Ken Brooke's Magic Place by Anthony Brahams

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

Ken Brooke was probably the most unique and certainly among the greatest magic dealers who ever lived. The Ken Brooke catalog was the premier line of top-grade and exclusive magic from the time of its birth in the mid- 19 60s and for almost twenty years thereafter. By all accounts a fabulous performer in his own right, Mr. Brooke worked for Harry Stanley in the 1950s at the Unique Magic Studios and subsequently struck out on his own. Beloved among his peers, he was able to obtain exclusive material from the likes of Alan Shaxon, Finn Jon, Fred Lowe, Derek Dingle, Scotty York, and perhaps above all, Fred Kaps. Mr. Brooke's clientele was as exclusive as his creators, and so he would offer nothing but the best to his customers. As John Fisher writes in his foreword, "He was, in fact, that rare bird amongst dealers who put the advancement of magic as both art and entertainment before any other consideration." What's more, Mr. Brooke could dip into the repertoire of his own act, and some of these original presentations and handlings of standard apparatus were among the finest of his releases and have since become classics. From the "trademark" Chop Cup routine of Paul Daniels to Tom Mullica's performance of the Egg Bag, the unmistakable mark of Ken Brooke can be clearly seen by those familiar enough to recognize it in the acts of professionals throughout England and the United States. And so, Mr. Brooke took little risk when he offered his famous money-back guarantee to his clientele. Yes, it's true; Brooke backed his product line with a no-questions-asked guarantee. Hard to imagine, isn't it? (Unless, perhaps, you have received the recent catalog of Scotty York creations from FYEO productions.) In the heyday of the Ken Brooke Magic Place, I used to drool over the advertising mailings I periodically received from England, and would occasionally save enough money to purchase some dreamed-of masterpiece. I was never disappointed— and the line wasn't cheap either. When the Kaps Chinese Coin Trick was first released, it was priced higher than this entire volume now under discussion— and that effect was never even described to the purchaser in advance!

In addition to his own high standards and finely-honed tastes, and beyond the contributions of his own creative routines and the material gathered from countless leading professionals of the era, Mr. Brooke wrote the finest and most delightfully eccentric magic instructions in the history of retail magic. Mr. Brooke's directions were the next best thing to a personalized lesson from the master himself, and at times it was difficult to conceive that even such lessons could have bettered the instructions by much.

And so, here comes a volume of Ken Brooke instructions. Although his catalog was never that extensive, this is still not quite the entire line. Nevertheless, these instruction sheets are a gold mine for the student. Besides the aforementioned Kaps Coin Trick (a stunning, unpublished variant of which by Tim Conover I will never forget having witnessed some ten years ago), you will find instructions for the Brooke handling of the Malini Egg Bag; along with Charlie Miller's instructions, these are probably the two most important written sources to date of instruction and finesse with the famous but sometimes enigmatic prop. There are wonderful routines for numerous standard props, including the Chinese Sticks, the Nudist Pack, the Card Castle, the Hydrostatic Bottle, and more. There are instructions for the Kaps Card to Wallet, a prop that remains a staple of countless professionals. There are tips and gags strewn throughout the text. And there are the original instructions for the Fred Kaps Floating Cork, among the first—and greatest— "invisible thread" effects to open the doorway to that now popular trend.

"He was, in fact, that rare bird amongst dealers who put the advancement of magic as both art and entertainment before any other this day Paul Daniels owes Ken a lot. Had Ken Brooke staked his own claim to stardom, it is unlikely that there would have been room for the two of them."—John Fisher, from the forward to Ken Brooke's Magic Place

Any serious student of practical and professional performance magic would do well to study every word of Ken Brooke's available, including the Ken Brooke Series available from Joe Stevens, Ken Brooke & Friends by Derek Lever, and Harry Stanley's Ken Brooke's Magic - the Unique Years. Some have complained that this volume at times may refer to apparatus the reader may not own or entirely understand. Get over it.

8-1/2" x 11" leatherette hardcover w/gold stamping; 326 pages; illustrated with line drawings; 1994; Published by L&L Publishing