his wife, Lisa, may recall, one review makes me laugh out loud. I'll spare the reviewee's feelings by not repeating the line.) Steinmeyer's brilliance shines on. Eventually 70 columns would be collected into A Conjuring Anthology, an essential book of stand-up magic. My favorite cover is of Bill Malone.
It's 2007, Stan is back as editor, and Josh is still doing the tricks. I love his year-end picks of the best. Reviews have been handed off to a team of critics. Jeff McBride's "The Show Doctor" is the best anyone has ever written about how to be professional. My favorite cover: Paul Harris.
How did it get to be 2012 so fast? Josh sticks to his assignment, and the overall look is very modern. Favorite covers feature Milt Larsen, John Bannon, and Steve Cohen.
We are all deep into 2016 and my favorite cover so far is Martin Lewis. Josh has moved on to amazing heights, and no one in particular is writing up general tricks except as part of his own column. Let's take this moment to thank the writers for all the great feature articles, especially Rory Johnston and Alan Howard. But even more so I enjoyed the unique columns over the years, so a big thanks to the likes of Max Maven, David Kaye, Jeff McBride, David Starr, Gaeton Bloom, Mike Caveney (all those letters!), Mark Kornhauser (the first I always read after Stan's comments), Master Payne, Mike Bent, Gregory Wilson, Ian Rowland, Steve Reynolds, and others I am no doubt forgetting. Month after month, guys, it's been fun reading you.
And of course thanks to Stan Allen. He is featured on the cover of the current Vanish magazine and already looks younger and happier in the photos. With all the free time on his hands, it's arguable that MAGIC Lives will become better than ever. It's been fun to know Stan as publisher, editor, convention mogul, Long Beach Mystic alum, magician, puppeteer, and even father (once he butt-dialed me, and I overheard what he offered the kids for dinner). High marks on all counts. Now, play Bob Hope's theme song for me ...
RESURRECTION -- I've no idea how I missed out on Talisman, Jules Lenier's weekly magazine, when it was published March 1970-April 1971. I was busy moving from Pasadena to San Diego, starting a career, starting a family (Jules kissed my bride on our wedding night!), and dealing with some of life's harder issues. But because I was living relatively in the same area and circulating among the same magicians, I am more than pleased to delve into the bound version of Talisman from Genii: the book is like a time capsule.
In its 561 pages, there are of course oodles of great close-up magic tricks. Consider such contributors as Gene Nielsen, Hideo Kato, Mike Skinner, Earl Keyser, Michael Perovich, Bruce Cervon, Francis Carlyle, Ron Wilson, Martin Lewis, Joseph K. Schmidt, Bill Derman, Bob Wagner, Pete Biro, Sandy Spillman, Steve Spillman (he was 16!), Milbourne Christopher, William Miesel, Horace Bennett, Sam Dalal, Charlie Miller, Allan Slaight, Stan Blumenthal, Ray Grismer, and Bob Eads, among others. Many of these I knew or at least watched perform at the Magic Castle.
Weekly from Jules Lenier.
As fine as the magic was, the real time capsule thrills lay in the columns, the conventions and show reviews, and the letters. We have such columns as Blountly Speaking (Jerry Blount), The Lair (Jules Lenier), The Ivory Tower (Roger Rittner), and Everybody Else Is Wrong--I Am Right (Guy Thompson). Senatorial Observations (Senator Crandall) and Lines from Lawton (Don Lawton) were one-line gags or bits of wisdom. Paul Green reviewed the 16th annual It's Magic!; Jules (I think) did the third annual Academy of Magical Arts banquet. Some memories were scary, such as the earthquake that shook up the Talisman office. I was there.
A Ron Wilson trick prompted many solutions (I thought Allan Slaight's was the best). Several hands of poker are dealt, then the magician removes his own hand from his wallet: all jokers. Each player trades one card with the magician, yet the magician wins.
A very nice hardback, published by the Genii Corporation. A deal at $70 but only $15 if you extend your Genii subscription a year.
Happiness is a signed Charles Addams print.
McGrave's Hotel is open for business. It's the companion adventure to Lucas Mackenzie and The London Midnight Ghost Show.
Put on a mask and knock on someone's door.
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 used to frequently journey to and perform 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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