Mystery novels with a magic theme

Discussions of new films, books, television shows, and media indirectly related to magic and magicians. For example, there may be a book on mnemonics or theatrical technique we should know or at least know about.

Postby Guest » 04/03/07 01:29 PM

I am stuck at home because I had surgery last week and am home recovering. So I thought I would see if I can start a thread on one of my favorite things mystery novels but here those with a magician or magic theme. One of my favorites is a book that I have not heard other magicians discuss. It is " The Girl Who Remembered Snow " by Charles Mathes. The heroine is a female magician, when her Grandfather is murdered she tries to solve the mystery discovering her hidden past at the same time . I also am a fan of Jeffrey Deaver so I like his " The Vanished Man " of course here the magician is the villain.
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Postby Guest » 04/03/07 01:36 PM

I'll have to check out the books you mention -- I haven't read either of them. I can't think of any mystery novels that feature magic or magicians, but if you're a horror fan Peter Straub's Shadowland is pretty good. And for fantasy, The Prestige is excellent, much better than the movie.
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Postby Guest » 04/03/07 03:30 PM

The Vanished Man was good. Try Jim Swain's books and The Prestige as was already recommended. Not magic, but con-artistry in Eyeing The Flash.
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Postby Guest » 04/03/07 08:05 PM

I have read all the James Swain novels. The last two that came out in paperback at about the same time I thought were the best. He has shown positive character growth( especially for the son) and since I like series it is fun to have a one with magical connections. Carol O'Connell also had magic play a major theme in her earilier books but she got awfully gorey.Not that Deaver isn't also.
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Postby David Scollnik » 04/03/07 11:27 PM

The latest issue of Magicol has as its cover story: "An Introduction to the World of Magic Fiction".

Quite a number of detective stories / novels were mentioned. These include:

Death from a Top Hat, featuring Merlini, by Clawton Rawson

Night Magic by Charlotte Vale Allen

A Dangerous Magic by Frances Lynch

Touch Not the Cat by Marty Stewart

Honest Illusions by Nora Roberts

Nothing Up His Sleeve by Geraldine Larsen

You'll Die Laughing by Bruce Elliott

Confessor by John Gardner

Sad to say, I've not yet had the opportunity to read any of these. I'll have to look them up.

Have you read any or many of these, Camilla?
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Postby Guest » 04/04/07 06:56 AM

It would be worth your effort to track down a copy of "Magic in Fiction: A Short-Title Checklist", Compiled by Michael Canick. He lists just over 600 titles with magic related themes or elements. There are an additional 100+ titles dealing with ancillary topics such as ventriloquism, gambling, hypnotism, etc. Check with H & R http://www.magicbookshop.com I know they have carried this title in the past.
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Postby Guest » 04/04/07 08:12 AM

I do have Micheal's list but I thought maybe I could get some personal opinons. I have not read many of the books on the Magicol list but I find it humorous that Nora Robert's book is on the list ( a prolific romance author). I think Dustin should make this the Book of the Month.I think I will get some of these books from the library this week.
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Postby Guest » 04/04/07 08:12 AM

I do have Micheal's list but I thought maybe I could get some personal opinons. I have not read many of the books on the Magicol list but I find it humorous that Nora Robert's book is on the list ( a prolific romance author). I think Dustin should make this the Book of the Month.I think I will get some of these books from the library this week.
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Postby Guest » 04/04/07 12:41 PM

I've enjoyed the Clayton Rawson mysteries, Death From a Top Hat, No Coffin for the Corpse, The Footprints on the Ceiling and The Headless Lady. He also wrote another dozen or so short stories starring the Great Merlini that are worth reading.
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Postby Guest » 04/04/07 10:45 PM

"The Vanished Man" was a great novel but you may also enjoy "Now You See It..." by Richard Matheson. I did.
Paul Pacific
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Postby Guest » 04/05/07 07:45 AM

Also look for :
Shell Game Carol O'Connell
The Houdini Specter Daniel Stashower
The Spirit Cabinet Paul Quarington
Hocus Corpus James Tucker
Abra Cadaver James Tucker

You can look for a series of books by William Murray which feature a magician and another series by Patrick A Kelley.
Walter Gibson also wrote a few featuring 'Norgil'

I have probably more than a hundred novels, short stories, etc in my collection but the list above provides hours and hours of entertaining reading, some better than others of course.

All the best,
John Smetana
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Postby Guest » 04/05/07 11:26 AM

John Smetana wrote:

You can look for a series of books by William Murray which feature a magician...[/
Yes, the Shifty Lou Anderson novels, also an enjoyable read.
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Postby Guest » 04/05/07 01:39 PM

David Britland is an expert at analysing links between crime fiction and magic.
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Postby Guest » 04/06/07 04:34 PM

Patrick A. Kelley wrote 5 books starring magician Harry Colderwood.

Sleightly Deceived
Sleightly Invisible
Sleightly Lethal
Sleightly Murder
Sleightly Guilty
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Postby Guest » 04/07/07 02:32 PM

Hi Camilla
Here's a link to the Canick list of magic and related fiction..it's on e bay now..not my listing but thought you may be interested:

http://cgi.ebay.com/BOOKLET-MAGIC-IN-FI ... dZViewItem

all the best,
John
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Postby Bob Farmer » 04/08/07 06:15 AM

Mystery novels have a sub genre, the impossible crime or locked room mystery. These are, in effect, literary magic tricks, but with an explanation at the end (the very first modern mystery story falls into this category, Edgar Allan Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue).

Some of these (e.g., Clayton Rawson's stories) do involve magicians, but the majority do not. One of the best, The Rim of the Pit by Hake Talbot, was written by a magician -- Henning Nelms -- under another name.

The master of this entire genre is John Dickson Carr (try his The Three Coffins).

For a magician, I've found these books to be more interesting than the majority of mysteries involving magicians because they use magical principles to fool the reader. With some notable exceptions, most mysteries that have a magician as a character I've found to be uninteresting because the writer is simply adding an interesting character and the writer has no knowledge of how magic and magicians actually "work."

If you want to be pathological about this, try and get a copy of Locked Room Murders by Robert Adey, Crossover Press 1991, ISBN 0-9628870-0-5.

In the first part of the book, Adey lists 2019 locked room/impossible crime mysteries and states the "effect" (e.g., a drowned corpse falls through the skylight of a London studio, moments after the man was seen falling off a cruise ship in the English Channel).

In the second part, he repeats the list with the "method" explained and summarizes all of the methods into 20 categories.
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Postby Guest » 04/08/07 06:20 AM

I'd like to second Bob's comments and thinking re:locked room mysteries. I too, seem to enjoy those more..reading these novels is like watching a truly baffling illusion.

all the best,
John
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Postby Matthew Field » 04/08/07 09:27 AM

I'd like to third Bob Farmer's comments.

As Bob probably knows, John Dickson Carr wrote mysteries with another detective (not Dr. Gideon Fell) under the name Carter Dickson.

And I love the mysteries of Rex Stout and Ellery Queen (including the mysteries the psudonymous Queen -- Frederick Dannay and Manfred B. Lee -- wrote under the name Barnaby Ross). Not locked room, for the most part, but nicely constructed clues to the denouement.

Matt Field
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Postby Bob Farmer » 04/08/07 11:22 AM

Matt Field also writes under the name "[censored]."
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Postby Ian Kendall » 04/08/07 12:05 PM

Now you mention it, I've never seen Matt and Mark in the same room together...

Take care, Ian
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Postby Bob Farmer » 04/10/07 08:00 AM

Evidence of the guiding hand of a supreme alien intelligence--

I pulled a bound copy of The Phoenix off the shelf and opened it to a random page to find this note from Bruce Elliott:

"Apr. 5, 1951 ... (left home for) ... a meeting of a strange breed of fellows, who murder for money, under the slogan, Crime Does Not Pay Enough. These murderous members of Mystery Writers of America ... (give) ... lectures on plotting .... John Dickson Carr spoke on misdirection ... but he meant in plotting ...."

The Phoenix #227, April 20, 1951, p. 909.
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Postby Guest » 06/20/07 12:49 AM

I've just read The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez. A good read. The theme is more mathmatics than magic, but in the middle, with frankly, limited plot relevance, is a chapter describing Rene Lavand's act.
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Postby Guest » 06/20/07 08:29 AM

I received a note from Ford Kross recently and he mentioned another author of novels with a magic/mentalism theme..Guys name is Robert Aiello and his first book was titled "The Deceivers"-I also found two more by the same author featuring the same protagonist..Check out Half.com or Amazon for used copies..The Deceivers cost me a big 30 cents on Amazon, plus postage of course.

all the best,
John Smetana
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Postby Guest » 06/21/07 09:05 AM

"Master of Ceremonies" by magician Jim Gerrish. The protagonist is a night club mentalist in the evening and a college professor specializing in the history and meaning of ritual magic by day. He is in pursuit of a serial killer who duplicates ritual human sacrifices as his M.O. The question is, who is really the "Master of Ceremonies?" You'll find a link on my site.
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Postby JKeppel » 06/21/07 10:37 PM

gee, there are so many magic novels out there. Pauline glen winslow wrote 5 novels about a police inspector named capricorn who came from a family of magicians. In addition to Walter Gibsons norgil stories he also wrote a mystery novel called "A Blonde for Murder" about a magician detective named Ardini. and dont forget Val Andrews wrote 14 sherlock holmes pastiches at least 4 of which had magic themes. MANY other authors have also done Sherlock Holmese stories that have had magic themes with everyone from Chung ling Soo to david davant in them. The first one that comes to mind is Sherlock Holmes and the Wood Green Mystery which had him involved with chung ling soo. then there are two collections of short stories with a magic them. "Sleight-of-Crime" and "Murder, MAgic, & Mayhem" One of the most recent of course was "Carter Beats the Devil". Daniel Stashower had written 4 novels about houdini solving crimes. the list goes on and on.
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Postby Jim Morton » 06/22/07 09:07 AM

Many detective fiction writers use misdirection worthy of a magician to keep readers surprised (and hopefully entertained). Agatha Christie took to this to its logical extreme, especially in the Poirot mysteries. Many of her books feature red herrings; the mystery writer's equivalent of a sucker trick. P.D. James takes this one step further by providing just enough clues to subtly point to a character with being the obvious red herring; the mystery writer's equivalent to addressing the Too Perfect theory.
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Postby Guest » 08/13/07 09:26 PM

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Postby Guest » 08/17/07 07:49 PM

You probably have more than enough already. But I can recommend Nevermore by William Hjortsberg (yes that's spell correctly), which I helped research many years ago. Also, I really liked A Man Called Intrepid by William Stephenson, which masquerades as history, but is truly just good fiction. And finally, you might consider Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell which was highly acclaimed, but I found too long.

Hope you feel better.

Gary
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Postby Jeff Haas » 08/17/07 10:18 PM

Strange & Norrell isn't about a stage magician, but about "real" magic. Think of what an English wizard would have been like in the early 1800's, filtered through a comedy of manners. It's one of the best books I've read in the last couple of years, along with Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson.

Look these up on Amazon!
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Postby Guest » 08/19/07 11:44 AM

P.D. James, by the way, is still going strong at the age of 87.
She was given a standing ovation yesterday at St Hilda's College, Oxford,for her lecture on the British Detective Story: The Golden Age and the New Millennium.
I particularly liked the way she dissected Agatha Christie's flawed forensics and implausible plot structure in The Body in the Library (1942).
In a q & a session immediately afterwards, James confided that 'Children of Men', the recent big budget movie, based on her 1992 novel, had little connection with the actual words she'd written.
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Postby Guest » 08/21/07 12:08 PM

You could see if you can find any of those
"Choose Your Adventure" Books with Blackstone, Jr.

I have one, I think it might book #2.
Not sure...maybe it is #1. I'll have to look.
It was I think 1988 when it came out and
I believe we went to Abbott's in 1989 and
went up to Uncle Harry and asked him to sign.

I can't remember what he wrote.
I do know on a program from the early 1980's
i found he wrote "take care of mommy & daddy."

which was cute, but I can't remember he wrote
that time around.

I'll have to look for it. Its in the magic room.
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Postby Rick Strange » 02/27/08 01:17 PM

Browsing around Barnes & Noble I came across this new work of fiction with magic as a theme:

The Somnambulist, by Jonathan Barnes

Here is a link for additional information:

The Somnambulist (Barnes & Noble)

I also noted that James Swain's latest novel; Midnight Rambler has been remaindered. This is a standalone novel, not part of the Tony Valentine series and to my knowledge does not contain any magic related themes or elements.
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Postby Mike Remington » 11/07/08 11:00 AM

Just finished reading Paul Malmonts The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril and wanted to recommend it and look for other magic themed recommendations. This list will be useful for that.

The first paragraph of the book has Walter Gibson making a cigarette vanish while talking to L. Ron Hubbard. The book is a pulp story with pulp writers of the thirties as the principal characters. With Gibson as one of the main characters, there are many magic references. Theres a visit to a Blackstone show. The Great Raymond is introduced. Litzka, the mentalist wife of Raymond and later wife of Gibson, performs and is a recurring character. Houdini comes up through Gibsons memories and a young Orson Welles (the voice of the Shadow) has a role.

It is interesting to try to figure out where history ends and fiction starts. For example, Joe Kavalier, a fictional comic book artist from Michael Chabons The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (a great novel with a magic sub-theme set in New York around the same time) is mentioned in passing.

Not magic themed, but I have also been enjoying the books of Thomas H. Cook recently - A real master of misdirection and the surprise ending.
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Postby David » 11/30/08 10:39 PM

All of the Tony Valentine novels of James Swain, starting with "Grift Sense".
"The Spirit Cabinet" by Paul Quarrington.
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Postby Cugel » 12/01/08 03:06 AM

I've always wondered why there appears to be a connection between bad or weak writing and mystery novels with a magic theme. It seems to be a physical law or something.
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Postby El Mystico » 12/01/08 02:38 PM

Oh, Cugel; you clearly don't live in the UK. So you don't know about Jonathan Creek.

A mystery series featuring a guy who designs magical effects.

It is prime time and superb.

As evidence - there is a Christmas special coming up - and it is already getting good PR.

(OK OK, not a novel but a TV series, but still...)
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/01/08 03:10 PM

It's a fun show - and was broadcast here on PBS some time ago. A Christmas special this year - great! :)

http://epguides.com/jonathancreek/guide.shtml
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Postby David Prouty » 12/01/08 03:14 PM

Most of Swain's Tony Valentine novels have characters named after magicians, ( i.e. Rufus Steele, Paul Cummins ...), and Dead Man's Poker and Dead Man's Bluff's main character seems a dead ringer for Richard Turner...
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Postby Cugel » 12/01/08 05:52 PM

El Mystico wrote:Oh, Cugel; you clearly don't live in the UK. So you don't know about Jonathan Creek.

A mystery series featuring a guy who designs magical effects.

It is prime time and superb.

As evidence - there is a Christmas special coming up - and it is already getting good PR.

(OK OK, not a novel but a TV series, but still...)


I've seen it. It's not bad.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/02/08 05:07 AM

Cugel lives about as far away from the US as you can get.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
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