Magic in Fiction: A Short Title Checklist by Michael Canick
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii January, 2000)
Michael Canick, a New York City dealer in used books, has an unusual specialty: magic in fiction. Now, personally (and admittedly allowing for a few exceptions) I can't stand most uses of magic in fiction, as they most typically comprise dreadfully misinformed caricatures of magic, turned to some author's particular needs as a banal narrative device.
That said, there are some interesting sidelights to the subject, and Mr. Canick gave an interesting talk at the conference about magician and author Clayton Rawson's efforts as a writer of magic-related fiction. While Rawson also dealt with magic for magicians—he illustrated Al Baker's superb book, Pet Secrets—he wrote a series of notable detective fiction books, in which the detective, dubbed The Great Merlini, was also a magician who put his conjuring expertise to use in his detecting adventures.
This informative monograph includes a brief biography in outline form, and Facts about Rawson in his various life roles as an artist, magician, writer, editor, and social "master of ceremonies." Extensive references are provided for this summarized material. There follows "An Annotated Bibliography of the Works of Clayton Rawson," broken down into segments of novels, short stories, novelettes and short stories written under the pseudonym Stuart Towne, playlets, non-fiction writings, magic books under the pseudonym of Merlini, contributions to Hugard's Magic Monthly and The Jinx, films based on Rawson's work, and additional miscellaneous works.
This is an invaluable reference work, as is Mr. Canick's Magic in Fiction, a Short Title Checklist, consisting of over 700 titles—that's right!—of magic related works, broken down by categories of types of fiction (i.e., literary, mystery, Fantasy, children's, etc.) This concludes with a list of more than five pages of additional titles of "debatable" magic fiction, meaning that the author continues to research these works and their possible magic-related content and/or fictional status. An unusual work of obviously extensive and passionate research.