Big Friday sale

The Card Magic Of Nick Trost by Nick Trost

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii August, 1997)


This book was an unexpected treat. For weeks now I've had people asking me, "Hey, what's in the Trost book? Is it all packet tricks' Yikes!" Well, while for some magicians Mr. Trost's name has long been strongly associated with commercial packet tricks, there is only one small section of eleven such items in this collection of his work, and those eleven aren't bad at that.

But that's only eleven out of a total of 122 entries that Mr. Trost has gathered from his sizable outpouring of more than three decades of published cardicianship.

I was delighted by some of the material in this collection, and quite entertained at times by the ingenious results that Mr. Trost is often able to wring out of a minimum of technical demands or a modicum of gaffs. In the very first item, the Observation Test, a fine trick with which to open a magic book or a magic performance, the spectator is shown a shuffled blue-backed deck along with one red-backed card. Asking the spectators to report on what they have just seen, they restate the above, whereupon the mage demonstrates that in fact the odd card is blue-backed and the rest of the deck is red. The effect here is all out of proportion to the simple method utilized.

Another good opener comes just a few pages later, the Generic Deck version of the Five Ace Poker Hand. The performer shows a blank deck from which he removes five blank cards, while talking about a poker hand he recently received. The cards change into five aces, and then the deck becomes completely printed. Once again, the astonishing and potentially commercial effect is achieved with a minimum of technical demands.

Those two were drawn from the first of the book's 17 sections. Here's one to get you thinking from the second section, containing "Coincidences." The performer removes one card from the deck and places it in his pocket without showing the face. A spectator names a number from one to twenty. The card which falls at the called number is placed face down before the spectator. The spectator turns the card up for all to see, whereupon the magician removes the mate of this card from his pocket. The effect is immediately repeated. A good trick, even if it does require a set-up.

In a section of four-ace tricks, we find this fine Triumph Ace Opener. The deck is shuffled face up and face down. A convincingly random-looking cutting display ensues. The deck is assembled and spread, and all the cards are righted except for the four aces. Elsewhere, in a section of gambling tricks, a demonstration of Bottoms, Seconds and Centers is offered that requires nothing more than a single duplicate card.

I have singled out just a few items here, but I honestly believe that few cardicians of any level of technical skill, from beginner to expert, would be able to go through this book without finding something to their liking. Mr. Trost's thinking when it comes to method is distinctive and his contributions are noteworthy; this is not a book about performance or theatrics. He is the man who created the original sleight-of-hand solution to the Card Tunnel plot. He has done wonderful work on the Ten Card Poker Deal, including a killer version here called the Showdown. His trick, Nick's Expanding Cards, was probably the first in which miniature "playtime" cards expanded to poker-size, a forerunner of Brother John Hamman's justly famed Micro-Macro. In a late section of "SpeciaI-Deck

Gambling Effects" there are some excellent full-dress routines that feature some unusual and surprisingly effective uses for the Gilbreath Principle.

What's more, this is an elegantly produced book that speaks well of its author in its admirable restraint. The crediting is detailed and thorough; the author's recounting of the credit history of the trick, Horse Race, for example, is a model of how such work should be done, and why such detail never detracts from but only enhances a creator's individual contribution along the evolutionary path. Mr. Trost is not loathe to gently sell the reader on his material, but he tends to do so with a passing phrase that can be quite effective and attention-getting in its specificity. An example: "This, routine was favored by Charles Hudson." Now that's the kind understated salesmanship I find completely palatable. The overall design of the book reflects this refined sense of taste, decorated between chapters by charming historic plates from the likes of Roterberg's New Era Card Tricks or a Nelson Hahne illustration from a 1936 Thayer catalog, and punctuated by exquisitely chosen epigrams from throughout the literature of conjuring. This one, from Samuel Rid's The Art of Jugling or Legedermaine (1612) appears at the start of the section on packet tricks: "A strange and excellent trick to hold four kings in the hand, and by words transform them into four Aces, and after to make them all blank cards, one after another." Hmm. Point taken, Mr. Trost.

The overall package is completed in like fashion—accompanied by Joseph K. Schmidt's characteristic illustrations—in a book that is exquisitely if simply designed. From the gold-stamping of the red cloth cover to the matching endpapers, to the ivory paper and the well-chosen running heads, this is a book made in a way in which you can never go wrong, a way that simply says, I am a book, nothing less, nothing more; now sit down with me a while, put your feet up and let's spend some time together. And as with any good book—like any good friend—it will be time well spent.

6" X 9" hardcover with laminated dustjacket; 336 pages; 161 line drawings; 1997; Publisher: L&L Publishing