Best of Friends: Volume 1 by Harry Lorayne
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii September, 2002)
Harry Lorayne has written a lot of books, and if any evidence of that is necessary, you'll want to check the lengthy list in the front of this reprint of Best of Friends, Volume I. Some of those wonderful books are still beloved by magicians like myself who were profoundly influenced by them; other titles are, well, less wonderful, and the wonderfulness has seemed to diminish over the years with more recent releases (and even re-releases).
Although later titles such as Quantum Leaps and Star Quality were still strong entries, I confess that my own passion for Lorayne material was rapidly dwindling around the time of the original issue of this book in 1982. Of course, this was not a book of a single creator's material, be it Mr. Lorayne's or others (Star Quality was David Regal's first book). Rather, Best of Friends (at the time of first release, there was no "Volume I" appellation, since there were apparently no plans for Volume 2) was a collection of card magic from numerous contributors, and it can be easier to keep the quality up when you're not providing it all yourself. Although Apocalypse was in mid-stream by that time, the author still had a taste for good material, and seemingly knew to hold the better stuff back for the likes of this book. If this isn't the last really great Lorayne book, it's certainly close to it.
And great it is. Written in Lorayne's distinctively clear instructional style, accompanied by Joseph Wierzbicki's exceedingly competent illustrations (although I never did care for those heavy outlines), the book contains more than 120 card tricks, contributed by a tremendous gathering of prominent cardicians, some of whom are now gone, and some of whom were only first coming to our attention twenty years ago. So there is work from Larry Jennings, Ed Marlo, Ken Krenzel, Herb Zarrow, and many more who had already gained our respect, alongside entries from Tom Mullin, Paul Gertner, Jim Swain, Don England and other relatively fresh faces. Each contributor also receives a brief biographic summary, a pleasant and sometimes useful element. Of course there are sandwich tricks and Ace routines and "Triumphs" and the usual catalog of pop plot variants, and treasure-hunters will find their efforts rewarded with a very strong assortment of interesting sleights that have already become "buried in print." Among such gems is one of the late Jack Birnman's "shelf" controls; fans and friends of this gentle creator continue to await publication of the book he so dearly wished released as his untimely death approached.
While novel trick handlings may fade away, over the years a few technical items from these pages remain with me still. Another nifty move is Tom Mullica's "Future Change," a superb but little-known alternative to, for example, the Curry Change. And my favorite item in this volume is Ken Krenzel's substantial work on the Top Change. This entry may be the best single article on this sleight to be found any-where in the literature, and has long served as my standard text on the subject for students. One note, however, may be of interest: This handling, while uncredited here, actually goes back to Robert-Houdin's Secrets of Conjuring and Magic, in which that author described two methods: his "modern method''—none other than the one described here by Krenzel and Lorayne—followed by the "old" method in which the right fingers mysteriously change positions (perhaps a sort of bonus effect). (Although credit for the handling may be due Robert-Houdin, while he describes the method, he does not explicitly claim credit for it. This may be similarly true of his one-handed top card displacement flourish—known in some quarters, when executed as a secret technique, as Lorayne's Ultra-Move.) It has always been remarkable to me that magicians remained committed to the already old and unarguably inferior method while ignoring the improved approach for more than a century.
Of the many reprints currently reaching the marketplace, and the many Lorayne reprints coming from L&L Publishing, including the Apocalypse collections, this tide would be one of my very first choices.