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13 Prophets by Karl Fulves

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii March, 1999)


Karl Fulves has a long history of publishing manuscripts concerning specialized aspects of card magic. (Two such items concerning riffle stacking were reviewed in the March 1997 Genii). These two items at hand represent two interesting sides of the Fulves oeuvre. 13 Prophets, a reprint of a 1996 manuscript, is a follow-up to the 1978 work, Cards No. 2: 51 Faces North, which focused on the Paul Curry card effect/problem known as the "Open Prediction," and the Stewart James claimed but unpublished solution known as "51 Faces North." For those new to the concept, here is an early description as it appeared in The Cardician, by Ed Marlo "A spectator shuffles pack of cards while the cardician writes a name of a card on a piece of paper. When the assistant is through shuffling the pack, the name of the card is openly shown to him. It reads, for example, the Ten of Diamonds. The performer instructs the spectator to take the pack into his hands. He is told to deal the cards face up one at a time and stop when the Ten of Diamonds shows up. The spectator starts to deal the deck and as he does so, the cardician informs him he should, in the course of the deal, leave one card face down. The dealer has a free choice as to which card he wishes to leave face down. When he has dealt a card face down, the remainder are dealt face up in an attempt to arrive at the Ten of Diamonds. The situation builds up as the cards become fewer and fewer. Finally the last card is dealt face up. The Ten of Diamonds has not shown. The cardician picks up the pack in order to run through the cards and check on the possibility of the assistant having by-passed this card. However, the Ten of Diamonds is not in evidence. It sounds impossible, but the Ten of Diamonds turns out to be the one card that was dealt face down by the spectator."

Okay, now take a deep breath, relax, go back and think about that for a while. Really, take your time. I'll still be here when you return. Come back when you've got a solution, no matter how crude a quick first try might be. Done already? I don't believe it! But okay, then—now think about this. Some of the major published work on the "Open Prediction" appeared in Marlo's The Cardician, The Heirophant, Pallbearers Review, Epilogue, and Ibidem (issue 3, which provides 25 methods), along with the contents of three Karl Fulves manuscripts! (The title to hand fails to provide the Marlovian credits.) But now, consider Stewart James' claim and conditions, which he dubbed "51 Faces North."

"Borrowed cards may be used. A brand new deck is not required. The deck might even have cards missing from it, you do not have to know which ones or how many. You have only to be sure the card you predict is there. You do not need privacy with the cards to set something. The deck is never out of sight for a moment. No card or cards are stolen from the deck. Borrowed writing material may be used. It is described as a prediction at the time of writing. The prediction is nothing more than the name of a card. It is known to all before the first card is dealt. No alternative meanings. No alternative effect. Strictly impromptu. Nothing but the borrowed articles used. When he starts dealing, you do nor know where the predicted card is, it would not help you to know, with this method. Nor do you know the location of any other card. You never know when he will leave a card face down, until after he has done it."

Intrigued? So were hundreds of other cardicians, who set to work to devise solutions, and many have yet to give up. (Max Maven claims an unpublished solution to the problem as James presents it, although he also confesses that no one would be likely to use it.) If you've never thought about the likes of this kind of "card problem" before, this represents the life blood of many a card conjuring enthusiast. (Note the handling by Larry Jennings in this month's "Magicana.") Then again, it might also represent an example of what Charlie Miller was inclined to refer to as "intrigue tricks," which I always took to mean (in his labeling but my wording, since to my knowledge he never put it precisely this way) as tricks in which the method was more fascinating to magicians than the effect was fascinating to laymen.

And so, Karl Fulves now adds to the body of knowledge with no less than 29 new approaches to the Stewart James challenge. The manuscript begins with a detailed four-page parsing of the James claim and conditions, including some of his later follow-up comments on the subject. Mr. Fulves then explores all manner of solution, adding and deleting and varying conditions along the way. As in previous approaches, solutions include forces, switches, stranger cards, double-backs, rough-and-smooth, memorized stacks, small packet versions, humorous approaches, and in perhaps the most useable solution here and the title entry, a double-faced card. Honestly, I don't think there is a method here that I would use commercially, but this may not amount to criticism, for that is not the pretended purpose, as I see it, of such material. When I first experimented with the "Open Prediction" plot before lay audiences, I eliminated a condition and applied a false deal. (On page 11, after describing a method relying upon a rough-and-smooth force deck, Mr. Fulves aptly asks, "...if the magician is going to handle the cards, why not use an honest deck and crooked deals to achieve the same end?" Precisely.) I did this to get a sense of audience response to the plot. The method I used was based on a timeworn approach to the "Stop Trick," one I use to this day. Within fairly short order I abandoned the Curry effect and returned to the "Stop Trick," as the latter elicited a response consistently superior to the former—likely due to the relative clarity of plot. So much for intrigue tricks and card problems before the paying public.

But elsewhere such work can be rewarding to the impassioned student and problem solver, and if that's you then it is for your demographic that this work is no doubt intended, and its study will provide reward commensurate with your level of interest. The production values are Mr. Fulves' usual: comb binding, clip art, minimal illustration, but the price is reasonable. Now go and reread those two problem paragraphs above, and see if you'd like to find a solution ... or 29 ... or more...?

13 Prophets Karl Fulves 8-1/2" x 11" comb-bound 60 pages; sparsely illustrated; 1996