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Shane.Klink

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Reply with quote  #1 

I’ve long been a lover of magic and collector of card decks but I am by no means a historian on either matter. Hopefully, someone here is because I could really use some help.

I am presently writing my first novel. It is a story rooted in the theme of mentorship and heavily inspired by aspects of the Ricky Jay: Deceptive Practices documentary. Since watching it years back my mind has been flooding with ideas about the generational gift of magic and the social groups and characters of the Coney Island scene in early-mid 20th century.

Much of the story is so far based on a single magic trick that connects the lives of two people over the course of about 50 years. And that’s the problem, trying to find the trick that works the best for the story and fits well within the world of very difficult but actually performable feats of sleight of hand and not the impossible camera only  stuff that is too easy to write and ruins the realism.

Here are possible caveats to the trick:

  1. Sleight of hand based, but could include card, coin, or cup.

  2. It may be a technique somewhat common today but should have been cutting edge and ahead of the curve in the 1930s

  3. It should be the kind of trick that if you were not told how it was performed it may have taken years to solve yourself

  4. As a kicker, a trick that can be performed easier with one hand than two would be great

I’ve tried researching myself, but being an appreciator and not an active participant there are limits to the knowledge I can find online for this type of thing. The story means a lot to me and a big part of it is that I don’t want to insult the artists and communities involved. 

If anyone can help or point me in the right direction it would be endlessly appreciated.


Thank you,
Shane Klink                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 
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Gerald Deutsch

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Reply with quote  #2 

Magic In High School

Gerald Deutsch

March 2017

 

 

By the time I got to high school, I was ready for high school.

 

Junior High was in Astoria – High school was in Bayside – Bayside High School. We had moved.

 

Astoria was tough – I was bullied. I had my dad drive me to school but I insisted he let me off a few blocks away so no one would see. I did well in junior high – in fact they made me the head of “the visual aid squad” – the group that runs the movie projectors etc. Not bad for an 11-year-old. I could leave classes anytime. Then I had an idea. I told the teacher in charge I needed an assistant and when he agreed I picked the toughest kid in the school – Anthony Baomonte. I was never bullied again.

 

And by the time I got to high school I was a magician.

 

Bayside High School. I was 13. Classes were coed – boys and girls together – except gym – separate classes for boys and girls. Gym and the pool. I learned why there were separate classes for boys and girls. No clothes – no bathing suits for the pool. We swam nude.

 

And I did magic and told jokes in every class.

 

One of my favorite tricks was to borrow a quarter, put it in my left hand, snap my right hand over it and show both hands empty. The quarter had vanished. I then reached into my pocket and produced the quarter and returned it to the lender. I became famous for this trick. Mostly with the teachers – kids didn’t have quarters to risk.

 

I was the MC for the senior show. I remember one line I was told not to use – but I did anyway – and got a good laugh.

 

“I don’t mind Bayside High School – it’s just the principal of the thing--.”

 

But teachers would come up to me with a friend or another teacher and hand me a quarter and I would “do my thing” – making the quarter vanish and then produce it from my pocket.

 

One thing I remember clearly was that day during swimming class.

 

There I was with the other boys – naked being inspected by the teacher. When the teacher got to me he handed me a quarter.

 

 

 

 



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chris w

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Reply with quote  #3 
I don't know that I can solve your exact narrative problem, but you might want to look at The Magician and the Cardsharp by Karl Johnson. It's a bit of history/biography that reads like fiction about one magician's search for an elusive sleight of hand technique in the same era you're thinking about.

There's also a book called The Coney Island Fakir: The Magical Life of Al Flosso by Gary Brown that could prove useful. I'm less sure of that one, as I haven't read it. But I'd definitely have a look at it if I were you.

Finally, if you enjoyed Deceptive Practice but haven't seen Dealt, the documentary about Richard Turner, do. I can practically guarantee that you'll get a lot out of that one as well.

Hopefully someone else can be more helpful with specific trick recommendations for your story.
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Shane.Klink

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Reply with quote  #4 

@ChrisW

I actually had a copy of The Magician and the Cardsharp in my shopping cart already, but Coney Island Fakir had a fairly small print run and is a bit pricey for me right now.

And I'm a huge fan of Richard Turner. I've watched his hour long performances on youtube several times and still have no idea how he does any of it. 

My primary personal interest is in card manipulation, but try as I might I still can't faro cleanly. 

Thank you for responding to my post. I know it's a lot to ask, but I'm glad to have found some interest.

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chris w

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Reply with quote  #5 
Looks like you can get the Al Flosso book for $4 if you don't mind the Kindle version. The printed version is expensive because it was originally put out by a magic publisher rather than for the general public.

Will the workings of the trick eventually be explained as part of the story? I ask because, if not, it might be possible to take a standard of the time and just plausibly amplify it a bit to make it more intriguing without losing the ring of truth. It's a bit trickier if you insist on something with a workable method.


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Shane.Klink

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Reply with quote  #6 
Spoiler for a book that doesn't exist: In the story it is meant to be the prize trick of an Al Flosso type character from the 1930s who never got to teach it to his apprentice before dying. His student goes on to live a normal life after being wounded in the war and spends years of his life secretly trying to figure out the trick.

Much of the emotional arc for him and his wife pivots on the completion of this trick, and figuring it out exactly the way it was created. Because of this I am weary not to stretch the practicality of the trick itself.

There is a version of the story where the trick is revealed, but I am aware of the secrecy in such things and would never out the mechanics unless approved to do so by the community.

It is all admitably a bit of a balancing act.
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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #7 
Shane, have you considered The Trick That Fooled Houdini?

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Robin Dawes

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Reply with quote  #8 
Coney Island Fakir is available from L&L EPub as a pdf for $18 :  https://llepub.com/
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #9 
As inspiration there is Dai Vernon's quest to find the mythical man who could deal from the middle of the deck. He actually tracked him down in a town outside of Kansas City, MO. You could use poetic license and change it to fit your narrative. How about a one-handed pass? Or perhaps the punch deal. The punch deal fits your timeframe perfectly. The book, Phantoms of the Card Table, is a must read for you. It deals with the punch deal, edge marks and dealing seconds. Edge marks were also a big deal mid-20th century.

Having the sleight passed down by a gambler always adds intrigue. Perhaps it is a move shared from father to son or grandson on his deathbed? Or maybe after the father passes, the son finds a cache of cards, dice and cheating paraphernalia. Among the items he finds a punch and begins a quest to find who made it, how it was used, etc.

Fun to think this stuff up!
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #10 
Sorry, I forgot Scarne's Aces. That way you can draw in the mob angle. You can have your character associated with high stakes private poker games. Maybe the mafia uses him to swindle fat cats. He has to do it to repay a debt or to keep his family safe.
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arthur stead

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Reply with quote  #11 

No offense, Shane … but maybe you should have found the trick first, then based the story on that, rather than inventing the story and then searching for a trick to fit the narrative.


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luigimar

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Reply with quote  #12 
The Jordan Count was "invented" about a century ago. In the 1930s it could have been known but not to a great extent due to the fact that it was a recent creation and also because communications weren't as widely available as they are today.  

Here's a little history: 

https://geniimagazine.com/wiki/index.php?title=Jordan_Count





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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #13 
Quote:
Originally Posted by arthur stead

No offense, Shane … but maybe you should have found the trick first, then based the story on that, rather than inventing the story and then searching for a trick to fir the narrative.



Well, sometimes the story comes to you, and filling in the details is part of the storytelling process. I can't tell you the number of times an idea has smashed into my imagination that eventually became a fairly entertaining story. You have to follow the process, which isn't always lineal.

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DJ

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Reply with quote  #14 
How about the Slow Motion Card Vanish?


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Tom G

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Reply with quote  #15 
You could probably find an old magic book from that timeframe, and that would give you an idea of the "new" effects.
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #16 
Seems to me there needs to be a hook.  The move has to have something associated with it that begs further exploration or discovery.  I like the idea of the "move" or sleight being something that the originator had treated as a guarded secret until they died and then a family member stumbled upon it.  Not knowing exactly what they have, they begin to investigate.  If it is a punch, perhaps the hallmark of the maker is on it and they are contacted.  Upon talking with the maker the truth comes out that the person was a gambling cheat and possessed unique skills.  The conversation leads to a former "associate" of the gambler from whom even more incredible stories erupt.  This could take a bunch of twists.

According to what I've read, Vernon's quest for gambling moves was similar to what I described above.  Gamblers, who cheat, are by necessity secretive.  Their lives depended upon it.  So Vernon would hear whispers about a guy who knew a guy and then he would begin trying to locate them.  The characters he did find were amazingly romantic, Dad Stevens, Mexican Joe, etc.  

My fertile imagination once led me to wonder if Vernon's arms were really injured in a construction accident.  The story goes that he needed to get a "real" job and took a job on a construction project.  He was carrying material when the scaffolding he was on collapsed and he fell a great distance, severely injuring both arms.  

But what if that story was a cover for what really happened.  Perhaps Vernon did need the money and decided once and for all to try to enter a high stakes poker game and cheat.  He quickly found out that magic is one thing but gambling is serious business where fast company can sniff out your moves before you even make them.  So he attempted to "move under fire" as folks romantically refer to it, and he got caught.  The guys he was with took him out back and broke his arms so that he wouldn't be able to cheat anyone ever again.

That is the kind of thing that could make a really good centerpiece for the novel.

Good luck and have fun imagining.
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Senor Fabuloso

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Reply with quote  #17 
Creative license, gives you the right to create a nonsensical effect for the story, that fits your criteria.

Magicians code, would have you not describe an actual effect, if you plan on sharing it's workings.

Ether way, I wish you success in your writing 😉

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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #18 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Senor Fabuloso
Creative license, gives you the right to create a nonsensical effect for the story, that fits your criteria.

Magicians code, would have you not describe an actual effect, if you plan on sharing it's workings.


I can agree with your first point, but Shane's the storyteller, and for him that may not be an option.

On your second point... Richard Kauffman took some heat for consulting with William Goldman on his novel, Magic, but his participation led to the realism that Goldman needed for his story. No one was hurt... well not really, perhaps some people were butthurt, but they should be over it by now.

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Anthony Vinson

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Reply with quote  #19 
Shane, a thought that occurred to me that might help with your prep. Goldman's novel, Magic, as mentioned above, might provide some insight into the use of actual magic techniques in fiction. Also, have your read Glen David Gold's, Carter Beats the Devil? A most excellent piece of historical fiction involving magic, magicians, and the magic fraternity of the time. And for any other TMFers out there, it's a great read.

And Shane, please keep us informed as your novel progresses from processor to publication; I'd love to see how it turns out!

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #20 
Shane, you might find this interesting...

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Irving_Scott
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SamtheNotsoMagnificent

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Reply with quote  #21 
Hello Shane, I write novels as well, and I'm not the most knowledgeable person here, far from it, but I thought about your quest and I think defining the trick might help your efforts because "any kind of trick" is a little too broad.

The next question I would have as a potential reader is why anyone would care about finding out the trick? There is a movie, "Crossroads" where Ralph Macchio goes on a quest to find a lost Robert Johnson song so he could record it and become a recognized Blues musician. I guess I'm asking what's the payoff for the protagonist if he does find the trick because the prize has to be worth the struggle, right? I realize the trick is a "mcguffin", a metaphorical symbol for the internal struggle, but I would still ask as a reader why it is so important to the protagonist? Based on those questions, it would seem it would have to be more than just a coin or a card trick.

It also seems to me it would have to offer something not already found in the world of magic today, which means an effect no one is doing or knows how to do.  Take cards, for example,  there are innumerable card tricks available, and magician's have come up with countless ways to get the same effects over the last 70-90 years. I would even dare to say that magic is more sophisticated now than what it was in the 30s. So what is so special about the one that is missing that it's worth all the time and effort to find out how it was done?

I believe thinking of an effect first, much like magician's do, and then reverse engineering it might be the best course for you. 

What about a magician who not only levitated his assistant like Kellar did in "The Levitation of Princess Karnac" trick, but then floated her over the audience? A trick he only performed once before his untimely death or as his finale of his last performance. Such a trick could be done today, but in the 1930s.....?

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Gerald Deutsch

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Reply with quote  #22 
Magic in High School (see above)

I left something out.

Before saying the last two lines I would show a quarter, pretend to put it from my right hand to my left but retaining it in my right hand then to Classic Palm.
I would show it's no longer in my left hand and produce it from my right pocket.

Then I would say:

One thing I remember clearly was that day during swimming class.

 

There I was with the other boys – naked being inspected by the teacher. When the teacher got to me he handed me a quarter.

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arthur stead

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Reply with quote  #23 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SamtheNotsoMagnificent

I believe thinking of an effect first, much like magician's do, and then reverse engineering it might be the best course for you. 





That's what I was saying earlier in this thread ....

If the trick is to be the nucleus of the story, then that should be your starting point, and everything else woven around it.


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John Cowne

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Reply with quote  #24 
Quote:
Originally Posted by arthur stead

No offense, Shane … but maybe you should have found the trick first, then based the story on that, rather than inventing the story and then searching for a trick to fit the narrative.

Perhaps its a bit like a song...sometimes it’s the music...sometimes it’s the lyrics. Classics have come from both.
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #25 
The OP seems to have disappeared. Magic!
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luvisi

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Reply with quote  #26 
I don't have a suggestion for the trick, but one touch you might want to add is that the mentor never performed it when other magicians were around, because he did not want them to even think about the idea being possible. (For example, Vernon would not even perform his all backs routine around magicians because he did not want to plant the idea of a double backed card in their minds.)

If the student only ever hears the trick described by laymen, and never sees it, never sees a recording of it, and never meets another magician who has seen it, that creates additional challenges, since the student might receive contradicting and incomplete descriptions.

Or maybe the student only ever saw it once, but he was drunk and was badly fooled. The mentor refused to discuss it ever again. (I know of a coins across trick that was invented by a magician attempting to duplicate a trick he saw while drunk.)

Or maybe the student saw the trick being performed before he began to learn magic, but once he started learning, the mentor refused to ever discuss that particular trick or perform it around him. (Something similar to this happened to me with one of my mentors. It was several years before he performed the trick in question around me, at which time I was predictably disappointed since it used methods that I was familiar with by then. However, I still remember how magical it seemed when I was a layman.)

Based on my reading and experience, I think this is the most common way that magicians protect a trick that they value very highly.

Furthermore, I believe this is a more realistic situation then the student seeing the trick over and over and being unable to figure it out for years, especially a trick invented by his mentor, who's thinking he has spent years learning to understand.

A possible twist ending could involve the student creating a method for performing the trick, and later finding a manuscript or movie, and realizing that the method he created was much better than the method used by his mentor.

Also, some tricks would lend themselves to you using methods other than those actually used by magicians. For example, the trick could be any card at any number. The method used by the mentor could be to use one or two stooges. The method invented by the student could be some mechanical monstrosity that delivers one of 52 different decks into his hand at the push of a button, or that allows an offstage assistant to mechanically switch a deck sitting on a table for one pushed up from below the stage through a hollow table leg. I do not think anyone would get sore at you for revealing methods that nobody uses, and which would not help a person to understand an actual performance of the trick if they saw it.

Best of luck,
Andru
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luvisi

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Reply with quote  #27 
Here's an idea for a trick. Do the open prediction, but use a mechanical sleeve holdout deck switching machine, like the one that Robert-Houdin describes in his autobiography, to switch in a deck with the correct card reversed.

If that is the method that was used by the mentor, you could have the student discover the holdout and then go on a quest to find out how it was used.

If the mentor used a stooge for the trick, one way the student could find out how it was done would be to somehow find the stooge and be told the story.

Andru
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