Intercept by Harvey Berg
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii July, 2000)
This tragic waste of paper pulp is mute testimony to the crashing standards of scholarship among both producers and consumers of contemporary magic literature. The author—such as he is—claims in his pathetic if unintentionally hilarious introduction that after "overhearing two magicians discussing an effect by Dai Vernon" he spent three years working on this routine, and .. during that time (was) trying to research the Vernon effect" which he "finally found" on a Michael Ammar "Easy to Master Card Miracles" video.
Greater men, having awakened after a night of drunken debauchery and discovered that they had somehow managed to scrawl that sentence on the wall of a bar-room urinal, might well have done the only honorable thing, and stabbed themselves to death at once with their Sharpie marker.
The great research mystery in question is, in fact, Dai Vernon's "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," inspired by Erdnase's "A Mind-Reading Trick" and first described by Vernon in Hilliard's Greater Magic in 1938, later re-described in Vernon's *More Inner Secrets of Card Magic *by Lewis Ganson and also in the Vernon Chronicles by Stephen Minch.
Our intrepid scholar, Mr. Berg, is not the first to notice the quality of this effect; no less than Johnny Thompson discusses it at length in one of his recent videotapes, which, by the way, include many more tricks for a price not inordinately higher than that of this paltry manuscript. (Mr. Berg is also not the first to rip-off the trick from Vernon; Ralph Hull marketed an only slightly altered version in the early 1930s without credit to Vernon, prior to the release of Greater Magic.)
But more to the point—oh, Constant Reader, so much more to the point!—you, your very own self, can buy the actual entire collected Dai Vernon* Inner Secrets* series for not that much more than the price of this manuscript, and you get a whole bunch more neat tricks thrown in as well. Yes, Mr. Berg has indeed, in three years of relentless research, managed to add some pleasant little presentational details to Mr. Vernon's wonderful trick, along with an inferior ending that also fails to credit some of the interesting work on sorting problems that might have mentioned Phantini, Orville Meyer, Max Maven, and Bob Farmer.
If however you were to work on Mr. Vernon's wonderful trick your very own self, and really use and perform it, you will no doubt add some clever details on your own. If you read that original Vernon collection, you will stand a reasonable fighting chance of becoming a better magician than Mr. Berg. If you know anybody who bought this manuscript, please call them now and laugh, preferably at great length, at their misery. If only because it beats crying.