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Tubthumping by W. S. Duncan

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii January, 2004)


"Tubthumping" is British slang for "unsolicited sermonizing" or preaching from the soapbox, but I would certainly encourage readers to go solicit the author, Bill Duncan, and seek his distinctive brand of thoughtful conjuring evangelizing. This compact booklet is quite carefully written, providing complete details of the author's theoretical underpinnings behind the routines described. In each case, the author begins by examining the goals which guided his approaches to the material, and the process by which it developed. In every case his focus—indeed, the theme of these notes—is on the many values which effective presentation—read: scripts—can provide to improve the magical impact of a magic trick. After examining his reasoning in derail, he then provides the complete script of his presentation for each routine, all of which are also described in thorough technical detail. There is much to learn in these pages.

The routines discussed are "Card on Forehead," based on a handling by Derek Dingle; "The Last Trick of Dr. Jacob Daley," with the author's choice of methods; "Spellbound," again with a mix of methods selected from the literature; "Government Waste," another attempt at justifying the last non-vanishing coin in David Roth's "Hanging Coins;" "The Mystery Card," the well-known trick of the late Larry Jennings'; "Billy the Vampire Slayer," a presentation and handling for Paul Harris' Torn-And-Restored Card, "Ultimate Rip-off;" "Psychological Coins Across," a fascinating, almost move-less Coins Across routine; ideas with Paul Harris' "Twilight;" and additional thoughts on combining "Card in Wallet" with Paul Harris' "Reflex." The author leans strongly toward story-based presentations, and I realize this may not be to everyone's taste. Although it's probably fair to say I am in general fond of the idea of the form, I admit that in reality there is much in this realm that I do not care for, and in my own work I like to use such an approach sparsely. Like Eugene Burger, I seek to have variety and breadth in my work, but too much of even a good thing can easily go bad.

That said, there are many strengths to the author's examples, and whether you use one or more or none of this material, I think any close-up worker stands to gain inspiration and insight from Mr. Duncan's commentary. His idea for "Spellbound" is to use the transparent coin from the old Boris Zola "Silver Extraction" trick, and although I fear that I may have told you too much already, you really must read the author's reasons to gain the full benefit. My favorite item here is the author's presentation for "The Last Trick of Dr. Jacob Daley," which I suspect many will immediately plug into their repertoire once they read the excellent and logical gambling-themed script. This is a great example of how even a short and simple story can dramatically enhance the magical impact of a short and simple trick—and this booklet is full of such examples. Your magic can only be enhanced and your thinking enlightened by exposing yourself to the author's well-presented theories and ideas, whether or not you choose to use the examples—and that is about as fine a value for a conjuring book as I, for one, am ever inclined to hope for.

Tubthumping by W. S. Duncan 8" x 5" saddle-stitched; 10" x 7" hardbound with dustjacket 265 pages; 4 illustrations; 1993