A Grand Exposé

I have just returned from five days in beautiful Fisher Island, a private island just off of Miami. I was there to work with my host, Allan Slaight, on his business biography, which is slated for publication later this year.

As per one of my earlier Tricks & Tweets postings, I adhered to my Walter B. Gibson mode of working, and managed to finish proofing the text of Magicana’s forthcoming reprint of A Grand Exposé, a scare but significant book on deception published in 1860. It is now in the hands of Michael Albright who will cast his magic spell so that the reprint mirrors, as much as possible, the look and feel of the original publication.

As I write in the Present Day Publisher’s Preface, it is full of surprises. A sample passage is set out below. I find it, given the 1860 date of publication, particularly enlightening.  For many of you, however, it will be gobbligook. To paraphrase Joseph Dunninger, who Sid Lorraine discusses on his Blog, “For those who understand, no explanation is necessary; for those who don’t, no explanation will do.”

So, from A Grand Exposé:

Hollows and Rounds.

The next kind of cards which I shall describe are called hollows and rounds, and squares and rounds. These two kinds of cards are acknowledged by gamblers to be the most ingenious now in use, which is, beyond a doubt, true. The hollows and rounds are made in the following manner: It is first decided how they are to be arranged, as in the case of the strippers, mentioned above; then one half of the deck is cut so as to leave each a little rounded on the edges, which makes them a trifle wider in the middle than at either end; the other half of the deck remains square. Now, by placing the two half decks together they can be stripped or pulled the same as the common strippers – the difference being that the common strippers are stripped by being pulled lengthways and from the ends, while the hollows and rounds are stripped by pulling them lengthways from the middle of the deck; thus, a person who has seen a deck of common strippers, could not pull a deck of rounds or a deck of rakes either, and consequently would think they were fair cards; and another great advantage which these cards possess over others, is that they can be turned around and thrown about the table, and still they are not divested of their fraudulent character as strippers and rakes would be, should they be used in the same manner.

There are some few persons, who, having heard of strippers, often turn the cards around if they suspect they are being cheated; such a proceeding would have no effect whatever upon such a card as just described; hence the bettor in such a case would be satisfied that he was playing against a square game. I am told that many professional gamblers could be swindled five or six years ago with this kind of card. Squares and rounds are made much in the same manner – they are cut to pull from the ends, like rakes; they also can be turned round without producing any effect on them; also, like hollows and rounds, they can be shuffled after being pulled and run in without changing the relative position of the cards; they take two and use them otherwise in the same manner as described of the common strippers. It will readily be perceived how easily the uninitiated can be swindled at this game with these ingenious contrivances of the professional gambler. The reader (if he is not a gambler) will now presume that he has learned all the secrets of the Game of Faro, and if the cues should come out correct by his keeping, that it would be an impossibility for the gambler to swindle him at the Game of Faro. To such I must say that they are still ignorant of the entire system of this game. I have yet some very important expositions of this game to make which I have no doubt will surprise the readers as much or more than the expositions I have already made.

Forewarned is forearmed!

Setting the stage

While the New Year reminds us of what occurred during the past twelve months, it also gives us a chance to look ahead.

2010 promises to be a busy and exciting year with many projects on the go.

As the Artistic Director of Magicana, we have added additional responsibilities to our portfolio: we are now the stewards of the Magic Collectors’ Association and their publication, Magicol, a quarterly magazine that focuses on the history of magic and the apparatus and ephemera associated with it. Our first issue will be sent to members in February. Membership in the MCA is one of the best bargains in magic. If you are interested in the history of magic, you should really join now!

We will also be programming the 41st annual MCA Conference held near Chicago. Scheduled from May 13th to 15th, the conference will feature a broad range of speakers, performers and dealers, and be the perfect opportunity for those with kindred interests to share information and build new friendships. We will be releasing information on the conference shortly on Magicana’s website.

Although I also have several books in various states of completion – the business biography of Canadian media mogul Allan Slaight, the life and magic of Paul Fox, and the second volume of the Dai Vernon biography – several other books are scheduled for release in 2010.

I took my M.O., so to speak, from Walter Gibson, the creator of “The Shadow”. Gibson was one of the most prolific authors of the twentieth century, writing scores of books and articles under a sundry of names. Apparently, Gibson had a typewriter in virtually every room in his house, and a different story set in each carriage. He’d wander into a room, read where he had left off and then, if the muse struck him, continue on with that particular story. Yes, there was multi-tasking prior to Microsoft.

Titles in our 2010 queue include a book of finger-flinging one-handed cuts by Dr. George E. Casaubon (Msgr. Vincent Foy). Nick Sacco and I finally convinced Msgr. Foy – a pioneer in this area and now age 94 – to release a manuscript of his favorite cuts. Photographer Ron Van Sommeron took photos of Msgr’s hands – or rather, hand – performing each cut!

Also, with the success of How Gamblers Win, Magicana will reprint another rare title: A Grand Exposé. Published originally in 1860, there are reputedly less than 12 known remaining copies of the first edition of this book. It is a marvelous work and one that should be in the hands of serious aficionados of card table artifice.

Speaking of card table artifice, 2010 should also see the publication of the first volume of three centered on The Expert at the Card Table. Although not my original intention, I’m sure that it will raise a few eyebrows and some controversy.  It’s been a longtime coming. I completed the first draft of it almost ten years ago. Hopefully, it will be worth the wait.

With any luck we might be able to squeeze in another publication or two.

The big news, however, is still to come. If you love magic, just plan on spending some time in Toronto this summer.