Card Magic for the Enthusiast by Paul Hallas, © 2019.
Paul Hallas is a clever fellow. His latest book, Card Magic for the Enthusiast, is deceptive. What appears to be a slim, softcover volume of 122 total pages, is actually much more: it’s bigger on the inside. (Paul admits to being a fan of The Doctor, so the comparison is apt.) Entering through the front cover, one finds themselves immersed in a multiverse of practical, entertaining card magic created, refined, and regularly performed for lay audiences by a working pro. I will not attempt to describe every trick in the book, only highlight some of my favorites, and also provide a general overview of the content.
Most of the effects require regular cards. A few require special cards, but in some cases, they are the sorts of cards most intermediate magicians have lying about. Most are impromptu, some use stacks, a couple require minor arts and crafts work, but the payoff is worth the effort. The effects range from the semiautomatic to those requiring intermediate sleight of hand. The plots are direct and clear, and in most cases, Paul has kindly provided complete scripts, and with his encyclopedic knowledge of magic, Paul meticulously credits all sources and inspirations.
The first trick in the book, Under Pressure, is simple-but-stunning. The spectator shuffles, freely selects a card that is visibly lost in the center of the deck. The magician places two cards face-down on the table. Both are wrong. Magic to the rescue! The cards are placed “under pressure” and meld into the selection. I’ve been performing this often, and despite its simplicity, it elicits wide-eyed gasps from spectators. It’s a perfect trick for those times someone asks to see something.
From there it’s off to a time travel adventure called, Traveler in Time. By way of a familiar procedure, combined with a whimsical story, and plenty of spectator interaction, this one is fun to perform.
Up/Down Oil and Water is pretty much what it sounds like, except it uses ESP cards – the circle representing oil, and the wavy lines water – instead of regular cards. (Paul does note that red/black cards from a regular deck could be used, but it’s the ESP cards that really give the effect its punch.)
Assembly Reverse takes the standard ace assembly plot and sends it to The Twilight Zone. This one requires intermediate card handling, but the final reveal/display is worth the effort. I really like this one, and once I’ve smoothed out the presentation, plan on using it as often as possible.
Wouldn’t Play Cards With You is a stunner. Imagine your spectator not only finding their own selection, but also the four aces, and apparently all on their own. An excellent example of allowing the spectator to “do the magic.”
Streamlined Jumbo is a cute, quirky effect in which a spectator’s selected card is delivered by airmail, face-up to their palm. Yeah, like I said, quirky, but also fun. I admit to having some initial difficulty with the handling, but that was my fault, and certainly not because of Paul’s crystal-clear description. Once I overcame my fumble-fingered awkwardness, it was smooth sailing… er, flying. This is another fun one.
In preparation for Direct Gypsy, dig out your set of cards for Peter Kane’s Gypsy’s Curse, and learn an efficient handling that hits hard, and without an excess of false counts and displays. Paul’s handling gets to the heart of the plot – Wild Card – without sacrificing the effect. I’ve used Derek Dingle’s handling in the past, but this one may just become my new favorite.
Fate or Fortune is a performance piece. The spectator participates in the revelation of their own future, and though some of the possibilities are grim, the outcome is always pleasant. (We’re out to entertain, after all!) You’ll need to make up a set of the necessary cards for this one, but it will be something you want to carry along and perform.
These are but a few of my favorites among the twenty-seven total items in the book. Bear in mind that this volume is for the card enthusiast, and everyone will find their own favorites. As I wrote earlier, Paul is a working pro, and uses these effects to make his living. They are that good. Paul could have easily marketed many of these effects as instant downloads or individual tricks. We card enthusiasts are fortunate that he instead compiled them in this book.
But wait, there’s more! In addition to killer tricks, Paul also provides his innovations and handlings of useful sleights, including Pinky Ovette, Center Double Control, and Simple Double Card Control. His essay Thoughts on Multiple Card Revelations provides ideas, history, and context, and ends on an inspirational idea that someone is going to read and run with: Could it be you?
When you see Paul perform, it’s obvious that he loves magic. His enthusiasm is contagious; his face lights up and his eyes literally twinkle. (And yes, I know the meaning of literal, and they do, I’ve seen it.) The same enthusiasm is evident in his writing, and Card Magic for the Enthusiast is exactly that and more. It’s card magic for the magic lover and connoisseur. On a Bang-for-your-Buck scale, this one registers as nuclear.
Truth is, I could write a book about this book, but instead of my review, you should be reading Paul’s book. As it says on the back cover, “It’s guaranteed the card enthusiast will find a number of routines to whet his appetite, so why are you wasting your time reading this, get your cards out for the first effect!” Couldn’t have said it better myself.