Trickery Treats: Card Craft Continued by J.K. Hartman
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii February, 2000)
I just re-read my review of J.K. Hartman's previous release, After Craft, in the March 1996 Genii. Everything that was said about that volume applies here—Mr. Hartman's style and mission is consistent, and also consistently appreciated by his fans, who not only seem ever-ready to absorb a new volume of his material, but made the huge 1991 installment, Card Craft, a popular and commercial success.
By contrast, After Craft and the volume at hand may seem lighter in sheer size but still substantial in content, especially in light of Mr. Hartman's efficient literary style, with 61 items included in Trickery Treats, divided amid nine chapters. Segments include transpositions, tricks with four-of-a-kind (more or less), false deal demonstrations, discoveries, mental magic, predictions, and gaffed cards.
As always, Mr. Hartman's influences are varied and exceedingly contemporary, with variations upon recent works by the likes of Peter Duffle, Guy Hollingworth, Jim Swain, and others being offered. Finesses abound, and even previously favored Hartmanesque techniques, such as the Knuckle Jog, find new finesses added here. (Another personal favorite since its very first publication, the Transfer Glimpse, is also re-described here.)
At heart the author has a passion for solving card problems of many sorts, and certainly his audience reflects similar tastes, pleased to work through new solutions, try them out on conjuring colleagues and lay friends alike, and then move on gracefully to the next one or ten. Nevertheless, elements that appealed to me in this book included the author's inclination to provide the occasional presentational tidbit, to indulge an interest in longer, more elaborate routines, and ultimately a willingness to reveal a bit more of his personal-ity at rare moments herein. Thus when a spectator is given a choice between Kings and Deuces, for example, the author provides appropriate commentary; if the former: "So much for your love of the common man;" if the latter: "Obviously you're a true friend of the people." I enjoy these kinds of details, not merely based on whether or not I might find use for them, but even more so because they reveal a bit of the character behind the pages.
In the range of longer and/or more elaborate routines, a workable solution to the Ken Krenzel "Succession Aces" plot is offered, with 31 illustrations in its service; an entertaining seven-phase pseudo-gambling demo, described in 11 pages of Mr. Hartman's succinct prose, requires fairly limited technical skills; an eight-card multiple selection routine includes a thoughtful commentary on the construction of such items, along with a simple technique for controlling the cards. A particularly interesting experiment, entitled "A Process of Elimination," consists of a lengthy equivoque process coupled with a lovely accompanying story by which one card is forced by purely "verbal control," to use Phil Goldstein's term. What is fascinating about Mr. Hartman's version is that he has constructed a written text in which the actual physical script becomes a part of the performance, in plain view of the audience as the story is read aloud. A little thought will lead the student to realize that this presents certain troublesome challenges in the matter of how one conceals the fact that there are multiple "outs" and alternates. In fact, Mr. Hartman has devised a slightly gimmicked manuscript that enables the performer to page through the script without ever needing to reverse direction—you always page forward. This is a truly fascinating and remarkable exercise, even if I remain skeptical as to its theatrical effectiveness; memorizing all the alternatives and delivering them apparently spontaneously, while admittedly more challenging to master, seems to me the theatrical preference.
And finally, in the area of personal revelation, a historical digression about the author's re-discovery of a manuscript he had written with a school chum 45 years prior lends even greater interest to a couple of routines found therein, one which is substantially updated, the other of which, a very clever piece indeed, is delivered virtually untouched from its original school-days form. I greatly enjoyed this passing moment of personal revelation, and regard it as an additional bonus to the characteristics that Mr. Hartman has previously established, and continues to deliver consistently to his fans in this latest volume.