The Magic Book by Harry Lorayne

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii January, 1998)

When Harry Lorayne began writing magic books, he brought a new level of descriptive clarity to written instruction in magic. Few magicians of my generation were not deeply influenced by Close-Up Card Magic, along with the parade of Lorayne hits that followed. In 1977, Mr. Lorayne wrote The Magic Book, his first and only magic book for the public. It remains probably the best single-volume work for teaching magic to beginning enthusiasts, and was no doubt responsible for introducing countless practitioners to the art.

In ten chapters, the author guides the new student through basic card handling "tips and techniques," a couple of simple flourishes, then a superb chapter of basic sleights, taught carefully and yet succinctly. A chapter of "sleight-of-hand effects and routines" provides 17 entries, complete with instructions in presentation, and Lorayne's invariable "afterthoughts," including commentary on misdirection. A chapter of "practically self- working card routines" gives the struggling student a chance to rest his technical study while refining his performance skills with a well-chosen selection of tricks. The book then moves on into chapters on coin sleights, coin tricks, number magic, mental effects, and finally miscellaneous magic like the ashes in the hand, glass through table, and so on.

When this book was first released there were complaints about the then unprecedented quality of material being released to the general public. The book includes a version of the color-changing deck, and if I had my druthers I would still today prefer that this trick, along with the copper/silver in a spectator's hand and work on the classic force, have been excluded. These items are not only unnecessary in an introductory book, but are in fact of questionable practical use to the tyro. But despite these minor reservations, you would be hard-pressed to find a better way to welcome an explorer into the new world of magic, and create an appreciative and well-rounded student in the doing. The committed student would certainly want to move swiftly along to Robert Giobbi's Card College [page 125], but for a brand new visitor, and younger students also, I can't think of a better guide than this. Unfortunately, the price tag seems prohibitive for a book off this nature; the paperback may still be available in some quarters for a third this price. If you want to buy a gift for a budding magician, this is a worthwhile investment, but I wonder how L&L will do trying to keep this on the shelves of public booksellers at this price.

6" X 9" hardbound with full color dustjacket; 306 pages; illustrated with 259 line drawings; 1977; Publisher: L&L Publishing