Tricks of my Trade: The Magic of Doug Conn by Paul Cummins
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii June, 2000)
Many magicians will be unfamiliar with the name of Doug Conn, a Florida-based close-up magician, but this new book should significantly alter that state of affairs. Mr. Conn is a careful and elegant thinker about close-up sleight-of-hand magic, and this volume is filled with 32 fine examples of his delicate and sensible touch. Consisting primarily of card and coin magic (and I would have preferred that these two segments of material been grouped as such, as I find is easier to have the props on the table and proceed in that line of thinking), there are also a few items with sponges and cigarettes.
The opening item of the book is a gem. A chosen card is returned to the deck and a pair of black Jacks used to locate it. In a repetition, the Jacks entrap the selection again in a different fashion, joining in the center of the deck with the selection sandwiched between them. However, upon further inspection, it is discovered that the red-backed selection is now the only remaining red-backed card in the originally red-backed deck, the remainder of which has now, after repeated handling in full view, changed color to blue.
Does that grab you? If so, and if you are also in search of some cutting-edge ideas and finesse on contemporary neo-classic card and coin plots including Triumph, Collectors, and Open Travellers, or Copper/Silver/Brass, Coins to Glass, and Purse Frame productions—then you will certainly enjoy this book. The author and publisher, Paul Cummins, is a well regarded close-up creator himself, having produced a popular manuscript of his own work entitled ...from a shuffled deck in use... (reviewed in January 1998 Genii). Now he has set upon the task of writing and publishing the material of other magicians, and this book is a more than worthy first effort. While the design elements are a bit bland and workmanlike for my tastes, the descriptive writing is first rate and the crediting efforts careful and informative.
Of course, that content list might not grab you if you're the kind who is more inclined toward the novel plot and prop route. But in that case, you might like the trick that looks like it will be a coin assembly using miniature cards but turns out to be an unexpected assembly of the cards instead. Perhaps you'll like the utility idea for secretly adding cards into play at any time in a routine, an idea with wide application. There's a commercial coins-to-glass routine using coffee cups that introduces a new technique for creating the arrival of a coin in the cup, and will no doubt find a home in the repertoire of restaurant workers. How about a trick in which four pips assemble, one-by-one, in the corner of a Four of Clubs (yes, really)? And in yet another assembly plot, four Scrabble tiles assemble magically—to form a word, of course!
This is the kind of mix of meaningful novelty plus significant refinements and improvements for existing material that can keep any thinking magician up nights, experimenting, practicing, creating. I enjoyed it, I recommend it, and I look for-ward to more from Paul Cummins.