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After Craft by J. K. Hartman

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii March, 1996)


After Craft

If you loved Card Craft, J. K. Hartman's previous monolithic tome, you'll certainly be delighted with this follow-up volume. Lighter in actual weight but no less weighty in the substance of its contents, this is a book for lovers of card magic who want a volume that will provide a wide-ranging menu of options and inspirations, a diverse buffet of offerings that will continue to feed the reader for much more than a single night's read. As is always the case, Mr. Hartman provides a tremendous variety and volume to select from, the overwhelming mass of which falls well within the technical capabilities of the average practitioner.

The opening segment describes nine original sleights, which are repeated from Card Craft for the purpose of rendering this new volume entirely self-contained. These sleights are the only material repeated from that book. Next the student will discover twelve chapters, divided into two sections; the first section consisting of 27 additional sleights in four chapters, followed by 59 tricks in the remaining eight chapters. Phew!

Mr. Hartman has a taste for subtle construction and an eye for uncomplicated clarity in his effects and, perhaps especially, his sleights and finesses. Secret Subtraction is a standard sleight today, and techniques like the Knuckle Jog have often found favor with many card workers; a deceptively simple technique like the One Below Break (for establishing a break one card below a card being inserted in the deck) in this volume may well similarly spread into the collective cardician consciousness. (A few excellent descriptions of non-Hartman sleights will also be found here, including a very useful description of Jean-Pierre Vallarino's Rhumba Count.) While it may seem perverse to mention a few seemingly inconsequential sleights in the face of so many tricks, I am hard pressed to single out any of the latter. There are transpositions, sandwich routines, assemblies, discoveries, poker deals, mental routines, and more...much more...much, much, more...hell, you get the idea, and any trick I highlight is bound to bring objections from those whose preferences differ. Perhaps more to the point, the book is apparently selling well, so Mr. Hartman has his loyal audience, and you know who you are. Also, I would point out that Mr. Hartman's influences and inspirations are often of interest; where so many other works are stimulated by the worthy likes of Vernon and Marlo, one is as likely or more so to come upon the names of Walton and Fulves in Mr. Hartman's work, and these tastes can at times lend a distinctive flavor to his particular brand of card concoction. And while there is much fodder for the student's own learning, thinking and experimentation, there is commercial material to be found, too. I particularly liked Mr. Hartman's graceful handling and detailed presentation of the ancient effect of pulling a card case from a spectator's hand, only to mysteriously leave the selection remaining in his or her grip. (There, I picked one out anyway.)

The casual reader won't get much out of this book, but that's not to say that one needs to be a passionate or possessed expert to mine its treasures. Mr. Hartman generally begins by briefly describing the technical requirements and/or precedents of a trick, and not the effect. Hence it is difficult to properly conceive this material without a careful reading, playing cards in hand. Once the student embraces that approach, he or she will find himself ably assisted by Mr. Hartman's remarkably concise prose—it is truly some kind of accomplishment that 56 sleights and 59 tricks, along with some 700 illustrations, are contained in less than 300 pages! The descriptions are eminently thorough and instructive, and are amply supported by the illustrations of Joseph K. Schmidt, whose direct style is well suited to Mr. Hartman's efficient prose.

8 - 1/2" X 11" laminated hardcover; 283 pages; illustrated with over 700 line drawings; 1995. Publisher: Kaufman & Greenberg

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