Full Metal Jacket by J.C. Wagner and Syd Segal
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii September, 2005)
I sure am glad to know that J.C. Wagner has returned to magic after a long hiatus. His credentials are impeccable, including the firsthand influences of Francis Carlyle, Dai Vernon, Larry Jennings, and Bob Sheets, among others. As a veteran magic bartender, Mr. Wagner has brought together the best of his influences and his own abilities to create a distinctive style in that rarified field. While Magic Bar often emphasizes character and comedy over technical whiz-bangery, Mr. Wagner combines his deep understanding of the classics, his passion for state-of-the art thinking, his prodigious technical skills, and an unwaveringly clear eye for the commercial demands of the bar setting, to create a brand of consistently powerful card magic. His books, 7 Secrets (1978) and The Commercial Magic of J.C. Wagner (Maxwell, 1987), are filled with effective, useful material and countless hidden gems. Mr. Wagner can take solid commercial plots like Heba Haba Al's "Card Under Drink" and combine them with exotic techniques like estimation to add an extra frisson of power; he can also take esoteric plots, dear to magicians but often dreary to lay-men, and add those touches in handling and presentation that can turn them into commercial stunners.
This new set of lecture notes, Mr. Wagner's first new publication in 10 years, continues these trademark skills, in collaboration with magician Syd Segal. Mssrs. Wagner and Segal contribute three routines each and collaborate jointly on one The seven entries include "A Logical Lesson," an unusual plot based on Larry Jennings' "A Logical Conclusion," that pro-vides an intriguing change-of-pace from the usual pick-a-card fare; Syd Segal's "Very Fair Triumph," which like most variants does not warrant replacing the original, but nevertheless is an interesting and not run-of-the-mill approach for problem-solvers; "Final Closer" is Mr. Wagner's update on his killer "Super Closer" routine from Commercial Magic, one of those finishers that cannot be followed; "T(w)oo Wild Jokers" is Mr Segal's surprising and visual four-of-a-kind production, a worth entry in a bloated field; "Even More Four on the Floor" is a quick routine of Mr. Wagner's that while only using four cards is full of surprises and has a big climax far beyond the limits of the typical pack-et trick; "Thank-You LePaul" is Mr. Segal's update of a terrific LePaul routine that clearly demonstrates the shared tastes and inclinations of Mssrs. Segal and Wagner; and the "Packet Lie Detector" is Mr. Wagner's latest version of this long-intriguing plot, combining elements from Jim Steinmeyer and (I believe) Larry Jennings into an extremely commercial routine. In sum, Full Metal Jacket is loaded with strong ammunition guaranteed to kill or maim any audience.