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.