Roger's Thesaurus by Roger Crosthwaite & Justin Higham

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

Roger's Thesaurus

Roger Crosthwaite is a British cleric with a passion for the paste-boards, and this volume, co-authored by his disciple Justin Higham, may go far in deifying him as a master cardician. For sake of discussion, I am willing to accept on faith that Mr. Crosthwaite is capable of executing the fantastic techniques detailed in these pages, although there will no doubt be those heretics who will question the miracles described. This is work for the purist, who appreciates the legitimate pleasures of practicing difficult sleight of hand, perhaps purely for the sense of accomplishment, and as well, for the pleasure of demolishing one's fellow magi. So it is without complaint, but only as caution, that I forewarn the reader that this is not the place to expect a wealth of commercial entertainment. It is the place to be absorbed and fascinated by the endless possibilities a deck of cards can present to an advanced conjuror.

There are seven chapters, and the first two are in some ways the most accessible, but even then only to a point. The first chapter describes a complete "card act of seven phases based upon the 'Mindreader vs. Gambler vs. Magician' theme." The elements can be used in whole or in part. In overall structure, and even in the actual effects used, this is probably the most potentially commercial material in the book. However, it seems to me that Mr. Crosthwaite is driven by an effort to utilize the most exotic methods, regardless of whether or not such methods will make an appreciable difference to an audience (other, of course, than an audience of magicians). While I am conversant with all of these methodological approaches, and capable with a quantity of them, I would never choose to rely on, for example, the extensive use of the Longitudinal Angle Palm when working for the public. Yes, the techniques can work. But they are not only difficult, they are conditionally restrictive, often in the extreme. And even in the case of approaches that I use regularly—such as the Marlo Miracle Ace Cutting—I must confess to having laughed aloud when I discovered that Mr. Crosthwaite uses this for only one of a series of revelations, then re-positions the other three cards for three different ensuing discoveries! Call me lazy—but to my mind, the elegance of this method, and even its very effect, fails to be properly exploited without some degree of repetition.

The second chapter is an extensive treatise on the "Think-a-Card" effect. Mr. Crosthwaite has previously published some of his work on this in the Commercial Card Magic of Roger Crosthwaite, by Walt Lees, and indeed, I personally find his simplified approach described there in 1981 to be preferable to some of his later alterations. There is little doubt that this effect is probably the single most powerful card trick you can do for laymen, and possibly for magicians as well. This chapter, while not exhaustive, is probably the most thorough treatise on the subject anywhere in the literature to date, and as such, will serve as a valuable resource to any interested student. However, I would offer a few cautions. First, anyone who truly masters this kind of effect will ultimately find his or her own way of doing it—few if any experts use an approach identical to that of any other performer. As well, this is the kind of effect that, like the Card Under Object, one only masters by doing it repeatedly under fire—neither book study nor mirror practice will bring a student terribly far. Think-a-Card utilizes a broad range of skills that have far more to do with performance experience and human interaction skills than they do with sleight of hand, and as such, the trick is impossible without the long term experience that hones such skills; yet when these skills are in place, the trick eventually becomes fundamentally simple. Not easy, but certainly simple. Hence the kind of microscopic examination that Mr. Crosthwaite offers actually serves, it seems to me, to make the trick seem more difficult and complex than it really is.

As well, I would caution the reader to be careful of extraordinary claims. Here I do not refer to the author's opening, third person sentence from this chapter, to wit: "Roger is one of the foremost exponents of Think-a-Card in the world." Rather, in this chapter, as elsewhere, Mr. Crosthwaite appears to embrace a variety of rather questionable gospel. In particular, he refers to the use of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). I must regretfully inform the authors—as well as the Psychic Entertainer's Association, while I am at it— that there isn't a shred of quality evidence for the existence of anything even remotely approaching the likes of NLP.

In the 1988 report prepared by the National Academy of Sciences, entitled "Enhancing Human Performance," a stellar panel of scientists who investigated, amongst other subjects, the claims of and evidence for NLP, stated: "Overall, there is little or no empirical evidence to date to support either NLP assumptions or NLP effectiveness." Further on they add: "The lack of evaluation is not apt to be easily remedied. For one thing, the proprietors, purveyors, and practitioners of NLP are not experimentalists and are not interested in conducting such studies." The handful of controlled studies that do exist ball report no evidence for the eye-movement claims and other imagery hypotheses that Mr. Crosthwaite endorses. Sadly, the evidence for NLP is much like the evidence for Santa Claus and so many other articles of faith—widespread, but unconvincing.

Nevertheless, these first two chapters do make interesting reading, and much of the material that is most likely to have at least some potential for commercial use may well lie within these opening pages. The balance of the book consists of five more chapters, including a chapter of "discoveries, transformations and transpositions" based on Mr. Crosthwaite's impressive contributions to the excellent British magazine The Gen, in the 1960s. A chapter of "classical card technique which includes ... crimping, shuffling, forcing, shifting, palming, changing, and a mini-treatise on culling" includes an item from Bob Irons (identified as an "ex-gambler," but one assumes this is a euphemism for former hustler) applying a breather crimp to a riffle stacking procedure to devastating result. This is one of the few applications of the breather wherein the technique serves far greater purpose than simply a faddish method for which any crimp could be substituted, as is so often the case.

The cull section begins with an excruciatingly Marlovian set of variant handlings, but concludes with a remarkable item of David Carre's entitled "Total Cull," in which the cardician begins with a borrowed, shuffled deck, and in the course of performing a variety of card tricks, concludes by revealing that the entire deck has been culled into order. There's nothing easy about this, and few will master it, but the concept is impressive and makes for interesting reading. The next chapter addresses gambling- related techniques, including a variety of false deals and the like. There is a chapter of material from the British card master Jack Avis, and then a chapter of material from Scottish contributors, including such luminaries as Peter Duffie, Gordon Bruce, and Roy Walton (who contributes a delightful and extremely commercial quickie that is quintessential Walton). The book concludes with an appendix, including a number of variations on material from throughout the book.

I have only touched on a portion of the dozens of sleights and subtleties and some 75 tricks included in this volume. The writing is good for this type of material, and it seems thankfully well proof-read, although a sterner editor might have helped to restrain a tendency towards general excess. This is not something to read in a night or two for light entertainment, but clearly a great deal of effort has been expended, and the result seems at times to be a finely produced version of the Marlo Magazine. The distinctively attractive illustrations, by Chris Power, are plentiful. I am compelled to mention, however, that the stylishness of these illustrations—of heavy outlines and artistically- driven rather than informationally-driven detail—at times conflict with the goals of the text, as when the precise details of finger placement that are desired are lost to the cause of art. The credits are thorough in the extreme, and particularly interesting at times when the authors quote from sources outside the Marlo ouevre, from Sam Sharpe to Victor Farelli. However, here again I must point out my reservations, lest the reader confuse quantity with quality. In some cases, material that is pertinent but that is not related to Marlo seems far less likely to be included; the discussion of the rhythmic approach to thumb counts, for example, is certainly relevant to work published years ago by Tom Mullica; Vernon's work on Think-a-Card from More Inner Secrets of Card Magic is all but ignored, as is the similarity between some of the second deals described here and Vernon's New Theory Second (mentioned only vaguely, and herein altered perhaps to its detriment). As well, at times the authors clearly fall prey to the Marlovian "name it and claim it" approach to invention. I confess that, as obsessed with the historical record as even I am, my teeth begin to grate when I read that while Hofzinser emphasized that a card was culled with a pulling action of the right fingers, Marlo emphasize the pulling of the left thumb or what have you.

While I realize that I have spent some time detailing my reservations about this book, I nevertheless have a great regard for the effort that went into it, and the unquestionably skilled and well-informed perspective of its authors. There is much of value to be gleaned from this work. If you are the type who is inclined to present a deck in Fingertip Control position, riffle to a called stop, then mark the selection with daub or steal it into Longitudinal Angle Palm, this book is for you. Even if a Spectator Peek followed by an expert, conventional Side Steal would produce a superior effect.

8-1/2" X 11" hardcover w/laminated dustjacket; 236 pages, more than 250 line drawings and 30 photographs; Published by: L&L Publishing

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