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Las Vegas Kardma by Allan Ackerman

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii October, 1994)


Las Vegas Kardma

Allan Ackerman's name will not be new to any serious cardician. Over the years he has produced three small volumes that have found enormous favor, if not wide distribution, with the cognoscenti of carddom. Magic Mafia Effects, The Esoterist, and especially, Here's My Card, have influenced a large number of cardicians over the past nearly twenty years. Fortunately, much of that material will be gathered and re-released some time in the future. After an absence of some eight years, during which Mr. Ackerman essentially left the conjuring community due to a number of unfortunate thefts of credit for his material, he returned a few years ago with several interesting lectures. With the release of this volume, Mr. Ackerman will doubtless receive even wider acceptance for his legitimate and interesting contributions to the field.

Mr. Ackerman's material has something for everyone. There are tricks requiring substantial technical ability, interesting and useful sleights of mixed technical demands, and some unusually good material requiring no sleight of hand at all. In the self-working department, for example, Mr. Ackerman's oil and water routine is effective, though devoid of sleights. A Self-Working Quick Coincidence is an excellent four-way coincidence effect that appeared in Here's My Card, but has been simplified so that anyone can do it.

In the sleights department, Mr. Ackerman has, in the past, contributed a number of excellent variants on the spread cull controls, and here provides several new and equally useful developments, including related palming techniques and controls, along with several other technical items. Among the more technically demanding performance material, one especially notable routine is Ackerman's Opener. This is a strong series of cleverly-routined effects, beginning with popular contemporary classics like Elmsley's Brainweave and Vernon's Triumph, leading into a memorized deck routine and climaxing with a remarkable culling demonstration. As with several other of Mr. Ackerman's routines, this latter segment requires the use of a memorized stack, a condition which may set some students running in the other direction (or at least to the next page). But the result in this case is a routine guaranteed to bowl an audience over. Another trick worthy of special notice is Impromptu Paul Fox, a deceptive routine in which the mage mentally divines the selections of four spectators. There is also a section of previously-unreleased Marlo routines, including a handling and presentation of Persi Diaconis' Les Cartes Diaconis.

This is the first book produced by A1 Media, until now noted for their quality instructional videos. As a first effort, this book scores well on content, but less so for production. The writing is simple and direct, but Mr. Ackerman could have greatly benefitted from more diligent and competent editing and proofreading. At times, the descriptions become murky to a point dangerously close to incomprehensibility. Indeed, the author's intentions are occasionally only rescued by the illustrations—except that the illustrator's name, Hannah Ammar, is nowhere to be found! The design is unsophisticated; we have boxes within boxes within pages that are boxed within outlines, indecipherable running footers, and here is yet another book filled with underlined type, a device which most designers abandoned with their electromechanical typewriters. What ever happened to italic fonts? A1 should be permitted some leeway in this, their first foray into book publishing, and I trust that their design skills will improve in the future.

Mr. Ackerman makes serious attempts at responsible crediting, but there are some misses. A devoted Marlophile, Mr. Ackerman never misses an opportunity to credit his mentor—as when he gives credit to Marlo for first pointing out that Dai Vernon's Triumph shuffle retains the order of the deck, a rather obvious routining point, implicit in a sentence in the original Stars of Magic description. In the description of Mr. Ackerman's small packet all backs routine (first published in Don England's T.K.O.'s by John Mendoza—although the latter name is nowhere to be found in this volume), the author mentions a trick "done with gimmicked cards" by John Thompson. Yet the original trick was performed with unprepared cards, and was erroneously credited to Mr. Thompson in Epilogue by Karl Fulves. This was in fact a routine of Harry Riser's, which incorporated ideas by Milt Kort and Al Saal in applying Marlo's Quick 3-Way sequence to this plot. In the only coin routine in the book, a worthy Reverse Matrix which uses no extra coins and in which all four coins first assemble together, Mr. Ackerman pleads ignorance of the parentage of a loading technique which, I believe, belongs to David Arthur (ref. Coinmagic by Richard Kaufman).

Nevertheless, there is much of value here for the card aficionado, novice or advanced. There is an odd appendix which may be of use to the beginner, describing, for example, the Elmsley Count, the Up the Ladder false cut, the Faro Shuffle and the Zarrow Shuffle, while at the same time ignoring a number of lesser-known sleights and techniques which Mr. Ackerman makes reference to in his text. There is little in the way of presentational information, which is probably an appropriate reflection of Mr. Ackerman's strengths and limitations. He is, after all, a professional mathematician, not a performer. But Mr. Ackerman is highly regarded by many, and much of this material demonstrates why.

8 - 1/2" X 11" hardbound; film laminated dust jacket; 176 pages; approximately 51 line drawings; Publisher: Al Multimedia.

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