Uncovered: Secrets for the Serious Magician by John Luka
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii May, 2007)
John Luka his own personal collection of 17 card tricks here, exploring polished versions of neo-classic plots including the Ambitious Card, in-the-hands Triumph, no-palm Card to Wallet, Biddle Trick, Homing Card, Sidewalk Shuffle, Open Travelers, Dunbury Delusion, and two coin items.
Mr. Luka mentions that at least one of these routines has been in his repertoire 45 years. That's a long time to work out the kinks. There's no question that Mr. Luka's choices of method work, but whether contemporary readers will want to pay the price tag in order to read these variants of standard tricks is another question. Even when I consider Pieces I don't care for, it seems to me that these are plots and issues that were argued to death 20 to 25 years ago and I'm not sure anyone is interested in re-arguing them now. Thus, although I consider an approach to the Open Travelers here in which the cards change at the end (much less then travel to the performer's pockets) to be a hallmark of the amateur's (or part-time pro's) fascination with novelty over clarity familiarity breeds boredom I'm not much inclined to debate the issue here at length. Suffice to say: I don't like it and I'll leave it at that.
Neither do I care for to put it mildly yet another handling of Open Travelers in which, in an effort to eliminate sleights, the cards are constantly re-gathered, re-counted, the Tent Vanish is absent, and in the end, no moves equals no magic, give or take a hair.
My favorite item is probably "Licked At Last," based on a Mike Powers version of an in-the-hands Triumph. The plot is varied in an interesting and mystifying fashion here, in which by simply turning one card face down, all the previously mixed cards instantly turn face down; then by turning one card face up, the mixed cards all instantly turn face up; and then by turning the entire deck face up, one card remains face down, which is revealed to be the selection. The visuals of this trick are startling.
The book is extensively illustrated with photographs, and the descriptions are clear, so as an instructional text the book does a fine job, reflecting a sincere effort by the author; the book is certainly reasonably priced for the production values. For commercial value, the content remains worthy of some consideration, with useable versions of Ambitious Card, Dunbury Delusion, and the Biddle Trick; these are unarguably timeless plots, but the variant methods provided here will seem minor to some. The Milt Kort routine for Coins Through the Table, while good, was previously described in Bobo's Modern Coin Magic, and seems little changed since then, other than the addition of a few lines of presentation—so why is it here? The fact that the author uses these tricks seems insufficient justification to me; many readers will be seeking more bang for their buck, be it in freshness of plot, method, presentation, or other. Unfortunately, no such defining characteristic stands out in these pages.