I can almost recall the exact moment when Derek Dingle entered my consciousness: It was when I received from my mother a copy of Hyla M. Clarks The Worlds Greatest Magic in early 1977. I started flipping through the book, immediately reading about magicians I had seen in person or on the TV: Dai Vernon, Doug Henning, Richard Rossand several others. But it wouldnt be until I started reading about those lesser known to me that I would read the piece on Dingle. To this day I have read that piece more times than I have any other in the book (only those on Malini, Richard Ross and Dai Vernon run a close second). Until that first reading, close-up magic was, to me, something that was supposed to be performed at a table. Even when I did magic at school, I would perform sitting at a table: thats just how it was done. Suddenly, heres this guy doing card tricks standing up: the cards were in his hands and on his forehead. Even though there was a table in the photos, it was clear from the written piece that this guy was different from what I had seen and believed all my young life. He had a casual, everyday look: no tux or tie-dye T-shirts (like everyone I knew was wearing). I wanted to be that guy, even though I really didnt know anything about him. A single paragraph in particular inspired me: it was the description (only) of what I would find out five years later was Quick D-Way. I wanted to do that trick: I knew that there was a book of his magic available, so, $4 later, I had the book that would change my lifeafter all, these were Dingles Deceptions (by Harry Lorayne; Haines House of Cardsno date). Boy was I wrong: First, that trick wasnt in the book and, I think, I could almost do two things described in it. I had my work cut out for me.
But I still wanted to do that trick, so I had to figure out a way to do it. I did, and called it The Un-Packet (packet tricks were the rage in those days and I despised them). I had no idea if it was how Dingle did it, but it worked and I was on my wayI could do a trick that Dingle did. I even closed my eyes when I said I would do it in the dark (hey, cut me a break, I was a kid).
Five or six years later I was a member of the Magic Castle and Derek Dingle was coming to California on his book/lecture tour. I was finally going to meet the man! I already had the booksigned by the author I might add, and soon to be signed by Dingleand through it I had discovered that The Un-Packet was called Quick D-Way and this version was (okay; is) way better than mine. I did meet him: but just long enough for him to sign all my books and lecture notes (butstupid menot the Clark book). But the experience of seeing him work was as life-changing as was the instance of simply reading about him. I knew by then I would never be like him, but there was nothing wrong with holding him as an ideal. I wouldnt see him again for almost 20 years.
In those early days, the concept of for magicians only magic was foreign to me. In my mind it was all the same. All that mattered to me was could I do it and would the people I did it for like it when I did it. Im glad the concept was foreign to me because had I listened to those who made that distinction only by rote, I may have skipped over some very good magic. The Complete Works of Derek Dingle by Richard Kaufman (Kaufman and Greenberg, 1982) is sometimes referred to as a book with nothing but magic created only to fool other magicians. Those who perpetuate this inaccuracy probably never read the whole book and certainly never performed any of the magic found within its pages for laymen: Mores the better for those of us who have.
At 219 oversized pages, Derek Dingles Complete Works (DDs CW) was among the first books in Kaufman and Greenbergs catalog of titles that would set a new publishing standard for magic books that we still enjoy today. Its production values and illustrations (also by Kaufman) are second only to its contents. While Kaufmans now distinctive writing style was then showing through, influences from other authors are still evidentnot that this by any means takes away from the book: its finely written and coupled with his illustrations (another bar-raising influence on magic publishing) the descriptions are clear and easily followed even when some highly complex manipulations are occurring. In most cases, patter lines are given in full so the reader can fully appreciate how words, when properly used and timed, can cover technique while enhancing effect.
Other than rightfully assuming that the reader has a background in card handling basics, DDs CW is virtually self-contained. Necessary sleights and sleight variations are fully described within the effects and, in many cases where a move is a utility item, it is described separately and then one or more effects using the technique follows. DDs work on technique runs the gamut from the double lift and Elmsley Count to his considerable work on the pass, Zarrow Shuffle, BoTop Change and Diagonal Palm Shift. Delightfully Deceptive is a personal favorite and is DDs touches on Vernons Strip-Out Addition. There is also a fine section on card switches worth studying among many others. While Derek Dingle considered himself a manipulator, the connotation that some magicians draw from that word is misleading: Dingles manipulations were invisible and camouflaged by a naturalness that could best be described as personalized and casual. Whether learning these moves directly as described or not, the reader gains valuable insight from their study. The construction of Dingles technique has a quality about it that I can only describe as having the quality of necessity. By that I mean that the moves are distilled to only those motions necessaryall else having been discarded. This is exemplified in his no get-ready double lift (The DD Double Lift). But can the same be said for his magic? The multi-staged, kicker-laden effects for which Dingle, the magicians magician, became so famous? Yes, it can.
Its a truism in magic that effects which are easy to follow make for the most commercial. But quite often magicians mistake magic with multiple effects or climaxes for magic with cluttered handling and procedure that leads to cluttered and confusing effects. Bad magic can be distinguished by procedure that has no apparent need. Dingles magic in no way suffers from this malady. Even those effects considered magician only which may be heavy on moves and procedure are uncluttered. Everything has a purpose and meaning. Something necessaryboth overt and quite often covertis happening during these procedures; though the covert remains completely masked by rationalized motion. In the right hands and at the right times, these effects can work for laymen: perhaps mine are not the hands to perform PegasAces, Super Interchange and New Double Color-Change Aces for laymen, but perhaps yours are.
Without a doubt there is magic in this book that might be best if only performed for other conjurers. Dingle created much (but not all) of it strictly for that purpose. But the mistake some make is that just because Dingle chose to perform these pieces only for magicians, this somehow means that these effects lack any real commercial value: Nothing could be further from the truth. Besides the more obvious layman-friendly pieces, such as the aforementioned Quick D-Way, Silver Quick and (if you are a smoker among smokers) the absolutely wonderful The Sorcerer Strikes, there are many effects that, in the right hands and venues, can be turned into show-stopping pieces. His Card in Balloon, The Sympathetic Cards, Poor Charlie and The DD Fabulous Jumping Card Trick come immediately to mind. Another favorite of mine is Everywhere and Nowhere in the Air and of course, what can only be described as a true classic of magic, Rollover Aces.
The magic in DDs CW is stunningly diverse. While many books say, There is something for everyone, they generally mean that everyone will gravitate to the same few effects. But there truly is something for just about everyone in this book. From the intermediate to the advanced (and much that will challenge those who fancy themselves advanced). And while the card guys have the most from which to choose, the coin guys are not left out in the least and there are a few odds and ends in between. Virtually every piece in the book has been worked out to the point where no more work can be done (and if you do, chances are you are weakening the piece, not improving it). All thats left for us to do is the study and work required by these wonders. These works are a testament not only to Derek Dingles creativity and technical prowess, but also to his considerable mind: his knack for completely thinking through an effect or technique, and its all laid out within those 219 pages for those willing to study and learn from itand work. Its a precious gifta gift of a lifetimethat should be taken advantage of, not taken for granted.
The second and last time I saw Derek Dingle was at a convention about three or four years ago. He wasnt in top form, but only in that he had trouble remembering the sequence of an effect. No one cared: his technique was as clean and perfect as it was 20 year previous. And his humor, particularly about the vagaries of some of Californias laws that put a crimp in his lifestyle, was as sharp as ever and relieved all tension as he reset in front of us. Everyone in the room was aware that a living legend stood before us, and it was our honor. What many of us didnt know was that, sadly, it would be the last time we would have that honor.
Time, it is said, is every living beings greatest enemy for none can defeat it. For many artists, however, moments in time can be captured: Forever recorded; be it on film (moving or still; chemical or digital) or on the printed page. And while Derek Dingle has been captured on both, it is The Complete Works of Derek Dingle that is his ultimate time capsule and, as such, thus time becomes his greatest ally. For through this book, Derek Dingle will live for as long as there are magicians who measure time.