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The Second 16th Card Book by Tom Craven & Paul Gordon

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii May, 2007)


Alex Elmsley was an ingenious creator of card magic, and his two volumes of collected works, written by Stephen Minch, comprise one of the greatest assemblages of card magic of the past half century. One of Mr. Elmsley's ingenuities was the 7-16 card principle, a mathematical method. Mr. Elmsley, recognizing that the requisite procedures are not naturally conducive to commercial card magic, worthily attempted to address these shortcomings with clever presentational dodges. (The likes of Harry Lorayne, Roy Walton, and Phil Goldstein, in the pages of this booklet, also make some of the more worthy attempts at addressing these shortcomings.)

In 1982, Tom Craven published a small collection of tricks based on Elmsley's method. Now, Paul Gordon has reprinted that pamphlet, also reprinted the original Elmsley tricks, and added a number of other contributions on the theme, both of his own devise and contributed by his colleagues (whose names I shall not provide in order to protect the innocent).

This is, in my estimation, essentially a book of mathematical puzzles disguised as card tricks. If such methodologies fascinate you, that's a perfectly fine hobby to pursue, and you will doubtless enjoy the explorations contained herein. However, I can only assume that Mr. Gordon's insistence that he uses some of this material as commercial fodder is intended as humor. I admit he does sound serious, but if he is, one can only light a candle in memory of the spectators who have died suffering while watching such mathematical displays. I doubt there is a trick in this book that could not be duplicated, much less improved upon, with the use of a basic control and any direct revelation. Combine a crimped card or a Classic Force with a standard Stop Trick ending and you will have achieved something vastly more magical than anything found between its covers.

In Roberto Giobbi's Card College Light (reviewed in Genii, January 2007), the author provides a stunning collection of material that is both deeply amazing and thoroughly entertaining, without the use of any sleights and yet he also eschews the use of Reverse Faros and Down-and-Under Deals, ugly procedures that litter the pages of this booklet and that seem to me designed as Card Trick Aversion Therapy. When Wayne Dobson puts a marked deck to use, he produces a killer effect with little procedure; in a trick in these pages, a spectator has to deal an entire ordinary pack into four piles in order to allow the magician to execute a Reverse Faro so that eventually a selection selected from said marked deck can be located in the second pack.

I'd rather be dead.

The Second 16th Card Book • Tom Craven & Paul Gordon • 5" x 8" perfect bound • 110 pages • barely illustrated • Natzler Enterprizes