BoM: Milo & Roger by Arthur Brandon

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Postby Dustin Stinett » 01/12/06 01:26 AM

Arthur Brandon did not live to see the story of his life make it into print. Sadly, he approved some design samples for the book from his hospital bed shortly before succumbing to complications from pneumonia at the age of eighty-two. But after reading this wonderful book, you will not at all not feel sorry for him, for he lived every moment of that remarkable, and as the subtitle imparts, Magical Life.

Milo & Roger: a Magical Life
by Arthur Brandon (Hermetic Press, 2001) is 432-pages with an all too short section of photographs. With a career that spanned over 50 years, one would hope that there might be more photographs available but, alas, the book has only eight pages of them. I suspect that the author was just too busy collecting personal memories to collect photographic ones. The overall production is typical Hermetic Press: exceptional. Art Ducko by publisher Stephen Minch graces the work throughout and is a lovely touch that gains in relevance as the story unfolds.

Milo & Roger is more than just a matter-of-fact autobiography of a magician and his stage partner, Roger. Its part adventure story with a touch of mysticism that can make even the most ardent skeptic smile and wonder what if? Its also part behind-the-scenes expos that shows the mere dreamer that the nuts-and-bolts workaday life that is professional show business is not all glamour. And its a fascinating glimpse into the lessons of the mystical, sexual, and the trials of life and death, experienced by a man from his first recollections to near his last.

As in all good stories, Milo & Roger starts at the beginning: Arthur Brandons youth in Alliance, Ohio. It was not at all idyllic, growing up during the Great Depression, but nor was it traumatic for him. Like most of his generation, Brandon learned to appreciate what he had: The value of a dollar, hard work, family, and friends. Learning not to take such things for granted at a young age would see him through trying times in his adulthood. The reader might come away thinking that Brandon believed in good luck and the power of the stars. However, its clear he made his own good luck through his work and diligence. Arthur Brandon might credit the stars (or the Gods of India), but he clearly believed in himself first and foremost.

Of course, it was during his youth that he became enamored with magic. Good fortuneor the Gods of Indiasmiled on him many times. He acquired several Tarbell lessons from a barber who no longer needed them and recognized that the youngster was indeed a magician. He met Harry Blackstone, Sr.the greatest magician in the worldbackstage after lying about being on the school newspaper. He met a doctors son who owned magic equipment young Brandon would borrow for his shows (of course, he worked at nurturing that relationship which allowed him to do thatso not all is just good fortune). He knew people who would help him build his own equipment from the ideas in his fertile mind: A talent that would carry him throughout his career. His father turned his bedroom into a theatercomplete with stage and curtainso he could give his first performances. And he was encouraged not just by his loving parents (the stories about whom are wonderful in their own right, and who were never ashamed of introducing him as their son, the magician), but also many townsfolk. Some of these people suffered the consequences of some early magical disasters, but they still inspired him to persevere and follow his one true calling: to be a magician. So, with a made up quote attributed to the New York Times on his brochure, the young man set out to follow his dream, his first agent being a local quack and grifter with a gift for salesmanship.

The story takes him through the years from his bedroom theater to church basements; to medicine and minstrel shows: To Florida and New York, where he would learn alternative health practices and the ways of the zodiac. He would develop his skills at astrological reading, which would finance his true calling on more than one occasion. This talent would have him rubbing elbows with the rich, powerful and famous, and probably could have provided him with a very comfortable living. But Arthur Brandon was a magician. (After all, the New York Times said so!) He would always return to Alliance and his parents, but soon the lure of the road and his calling would have him off again, traveling by bus, performing when and where he could, living the adventure of professional show business. He even managed to get himself mixed up in a bizarre mnage a trois. But more importantly, while in a personal funk, Arthur Brandon departed the stage forever: Milo took his place and the Gods of India smiled.

A short time later, while in Akron, Ohio (and while the Gods of India were still smiling) he would meet Roger Coker in a small magic shop. A teenager who showed an interest in magic, Roger began to study with Milo, the seasoned professional magician. With the passing of his widowed mother, Roger had nowhere to turn and Milo took his young apprentice completely under his wing and soon made him part of the act: Milo and Company.

Roger, it turned out, also had an inventive mind, and was a capable builder. They decided they would make the move to Hollywood, since that, or so they believed, is where the work was. A side trip to Alliance introduced Roger to Arthurs mother and father and loaded them up with a supply of oatmeal cookies for the long bus trip west.

In Hollywood, they soon learned that to get work they would need to be completely original; particularly in what was believed, in the early 1950s to be a virtually dead industry (live show business). Between the odd show, zodiac readings, stints as a waiter and Tarot card reader for Roger, they set out to build their new act. In a small two-bedroom apartment with a living room turned workshop, they built tricks and illusions and sewed costumesand housed their ducks used in their act.

During this period, their paths would cross with a list of characters that range from readings by Milo for a young Clint Eastwood and Susan Hayward (among others) to an assistant named Miriam (Im not a prostitute she assured them) and another named Solar Plexus. But they also began to work. They packed their ducks and equipment into a homemade trailer pulled by their used car and hit the road. Their travels would take them across the country working at fairs, in smalltime theaters, various club meetings, and anyplace else they could book a show. They endured dive motels, little food, and performing conditions that would dishearten the most robust of spirit. Though considering it, they never wavered from their course.

Milo and Roger slowly worked their way into bigger and more prominent bookings. They appeared on television (where Rogers name was formally added to the act: Milo and Company became Milo & Roger) and the annual Its Magic show in Hollywood where they received excellent reviews from one of the toughest critics in Hollywood. On Hollywood Boulevard, Milo bumped into the now retired Harry Blackstone, Sr., who praised their act, thus bringing his relationship with the worlds greatest magician full circle, much to the delight of Milo. It was also during this period that Milo and Roger visited Arthurs hometown again. In one of the most poignant moments in the book, it would be the last time Arthur Brandon would see Alliance, Ohio and his beloved mother and father.

Always thinking outside the box, Milo and Roger bartered their way to the Orient (shows for cruise ship passage) and toured Japan, China, and Taiwan. Often, they would perform for audiences of men being serviced by the hostesses working the theaters. They bartered their way home from Hong Kong when they where asked to join a tour with film and stage star Mitzi Gaynor. Milo and Roger hit the big time, and they would finally have a real New York Times quote to add to their rsum!

This tour would end in Las Vegas, where Milo and Roger were approached by Donn Arden which would result in their traveling to Paris. There they would headline at the Lido for two years (and then at the Lido show in Las Vegas) and then for many years at the Crazy Horse back in Paris. A vacation from the rigors of nightly performances would take them to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Germany (on tour with Ted Lesley), Greece, London and then back to the Orient where they would set down roots, though they would still hear the call of the road and magic. Even in their advanced years, they continued to perform in Las Vegas, on Broadway and around the world until the passing, in 1997, of Milos best friend and partner, Roger Coker while at home in Thailand.

Though relatively unknown among many magicians, as the story of Milo & Roger: A Magical Life unfolds, the reader is left with little doubt how theirs became one of the greatest comedy magic acts in the history of show business (not just magic). It was inevitable: It was written in the stars, the cards and the New York Times.

Dustin

PS: This wonderful book is still in print and is available from the publisher, Stephen Minchs Hermetic Press, Inc. If you do not have it, I highly recommend that you acquire it. It is one of my very favorite books; I cannot recommend it any higher than that. And my little acknowledgment here cannot do it any justice whatsoever.
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Postby Jim Morton » 01/12/06 11:43 AM

What a great choice for book of the month! This is one of the most interesting biographies I have ever read in any field. The only other magic biography that can match it is Eddie Field's A Life Among Secrets. I will just add an my own anecdote here. One night, while I was reading the book, Karla LaVey stopped by to visit. Karla is Anton LaVey's daughter. She saw the book on the sofa and said that when she was a kid Milo and Roger used to stay at her father's house whenever they came to San Francisco. (It is important to point out here that Anton was a carny and a professional musician long before he started the Church of Satan, so he hung around with lots of interesting people.) She said that they used to put her in charge of feeding the ducks. Unfortunately, I discovered all this after Anton died. I'm sure he would have had some great stories to tell about those days.

Jim
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 01/12/06 12:19 PM

Pierredan,

I deleted your post because it has no context since the post you refer to was removed by Richard. Simply put, this is not the place for unsubstantiated rumor or allegations.

Thanks,
Dustin
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Postby P.T. Murphy » 01/12/06 12:30 PM

I know Magic Inc. has a few in stock.

This is a WONDERFUL book! Up there with Illusion Show published by David Meyer.
"Those who do not believe in magic
will never find it. " -Roald Dahl
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Postby pixsmith » 01/12/06 01:26 PM

This was possibly the best magical book released in 2001, and it is a gem. I think it didn't sell as well as it might have because there are no tricks or explanations in it.

What there is, though, is a compelling and fascinating look at a magical career, and I have loaned this book to well over a dozen people, both magicians and not, and everyone has said it was one of the best books they have read.

Do yourself a favor and pick it up. I am happy to see it in the BOTM section. Well worth the time.
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Postby Guest » 01/13/06 01:12 AM

Wonderful choice and great to hold this book up for others.

I talked to Anton LaVey in June/1997, and LaVey did mention knowing Milo and Roger, while he lived in the Sutro Baths area, close to the ocean.
When the book came out, I asked Stephen Minch if Milo had ever talked about LaVey. Stephen said no, and if he had, he would have learned more, as he knew about LaVey as well.

I have also given, loaned, or encouraged others to get this book...I often said, "You will find yourself putting important things off, because you will want to keep turning more pages, to see what happens next. You will set the book down, several times, to finish laughing out loud, and be warned, there are more 4-letter words and sexual escapades, than all other magic books put together."

Great story telling! Great jackpots! Oh to have heard Milo tell it.
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Postby Guest » 01/13/06 09:15 AM

Greetingds and Salutations,

I got this book for a completely different reason, I was looking for ideas for a medicine show. I didn't find what I was looking for but couldn't put this book down. Spent several night staying up late reading it, and there are many of laugh-out-loud stories.

These guys defined doing what it takes to follow your dreams. It's a great read.

Joe in KC
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Postby sleightly » 01/13/06 01:39 PM

My next-to-favorite magic book (my favorite magic book was mentioned by P.T. Murphy above), Milo & Roger has the distinction of containing my favorite magic quote of all time:

"My father put it very succinctly, one time, after he learned how I kept pouring so much water out of Don Hole's little Oriental lota bowl. 'Arthur, I see that magic is really just a lot of [censored].'"

"'Yes, Pop, you've got it. It is,' I rejoined. 'But you've got to know just how to shovel it.'"

Page 113.

Hangs on my wall.

ajp
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Postby Bill Palmer » 01/14/06 11:42 PM

Ted Lesley gave me my copy. It is a heartwarming, amusing book.

And it is full of good information.
Bill Palmer, MIMC
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Postby Eric Rose » 01/16/06 08:15 AM

This is one of the few magic books that I've ever picked up and read straight through in one sitting. I just had to know what was going to happen next. Oddly, one of the others on this short list was the aforementioned "A Life Among the Secrets."

I suggest to any magicians out there - and sadly, I'm probably preaching to the choir in this thread - drink deeply of the biographies, both magicians and other entertainers. You will find the real secret of making a living hidden in plain view. It always comes down to hard work. Milo and Roger is a perfect example.
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Postby Rafael » 01/16/06 09:02 AM

anyone know what happened with this act ? (who has the props in their collection)
I heard that Ted Lesley had some of the props & was looking for 2 actors to do this act - is this true ?
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Postby Guest » 01/16/06 09:24 AM

I have always believed that this book could develop "legs", if it was published by a mainstream press. I lent a copy to an actress/writer, who doesn't really care for magic and she also later pushed it to others saying, "It isn't (just) about magic. It is about dreams, living your dreams, risking your dreams, and the times and people he encountered doing so."

Very important, the book is especially wonderful, in how he describes the town and people/charecters of his childhood, Alliance, Ohio.
He brings to life a time almost forgotten: When a town would close up early, when a circus or carnival would come to town...to see an open lot, transformed into a wonderland.

He brings the people he knew and observed, to life....not unlike Clifton Talbert's, "Once Upon a Time, When We Were Colored", where he brings forth the personalities that he remembered in a small Mississppi town.
Like the writers for the "Andy Griffith Show", he makes the personalities of the charecters, as important/appealing, as the story they are players in.
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Postby Ted Leon » 01/17/06 07:29 PM

Milo and Roger....
Easily among the very best biographies (not just magical biographies!) I've ever had the pleasure of reading. What a book!
Ted (Leondo)
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 01/23/06 04:10 PM

I just had a wonderful conversation with a gentleman who worked for a short time with Milo & Roger in the early 1960s as an offstage assistant. He lives fairly close to me, so Im hoping to arrange a meeting to record some of his stories.

I am not at liberty to share any details yet. But the bottom line is that he said that Milo and Roger were two of the greatest people he ever had the pleasure of knowing and working with.

Details to follow as soon as I am able to share!

Dustin
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Postby Matthew Field » 01/24/06 07:13 AM

This is one of my all-time favorite magic books. It tells you more about magic than most books although, as Dustin mentioned, it has no tricks in it.

I saw Milo & Roger on TV when I was a kid and the vision of them -- the flying carpet, the big turbans, the ducks -- haunted my dreams. I thought they were foreigners, and continued to believe so until the book came out.

Theirs is a story of pursuing a dream and using imagination and perseverance to achieve success in one's chosen field. It is one of the great stories in magic, and I have told Stephen Minch it is one of the most important books in my library.

Matt Field
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Postby Tom Smith » 01/29/06 12:02 AM

I, too, have read the book and it IS quite wonderful. I saw them once on Broadway in "The Wonder House". It was a terrific show that was composed of old vaudville acts brought back by Billy Barty. I'm glad I didn't wait to see it as, even though I loved it, critics stated, "It's a wonder it ever made it to Broadway". I disagreed.

Tom
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Postby Guest » 02/02/06 03:36 PM

I bought Milo's library long, long ago, and it was shipped from Thailand!
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Postby Guest » 02/06/06 10:00 AM

Mr. Minch gifted me with a copy of this book as he knew that it I would really enjoy it.
It is my favorite magic biography an it saddens me that more folk haven't had the joy of reading this fabulous book.
I was surprised to discover that their first engagement was at the Yakima County Fairgrounds, my home town. Though they probably appeared there before I was born it still is fun knowing that we both made our magical debuts in the same locale
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Postby P.T. Murphy » 02/09/06 12:21 PM

Again, this is one of my favorite reads in magic. As a demonstrator at Magic Inc. I always try to recommend books that I think shoppers will really enjoy. This is always a book I recommend to magicians that are looking for something "different". Sadly, very few take me up on the suggestion. Most people really are looking for books with tricks. Another great book is the Eddie Field's bio that Minch wrote. Some other great NON trick books are... the Vernon Chronicles Vol. 4, Words About Wizards by Robt. Parrish published by David Meyer as well as Illusion Show published by Meyer. The Blackstone Book by Dan Waldron is such a great read as well...MAN...there are some great books out there...and not a trick in any of them...BUT more magic than you can shake a stick at! I guess there is a sense of poetic justice to the fact that the most magical of magic books still remain a secret.
"Those who do not believe in magic
will never find it. " -Roald Dahl
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Postby Guest » 02/12/06 01:57 AM

I did find one problem with this book, When I concluded the read - I felt I had lost friends who were recently departed and buried.

These were two most talented and human creative beings who enjoyed life - and also suffered its miseries. Their era ended with the Olsen and Johnson type shows in this country - and it will be a while before the rest of the nation realizes what has been lost in the type of traveling live performances these men endured.
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Postby Guest » 02/21/06 12:31 AM

Milo also has a gift of vivid appreciation, of the performances of others:
His remembering the introduction/entrance of mindreaders Harry and Frances Usher, who used an elaborate N.Y. skyline backdrop.
(Sadly, I was told by one of the Usher's daughters, "I threw the backdrop out, I didn't know what to do with it.")

Very magical, was his describing watching the first production of "Our Town", on broadway, and experience an empty stage, become filled with life and emotion.
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Postby Guest » 02/25/06 11:05 PM

...I was one of the lucky performers to know and get to spend some great times with Milo and Roger...the last time I saw them was in the late 90's in Zurich switzerland..They were finishing a tour with Heller's Winter Garden show which Zurich was last stop and last shows...We had lunch several times during the week they played there and talked about the times we were together in Portugal and the time they came to see me perform at the Hotel Atlantico in Monte Estoril...

The last time I was to see either of them was on the last day when they were packing out of the theater and Roger was outside the backstage door crying...I said goodbyes as I knew he want to be alone with his thoughts...They both had invited me to come visit them in Thailand...But I didn't get to Thailand until it was too late...It was interesting to me that Roger Coker was always saying he was worried about Milo's health..And it was Roger who passed away first...I have read the book and I too think it is one of the BEST read's in Magic and I'm glad to see it posted as the book of the month here in the Genii Forum...
Is there anyone who has it in E-book form???..It would be great if the whole magic world could download and read this book...
They were such funny men and both had such a great since of humor...Once we were at lunch and having a very nice meal and Milo turn to me and said "It really makes you wonder how those poor people in India are eating....At the Hilton!"....

I loved those two fellows so much and their show is truely missed...I have lived in Thailand now for the past 5 years and I know what it was they were talking about of the magic of this place...3 years ago I went to Pattaya where they spent the last years of their life and tryed to find their house ...No such luck..I couldn't even find anyone who knew who or what I was talking about...Thank You to whoever started this tread...
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Postby Guest » 02/27/06 11:09 PM

I read this last year, and wished I had seen a live performance. What a life! Is there any video footage of their act available?
Arthur
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 02/27/06 11:24 PM

They appeared on television, so it's possible, but it's probably buried in archives.

The answer to Piccards question, regarding an eBook, is that there is not an authorized eBook as far as Im aware.

Dustin
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Postby Guest » 03/17/06 11:39 PM

I've read this book several times since it was first published. Recently, however, I read it to my wife - a custom we've begun instead of TV when we're both home. It would be difficult to explain how moved we were at the end of the book. Something that doesn't usually happen when I read a book, much less a magic book!

I found footage available of Milo & Roger when they appeared on the Hollywood Palace. They were on with acts like -ahem- The Beatles and Liza Minelli. Here's a source for those interested...
http://www.twiggy.com/dvd.htm then scroll down to (26) B/W 1965 Hollywood Palace
Van Johnson, The Beatles - On location in Liverpool singing Penny Lane & Strawberry Fields,
Lisa Minneli, Mickey Rooney, George Carlin, The Palace Duo (acrobats), Milo & Roger (magicians).
Miss Chris Noel.
No Commercials.
(Price listed on the site) I'm just sharing this link with those my Genii Forum friends. :cool:
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Postby Guest » 03/21/06 09:16 AM

...Is there footage available...Yes if your lucky enough to live in New York, you can visit the museum
of Radio and Television broadcast there..Not sure of the street address, they have an amazing libary of videos to view and it's free...You name an artist and if that artist has done any work on tv---They have clips of them..sadly you can't check-out the tapes or copy them...but while in New York, you can spend hours watching them...
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Postby Guest » 04/26/06 11:26 AM

I had never heard of Milo and Roger before I saw this book, and even then it was a good couple of years before I decided to buy it. What sold it to me? That cover picture. Two guy's and a duck, but with the funniest expressions on their faces. (I think even the duck had a smirk.)
I have to tell you, I couldn't put this book down. It was an amazing read from cover to cover. I wish all magic biographies could be this enthralling.

Gord
This Week On A Little Bite Of Magic Cheese Doug Henning live in glorious color!
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Postby Guest » 05/02/06 10:51 AM

The act of Milo & Roger was bestowed to Ted Lesley of Germany who recently sold it to my good friend Adalbert Becker. Adi is currently rehearsing the act with his son as a partner and they will bring it back to life soon.
The book is still available at www.wonderwarehouse.com and is truly one of the most pleasant reads in all of magic.
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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 06/18/07 08:22 AM

It was asked above if there was any footage of Milo & Roger. Check out the following youtube link:

The Best Of Magic: Milo & Roger

-Jim
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Postby Geoff Weber » 08/08/08 09:34 AM

I read this book while I was on vacation in Thailand. I loved it. I really wish I could have met these gentlemen.
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Postby Stuart Hooper » 08/08/08 05:08 PM

I read this recently. A great book! Funny so many of us had never heard of them, but they really did make it towards the end!
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 08/09/08 03:25 AM

Hi Stuart,

I'm glad you enjoyed the book. It became such a favorite of mine that I have written a companion volume of sorts to it. You can find the details on it here: http://miloandroger.com/

Thanks,
Dustin
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Postby Matthew Field » 08/09/08 06:14 AM

Dustin's campanion volume has lots of photos, many in color, that are a great addition, since the original book had so few. And the story of how Dustin came into the Milo and Roger trove of goodies, many reproduced in the book, is fabulous.

It's highly recommended to anyone who loves the Milo & Roger book.

Matt Field
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Postby David » 08/18/08 08:51 PM

" Catching up with Milo and Roger " is a must have for anyone reading this thread. There are only 250 printed and I have #172. The story of how the collection survived and got published is a real Milo moment.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 09/05/08 02:59 PM

Thank you, David, for the kind comments on my little book.

I do, however, need to make something very clear about the numbering of the books. Because folks like to ask for specific numbers, the books were not sold in order. I still come across some low numbers here and there. A friend of mine warned me not to number the books; I should have listened! (He knew from experience.)

I have sold many, but I also know that not everyone who wants this book has purchased it yet! So, go right on ahead and go to www.miloandroger.com and place an order! (Oh, and the ephemera is running low!)

Thanks again!
Dustin
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