This is my first review for penguin, so I thought I should choose something rather special...
A book of magic for young magicians- The secrets of Alkazar
Allan Zola Kronzek
Written 1980, published by Dover in 1992
As far as I am aware it is still in print, available from magic stores and oline bookshops.
'The secrets of Alkazar' is in the format of a series of accounts by the author of lessons from his teacher and mentor, 'Alkazar'. There are 12 such chapters, most dealing with just one trick. The book is excellent for beginners because it does not overwhelm them with tricks, it just provides a few good, workable tricks. Each chapter provides a good bit of theory, and the tricks are illustrations of that theory. Learning magic from this theoretical approach of good misdirection, presentation and patter seems to me an excellent way to learn to perform magic, as opposed to operating tricks. When a trick is talked through, presentation and misdirection is covered properly.
The tricks themselves are mostly classics, including-
salt shaker through table
coins through table
cut and restored rope
card in orange
There is a range from the impromptu homing stones to the carefully rehearsed and set-up 'spirit of isis' stage illusion.
So the book provides a great set of classics for beginners.
However the real strength is in the card magic. There are three chapters of card magic. In 26 or so pages, how many sleights are taught? Just one. How many workable tricks based on that sleight? Six. This book teaches a valuable lesson about the importance of an entertaining presentation that oh so many amateur magicians need to learn. By wrapping all these tricks around one skeleton we see just how simple a trick really need be. There is still a lot left to the reader to develop their own style:
The 15 methods of card selection and 6 methods of key card replacement should be compulsary reading for all beginners. 3 books into card college, I still use these.
The writing style is great, an easy read. The size of the book is not very daunting, and what is in there is of excellent quality.
How many of the tricks have I used?
Of the 14 tricks and presentations included, I have used 6, and I have plans for card from orange...
The writing is entertaining, the content is superb, the price negligable... Really the only people I wouldn't recommend it to are those who are already good performers. If you want to get a beginner started, think your own tricks could use a bit more magic, or if you want to revise your theory, I heartily recommend this book. It's cheap and gives a great grounding of theory and some classic tricks. I was very lucky to get hold of it just as I returned to magic aged 11 or so.
Summary: It's cheap, and you've got to be pretty good not to benefit from it. The best beginner book I've ever seen.