Encyclopedia of Impromptu Card Forces by Lewis Jones
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii November, 2010)
This is a second and expanded edition of Lewis Jones's substantial aggregation of card forces, none of which require prepared cards (hence "impromptu"), and which now offers more than 500 such methods and techniques.
When looking at 500 ways to force a card, it quickly becomes obvious that no one needs them all; few of us need more than a handful. But by studying a work like this, one expands one's knowledge of conjuring principles, exposing oneself to a range of options, and eventually one may get around to thinking about the important question of how method affects effect—which in turn may lead you to a better understanding of why one should select any particular force over another, as the best tool for achieving a particular effect. There are countless reasons for choosing methods, but many of them are bad; the fact that a given method is clever, new, easy to do, or even deceptive provide little justification toward putting any given method to use. A thorough knowledge of principles and methods is just one aspect of what makes for good conjuring—along with an understanding of other sound theoretical principles and facets, including misdirection, clarity of effect, and so much more.
Reference works like this provide tools in the kit of magic, and generally make little effort to provide such larger context. This book is no exception, and the fact is mere observation and not intended as complaint. The narrow but worthy mission of this book is to provide one heaping hell of a lot of card forces, and in this the book succeeds admirably. Organized (by alphabetical titling no theoretical choices there) into 15 chapters, these include Blind forces (such as under the table or behind the back, and so on); Combination forces (including other objects such as matches, coins, dice and the like); Comedy forces; Count forces; Cut forces; Equivocation forces; Forcing formulas, The Glide; The hold out; Locators; Multiple forces; Probability forces; Spelling forces; Stop forces; and Switches. The mind boggles.
Here's something I didn't know: "The Vegetable Force." You ask a spectator to name his favorite vegetable; you spell it out, dealing one card for every letter, and arrive at a force card. Nice.
Here's something I did know, but if you don't, you should: Bill Simon's "Three of Clubs Force" from Effective Card Magic, a true utility principle that is a valuable inclusion in this collection, along with an assortment of additions and refinements accumulated by the author.
In the theory department: The author makes an excellent case as to why the Hindu Shuffle sucks (being British, he is far more restrained in his commentary), and why it is better to rely on related procedures using the Overhand Shuffle.
Suffice it to say, there are a lot of forces here, and I won't be going out on a limb to speculate that some you will like, and some you won't. The nature of criticism being what it is, having stipulated that there is much in its pages to like, I will also address some specific points of doubt or disagreement. For one, Mr. Lewis addresses the difficulty of crediting in a book like this, but there are examples in which I would have preferred to see further detail—or any detail at all. Norm Houghton's method of producing a palmed card from the pants pocket by withdrawing it with two fingers (often attributed to Gordon Bruce) is described here with no credit at all, and this leaves the student bereft of further resources to consult concerning this well known finesse. Dai Vernon's "Five Card Mental Force" is mentioned but without specific attribution in the literature, yet its mention in this volume might serve as a student's first introduction, and as such, the lack of credit is frustrating; as is the author's attempt to make the trick "surefire," along with the (admittedly common) oversight of the fact that Vernon presented this as a gambling trick, in order to strongly reinforce the psychological elements underlying its method.
I found other aspects of the book occasionally puzzling as when a utility production of a palmed card from the pocket is somehow provided as a forcing method, when the only connection seems to be that the palmed card might be a forced one. A Cull procedure described at the beginning of the chapter of multiple forces is of limited use, considering it not only secretly culls four cards for subsequently forcing, but in the process openly removes four random cards from the deck which you must now somehow use. Clearly there are many superior alternatives in the literature, so it is questionable as to why this one should be included over all, or at all.
In a description of the Classic Force, the author instructs us to openly cut the pack, bringing the known force card from bottom to center (above a break) in position for the force. Such a procedure lies somewhere between poor and wrong. Dai Vernon made the point that Max Malini would set the deck down in a stepped configuration, so that after some time misdirection (following obtaining the glimpse and centering the force card), the performer could appear to simply and casually retrieve the deck from the table and immediately offer the cards for selection without any procedure or displacement. There are many other subtle approaches, but cutting the deck before the Classic Force is not one of them.
Then again, the author strongly criticizes the Riffle Force as a weak method and in general, I agree but he fails to note Roberto Giobbi's popular handling from Card College (based on an idea of Rainer Teschner's). Mr. Lewis does provide another excellent improved handling in which the cards above the break are dumped off onto the other hand or the table; unfortunately he fails to mention his countryman, Alex Elmsley, who deserves credit for this lovely finesse.
Lest you think my complaints outweigh my praise, however, be only forewarned by my criticism, but not dissuaded from obtaining this useful volume. On the other, much longer side of the ledger, there is a routine that seems to have been previously described somewhere by Bruce Elliott, in which the spectator cuts to a series of cards and the magician repeatedly reveals the cards' identity. After a while the spectator catches on to the mystery, which has been accomplished by an amusingly bold method. At this point the magician encourages the spectator to give his newly learned trick a try, where upon thanks to an Annemann principle everybody is fooled all over again. This funny and engaging routine is ridiculously simple to accomplish, and while it might not be worth the price of the book, it's a perfect example of why you want such a book on your shelf. In the book of forcing as in life the journey is the reward.