Dai Vernon's Ultimate Secrets Of Card Magic by Lewis Ganson

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii November, 2005)

Throughout the 1960s, the Vernon Secrets of Card Magic series, written by Lewis Ganson, represented the pinnacle of contemporary card magic. The four-volume set was completed with the publication of Vernon's Ultimate Secrets of Card Magic. While previous volumes were originally published in quality editions by Harry Stanley's Unique Magic Studios, by the time Ultimate Secrets was released, the line had been taken over by Supreme Magic. Supreme released Ultimate Secrets in its first edition with the same poor production quality used for its subsequent reprints of the other volumes, so the crown jewel of the set saw its first light of day with offset printing, which particularly ruined the photographic reproduction, and without typesetting. This was a travesty that marred the record of these otherwise revolutionary and deeply influential works.

L&L Publishing, having now purchased the rights to some of the most important entries in the Supreme catalog, intends to reissue the entire Vernon/Ganson body of work, a project begun last year with their admirable new edition of The Dai Vernon Book of Magic [page 101 ]. The second entry is this finale to the Vernon Secrets of Card Magic series, and I understand that the three preceding titles will eventually be released in one unified volume. L&L Publishing has created something truly wonderful with this lovely book. Having located all of the original photographs, they have re-screened them anew and have freshly typeset the text. Re-sizing the book to remain consistent with the Vernon Chronicles series (as was also done with The Vernon Book of Magic), the result is a beautiful book, at long last possessing production standards worthy of its contents. Other than the new design, the content remains entirely unaltered, save for several new dedications which were perhaps obtained via seance, and a brief preface by Bruce Cervon (most of which consists of corrections to a Jennings routine for which I'm sure he is duly grateful). Those of us who know this book well will treasure the handsome new version; those to whom the book is a new discovery will be simply elated.

The book contains 31 chapters organized in three sections. Section One consists of 17 items, mostly complete effects, along with the extraordinary flourish, The Perfect Circle of Cards. There are several items from Larry Jennings that are among the earliest in his published ouevre. Those who read the turgid introduction to Revelations, Vernon's annotated Erdnase, and wondered who Persi Diaconis was and what has he done lately, will find Les Cartes Diaconis, a diabolical version of the General Card.

Section Two consists of "Card Sleights and Moves," including 37 items in nine chapters. There is a chapter each on two-handed and table passes, including Vernon's "kiss" completion action for the classic pass. There is a great chapter on finessed throw-offs and steps for following up a spectator peek. There is work on the short card, false cuts, controls, and more. In Section Three, "Friends of Dai Vernon," there are 20 more items in the remaining five chapters from contributors including Alex Elmsley, Roy Walton, Ross Bertram, Fred Kaps, Francis Carlyle (an interesting two-card transposition without a duplicate), and more. Included in this section is Jay Ose's single deck Do As I Do, which is certainly a modern classic, still effective despite the exposure of its method in William Goldman's novel, Magic (courtesy of his then technical advisor, Richard Kaufman). This is truly a wealth of material that was cutting edge at its time, and yet substantial enough for modern times. And throughout it all, but especially in the second section, if one is able to listen and feel carefully enough, the reader might sense Vernon's hand upon his or her own, showing the way toward a finer eye, a more penetrating insight, a more delicate touch—the revelatory Vernon Touch.

7" x 10-1/4" hardcover with laminated color dustjacket; 186 pages; illustrated with 125 photographs plus line drawings; 1995, Publisher: L&L Publishing