A Boon for All Seasons by Eric Mason and Barrie Richardson
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii September, 2005)
The late Eric Mason, the author and illustrator of the marvelous eccentric book, Stuff: A Collection of Original Magic (1984), was also, in the 1940s, the inventor of the Boon writer, arguably one of the most significant technical tool advancements to 20th century mentalism. While the nail writer predates this century, the Boon is not literally a "nail" writer, and thereby, should not be referred to as a "Swami" gimmick per se, although it is included in chapter one of Corinda's 13 Steps to Mentalism (and to which Mr. Mason contributed).
Mr. Mason's Boon writer remained under wraps for some years, and was briefly (and not entirely accurately) ad-dressed by Corinda, circa 1950-1960. But the Boon writer may not have been fully appreciated until, in 1982, Mr. Mason collaborated with his best friend (in magic and in life), Barrie Richardson, on a little booklet entitled A Boon for All Seasons. This new 2005 re-issue is the first time the manuscript has been reprinted, and while long well regarded it has also been hard to find. Corinda reportedly told Mr. Mason that he wished he'd had the book before he wrote his chapter on the Swami; now modern mentalists can get a firsthand look for themselves.
This little reprint is very nicely produced, printed as per the original on faux antique paper, and seasoned throughout with Mr. Mason's distinctive and lively artwork. For a small for-mat volume of less than 50 pages, the book is a refreshing bargain at the price, filled as it is with useful ideas, succinctly presented. We all know the basic idea of what can be accomplished by secret writing, but there are applications, ideas, and details here that are well worth the modest asking price, and may well serve to freshen your thinking. There are practical tools described, including holdouts and other aids for secret writing; if you've thought about pocket writing before, you will find some interesting improvements here using the Boon and some cleverly concealed writing surfaces. A two-phase close-up item uses a smartly-constructed prediction card that allows you to instantly predict both a randomly computed number and your spectator's date of birth. There are a couple of ideas using cardboard beer "mats" (coasters) that might well be worth the price of the book, including an idea for an apparently "sealed" prediction of sorts, and an unforgettable prediction involving a game of darts. A bill serial number divination idea here could certainly play well for very large audiences. And an idea for predictions housed in a small metal card file box, and another sealed in an inflated balloon, are also worth their weight in gold to a thinking, working pro. Eric Mason called the Boon "the greatest little gimmick in the world," and this unassuming booklet quietly proves that the statement was any-thing but hyperbole.