The Card Classics of Ken Krenzel by Harry Lorayne
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii September, 2002)
Back in 1978, when this book was first published, Ken Krenzel was primarily an underground name in magic, and the kind of magic he did was far beyond the expertise and ability of your average magician. Maybe that's why only 1,000 copies of the first edition of this book were printed, it took literally years to sell them all. Harry Lorayne was of course already a well-established and popular author of magic books, but he had only once before written a book consisting of someone else's material, Richard Himber's The Hundred Dollar Book (1963).
Times have changed. Ken Krenzel has published a number of books and a series of videos, and his name is known to anyone who considers himself an awake and informed cardician. He has created a number of now standard moves, techniques, and technical finesses—and this book was the first to present some of those items to the magic community on a wide basis. It was a favorite text among some of my friends and colleagues when it first came out, and it was certainly a favorite of mine. Having now reread it in the form of this new reprint from L&L Publishing, it's no wonder it remains a superb text of expert card magic and technique. If you are a fan of card magic, this book is not ancient history; rather it is filled with eye-opening gems just waiting your discovery.
The book is logically organized into nine sections, totaling more than 80 entries. The first section addresses Multiple Lifts and begins with Dr. Krenzel’s "Natural Double-Lift," which is just that. His method for the "Stop Trick" here reads as just short of ludicrous and I have fooled hundreds of magicians with it over the years. His "Drag Lift" became a standard handling around New York at the time, and is still one of the finest stud-type lifts I know, albeit like most stud lifts it is a difficult one.
The second section includes the Invisible Bottom Reverse and the Invisible Reverse Transfer, two moves with great utility potential; the latter move secretly reverses a card from the bottom of the deck and delivers it to any location within the deck. Like a number of Dr. Krenzel's techniques, this one benefits from the possession of large hands, but is not entirely dependent upon this anatomical feature. With smaller hands you can do these moves, but you will have to invest more care in covering angles. (Mr. Lorayne frequently offers insight on the. point, as his own hands are rather small.)
While the sleights are certainly a feature of this book, there are interesting effects as well. In "The Optical Sandwich," a selection is peeked by the spectator, the deck is immediately pressure Fanned, and then a pair of mates are inserted face-up into the fan, widely separated. The fan is closed, and then the deck is spread to immediately reveal the selected card sandwiched between the inserted pair. Properly executed this is an extremely clean and crisp quickie that should appear move-less.
But no trick is better known amid the contents of this book than Dr. Krenzel "The Magic Bullet," his elaboration of a Peter Kane concept. In this, a selection is peeked, the deck is transformed into a simulacrum of a handgun, the gun is "loaded" with a playing card, which is then "fired" by snapping it with the fingers, and the selection comes "shooting" out of the deck. This is a spectacularly commercial revelation that will never lose its appeal. The author comments that Jay Ose used this trick for many years at the Magic Castle, and Ose, as Mr. Lorayne comments, "knew the value of entertaining magic."
Dr. Krenzel’s "ultimate" work on the "Card Tunnel" effect, which was faddish at the time of this book's initial release, is included here, in which two cards repeatedly change under mysterious and impossible conditions by being pushed cross-wise through the deck. Also included is "The Eerie Spin-Out," Dr. Krenzers handling of an effect invented by Las Vegas magician Joe Fischer, and popularized by Michael Skinner and by publication of the original handling in Earl Nelson's book, Variations, which came out about the same time as this volume. There was much confusion over the crediting of this item, further confused by Mr. Lorayne's unintentional reinvention of Mr. Fischer's original method, but when the smoke clears, the Fact is that this is one of the most delightful of all tabled card revelations, regard-less of which method you prefer.
For the flashy set, there is a challenging flourish here entitled "Cut Propulsion" in which a card shoots out from the center of the deck in the midst of a one-handed cut. Like many items in this text, much practice will be required. There is unique work on riffle stacking, and finessed handlings of exotic but excellent sleights like Jerry Andrus' Panoramic Shift and John Cornelius Fan Steal. There is work on false deals, including a one-handed Center Deal, and the "Thumb Bottom Deal," which works from a natural full grip but unfortunately requires a hand big enough that your thumb can reach completely across the width of the deck.
The 25 pages comprising Section Seven of the book were nothing short of revolutionary at the time, and will remain enormously useful to any serious student of advanced card technique. This section addresses the Pass, a ne plus ultra technique with which Dr. Krenzel has been closely associated for many years. In the 1970s, Howard Schwarzman and Ken Krenzel were two of the country's leading masters of the Pass, perhaps all but the only masters in the Eastern part of the country. Their mutual influence was eventually crystallized in the remarkable work of Derek Dingle, who thanked both of them in his Collected Works for teaching him the move. And it was Dingle in turn who influenced another entire generation in the use of the Pass, a line of evolution that followed directly to underground legend Geoffrey Latta and which spread from these sources throughout the cardician scene—a story which will be further told in the long awaited Latta book, whenever it finally makes its appearance in the next few years.
Dr. Krenzel played a pivotal and influential role in these lines of evolution, devising numerous detailed finesses for the Pass, which were subsequently adopted by countless experts. The seven pages of commentary on the Pass which begin this section were filled with cutting-edge information at the time, and repeatedly pored over in obsessive derail by students like myself. Dr. Krenzel method for concealing the break at the left side, fen; example, is not only a superlative expert technique the Pass, but in fact a technique which I teach to every student who studies the Vernon Double Undercut with me, as the finesse is equally effective for that standard move as well. If you wish to become truly expert with the Two-Handed Classic Shift, there are only three or four important references to study. This chapter is one of them.
But there's much more in this rich section, including the One-Card Middle Pass and its variants, the K-E Pass (a kind of Wrist-Turn Pass based on a Dr. Elliott move), the Block Cover Pass (at a time when this move was rarely seen), the Dribble Pass (at a time when little had been published on this cover for the Shift), and of course, the Mechanical Reverse, now one of the standard sleights in the pantheon of card technique. Although nor an easy technique to conceal—again, hand size being a factor—this is an enormously valuable sleight due to the role it can play in the construction of countess card routines, in which several apparent steps are combined into one, and the turning over of a deck of cards serves to conceal the secret reversal of almost any number of cards. (It should be noted that Ravelli [a.k.a. Ronald Wohl] published a description of what amounts to the Mechanical Reverse in lbidem. No. 28, April 1963, p. 36, which may be a case of independent invention. Dr. Krenzel states that his own devise of the move predates any actual publication, including his own, and that the sleight was shown to various witnesses at the time; meantime the Wohl manuscript was written during April 1957 to March 1958, over five years before it reached print, hence the matter remains unfortunately unresolved.)
Although I enjoyed the experience of rereading this book, this was not a feeling based entirely on nostalgia. Rather, this is a book full of good ideas—some of which I'd overlooked or forgotten—and continues to retain an impeccably contemporary feel. There appear to be only three changes to the book—the first being the copyright notice, which manages to includes a typo. The second is the new rear dust-jacket copy by Mr. Lorayne, touting the book in his inimitable style; ever gracious, he insists that while "other books have been published of Ken's material ... the original is still the best, by far" [emphasis per original—which is hard not to see as a gratuitous slap at both Dr. Krenzel as well as the author of his subsequent texts. Finally, I mentioned three changes; the third being a vastly improved cover design—in which the name of the creator of this treasure trove of material at long last appears in a type size larger than that of the author—albeit still not larger than the author's ego.