Twose Company | The Greene Solution

By Dominic Twose - Thursday, October 31, 2019


In my last blog post I posed a puzzle; I gave the description of a card trick taken from a novel by Graham Greene, and suggested you find a method for it.

It was a bit of fun; there is no suggestion that Greene was accurately describing a specific trick he had witnessed, but he’d clearly borrowed elements of some tricks he had seen. What added to the challenge for me was that it would seem that the priest who performed the trick did not seem to be an expert card handler, and any solution should bear that in mind.

I was surprised by the feedback I’ve had on this. People have asked for my solution; here it is. It is based on one move, a handling of the glide, which I learned from a simple book when I was a young teenager; it may have been a Bill Severn book, but I’ve not been able to track it down.

The priest actually did two tricks; for my solution the first sets up for the second. For the first:

The priest said, "Here, you see, are three cards. The ace, the king, and the jack. Now," he spread them fanwise out on the floor, "tell me which is the ace." "This, of course," the lieutenant said grudgingly, showing no interest. "But you are wrong," the priest said, turning it up. "That is the jack."

Remove three cards, say an Ace, a King and a Jack. Show the freely. Mix them, secretly bringing the Jack to the middle. Hold them face down in dealing position. Turn the hand palm down, so the cards are face up. Draw attention to the face card, say the King. Glide back the lowermost card, take the double at its end with the right hand, turn both hands over and put the double on top of the remaining face down card. Repeat this sequence. Then repeat it a last time. This time you will be showing the Jack. So at the end, the Jack will apparently be on top of the packet, but really in the idle. Lay out the cards in a row. Ask the spectator to guess which one is the Jack. Like the lieutenant, your spectator will guess wrong.

For the second part:

"There is another trick," the priest said, "called Fly-away Jack. I cut the pack into three - so. And I take this Jack of Hearts and I put it into the centre pack - so. Now I tap the three packs."... "I say 'Fly-away Jack'" - he cut the left-hand pack in half and disclosed the jack - "and there he is."

This is where the subtlety comes in. From the description, the priest is dealing with only the Jack. But after the first effect, there are still three cards on the table.

At the end of the first effect, gather the three cards together, with the Jack on the face. Place them on the table. Cut the remainder of the deck into three piles. Pick up the three cards. Show the Jack on the face, and repeat the glide-and-double-lift move from before, apparently placing the Jack on top of the packet. Take the top card and slip it into the middle of the centre packet. As the priest does, draw attention to it, by describing the action. Then, without comment, place the next card (the Jack) into the middle of the right-hand packet, but leave it slightly injogged; then the remaining card into the middle of the left-hand packet.

Now, slowly and importantly, tap the three packets and say ‘Fly-away Jack’ – Greene knew the importance of magical gestures. Then cut at the injogged Jack in the middle of the right-hand packet and turn the upper half over, slowly and with importance, revealing the Jack.

Greene had clearly witnessed magic performances. He knew the likely reaction.

"Of course there are two jacks." "See for yourself." Unwillingly the lieutenant leant forward and inspected the centre pack.

Allow your spectator to check the cards.

So far in the story the lieutenant has been unimpressed. But this climax hits him.

"I suppose you tell the Indians that that is a miracle of God." "Oh no," the priest giggled, "I learnt it from an Indian. He was the richest man in the village. Do you wonder? with such a hand.’

I don’t pretend this trick will make you the richest man in your village. But it might win you a whisky in your local bar.


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