My Favorite Magic Books: Dominic Twose
By Alex Robertson - Thursday, May 20, 2021
We asked some of magic's greatest minds to share with us their favorite magic books. This week is the turn of Dominic Twose, one of Fred Robinson’s only pupils and author of the popular book Impromptu Secrets. Over to Dominic:
Those nice people at Vanishing Inc asked me to write about my three favorite magic books. They
asked with such embarrassing flattery (‘We heard you weren’t busy’) I immediately agreed but
realized almost straightaway that this was an impossible task.
A quick check revealed the biggest problem – I conducted a quick check and estimated I own about
600 magic books. How could I possibly pick three from that number?
So, given I can’t identify my three favorites, what can I do here? I started with the list of things I
didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to write about books that most people reading this – undoubtedly
from the upper echelon of magic’s elite - would already have. That would be a waste of your time
and mine. So that ruled out writing about Vernon’s superb books, or the still incredible Stars of
Magic, or about Walton’s ingenious material in his three books, much though I love them. Modesty
forbids me making any reference to my own book, about which Genii wrote, “Impromptu Secrets is a
wonderful book. It’s full of strong, entertaining magic, accomplished by devious means.” The Magic
Circular was so gobsmacked it forgot to review it. I’m literally bound to secrecy about a book I’m
currently writing, which is a pity because I’m hugely excited by it and could easily witter on for hours
about how it will transform your understanding of close-up magic.
I did think I could cheat and make one of my list ‘magic magazines’ – to include Phoenix, Hugard’s
Magic Monthly, The Jinx, Apocalypse, Pallbearers Review, Richard’s Almanac, Pentagram, and
Pabular. All of these are now available in collected form, and are wonderful to browse through, for
their sense of magical history, as well as their tricks. But I decided not to mention them.
I also took the tough decision not to include Jean Prevost’s Clever and Pleasant Inventions. That’s a
pity, because it is an extraordinary book, originally published in 1584, and recently re-published in a
very limited, beautiful edition by Steven Minch’s Hermetic Press. It contains what is probably my
favorite description of a trick. "To Make a Light be Seen Moving Through the Room at Night, Not
Without Causing Some Alarm". Take one or more turtles, and attach to their shells small bits of
slender wax candles (which are commonly called tapers). Let the turtles wander at night throughout
the room, and they shall carry at their slow pace these tiny lights and candles, so that the lights shall
seem to move by themselves. And this shall cause a great fright, especially if there are women in the
room, since they are by nature easily frightened by the least occurrence or unusual sight, especially
at night, which is mother to fear and most favorable to such trickery. If in addition you let them
wander at night through cemeteries, the common dolt shall believe that these are the souls of the
dead, spirits, imps, or phantoms, since his head is already full and stuffed with these foolish ideas.’
How many tricks start with ‘Take one or more turtles’?
Then I thought maybe I should focus on three books I do not recommend. But they are all by the
same writer and his plagiarism is already well known.
I decided instead to write about three books which I love but which might be less familiar to you.
The Magic of Fred Robinson. I think I’ve probably banged on enough about how I was lucky
enough to be Fred’s pupil. He was a wonderful magician, a thoughtful teacher, and a good friend.
Peter Duffie did a fine job in collecting the material for the book. It is a pity it took so many years to
be published, but the material is great whatever year it came out. Others have rightly drawn
attention to his false deals. I’d draw your attention to his colour changes, at which he excelled, and
his Ambitious Card routine, which he performed to perfection.
Greater Magic. You’ve probably heard of Greater Magic. You might even own a copy. But when did
you last get it out and have a close look at it? Or the book? It contains so much great magic. The
chapters at the beginning cover techniques with cards which are still cutting edge – you’d fool
everyone at your local club. There are some wonderful thoughts on crimps. And many of the tricks
are still very effective. But when did you last see someone perform Horowitz’s great A Psychological
Discovery? Richard Kaufman is currently working on an updated edition, removing material that has
dated, and adding the greater magic that has been developed since its publication. Now that will be
worth looking out for.
Bruce Cervon’s Castle Notebooks. During the 1960s, Bruce Cervon moved to California, so that he
could sit with Vernon at the Magic Castle several evenings a week. He would then go home and
write up the effects he’d learned that night in a set of notebooks. He guarded these notebooks, only
occasionally showing a page or two to other magicians he trusted. After he died, through the efforts
of his widow Linda, they were published in five books by L&L Publishing. They were published in
limited numbers, at a high price, and consisted, apart from introductory essays, of facsimile copies of
the notebook pages. Bruce’s spelling was truly dreadful. And they were written with the assumption
of knowledge of many close-up techniques. As a consequence of these factors, there was quite a bit
of grumbling in the magic community. However, I love them. Bruce wrote in painstaking detail, and
often included illustrations to illustrate the methods. And much of the content is superb. Sometimes
fully-fleshed routines, sometimes tiny handling details, but reading them is like bring in the company
of masters, sharing their best. I was lucky – I got to prepare the index for them. This meant that as
soon as Linda finished tidying up the pages, she’d send them to me; I was the first magician to have
full access to these secretive Notebooks. I’ve had a similar thrill for the past few years – Bruce also
left behind a bunch of videos, explaining the material he developed after he stopped keeping the
Notebooks, and I’ve been writing them up for a big book. It’s now being edited. For me, it contains
his best material. But, hey – I nearly forgot - I’m restricting myself to only three books here.
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