Harry Loraynes Best of Friends: Volume III
By Patrick Coffin
After a 22-year pause, the indefatigable Harry Lorayne has produced the third installment of his Best of Friends book series. And what an impressive specimen of magic it is. You dont need to have read the first two volumes to appreciate the sheer range of knock-out effects and routines in the third, nor do you need to be a working professional to recognize a treasure trove when you see one. All you need is a desire to take your magic chops to the next level, and an interest in learning some eye-popping effects and new twists on some classic routines.
Best of Friends Volume III is a cornucopia o of close-up magic by some of the magic fraternitys better-known names (start the list with Michael Ammar, Allan Ackerman, Aldo Colombini, David Regal, Andi Gladwin, Kostya Kimlat, Peter Duffie, Gregory Wilson, and Max Maven) as well as some lesser-known contributors whose success in other careers didnt get in the way of creating entertaining card magic. Each contributor gets a short biography; then their respective tricks are explained in Mr. Loraynes lucid, and not infrequently funny, prose style. As with his The Classic Collection, the explanations are supplemented with over 400 crisp B&W photos of his hands in action.
Now, admittedly, if all you know about a magic book is that its 522 pages long and costs around 75 bucks, you might be tempted to heave a discouraged sigh. Fear not. This reviewer was rewarded early on, thanks in large measure to Harry Loraynes natural gift for conveying complete thoroughness with a light touch. BOF III had me from hello (see Guess Quotient below) but it became apparent that this isnt the kind of book to simply read and review. I was often hobbled by the temptation to break stride, grab my cards, and work on a new trick. Think of sipping water from a fire hydrant, except that the water is clear and cold and youre thirsty.
A quick aside on the allegedly high price. When I see the occasional grumbling among some magicians in magic fora over the cost of books of this scope and caliber, I have to laugh. How often these same grumblers think nothing of dropping $30 for the latest must have gimmick hyped on the Internet, or pay some absurd price for the secret of a single effect. Oscar Wilde once said that a cynic is one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing; something similar is at play here.
As stated in the Foreword, Vol III is not really for beginners. Still, if Lorayne feels a sleight or term may be unfamiliar, hell take an extra moment to catch up the more inexperienced reader with a brief sidebar lesson. If you already know the sleight, chances are good that the lesson will improve your handling. Whether youre a full-time pro or just someone who derives deep satisfaction at the sight of drinking buddies scratching their heads over how the &^@# you did that, BOF III supplies the reader an overflowing armload of superb magic.
Its the simple idea that often packs the two-by-four wallop, isnt it? The book opens with a strong demonstration of that truism, Harry Loraynes own Guess Quotient, an ESP-tinged card pair mystery that can, with the right showmanship, leave the spectator wondering whos in league with Satan you or the spectator himself.
The rest of the book is as eclectic as it is entertaining. A few examples: Simon Lovells Poker, with its startling finger-smash-through-the-selected-card finale, recalls R. Paul Wilsons handling of Ladies Looking Glass from The Royal Road to Card Magic. Steve Cohens Dictionary Definition (although not credited as such) is quite similar to Paul Cummins routine, The Invisible Card, key elements of which appear in Roberto Giobbis Card College Vol 3, where its provenance is traced to Hugards Magic Monthly and George Kaplans The Fine Art of Magic. But I digress; I get big reactions from the Cohen version.
Magicians who work in church settings will find some effects adaptable to the gospel message, such as Hearts Delight, Joe Rindfleischs winsome extension of Dai Vernons Emotional Reaction from Inner Secrets of Card Magic. And for wedding reception table-hopping, or for any husband-wife spectatos, Unreliable Witness by Dominic Twose and Aldo Colombinis very magical The Counsellors are perfect.
Is your pet Ace Assembly starting to feel like yesterdays salad? Try David Regals Observ-Ace-Tion on for size, an audience-participation routine that elicits as many laughs as gasps. Or Joshua Jays silk-smooth Royal Aces, with its startling poker hand finish. Or Tony Noices Fastest Ever Assembly. (Out of 130-some tricks, nine of em are Ace Assembly variations take another sip from that hydrant!) And if color separation tricks ring your bell, Gregory Wilsons The Trick That Sucks could become your personal Big Ben.
BOF III does not live by cards alone, however. Youll also find uses for a conch shell, a thumb-tie, a cork, a wallet, and a credit card. Coin prestidigitators will be down with Justin Highams Cards/Copper/Silver, a strong coin-card quickie. And Nick Pudars offbeat Tragedy Assembly is a matrix-like gem in which the performer appears to lose control of which coins move where, while secretly staying a step ahead of the most gimlet-eyed spectators. I was a tad skeptical of Joe Rindfleischs Magic Carpet Matrix until I performed it for my wife and was pleased to witness her normally undroppable jaw hit the floor.
While one may raise an eyebrow over why certain other top names dont appear in the BOF series, the author-editor does apologize profusely on page one for not being able to use all the submissions he wanted to. (A thousand-pager would pose a big-time marketing problem.) As it is, Best of Friends Volume III reflects a degree of T.L.C. and pedagogical finesse that can only come from a lifetime of performing and teaching. In an era of instant downloads and fads-of-the-month, this splendid anthology will provide countless years of enjoyment.
For more information, or to order a copy, you can email the eminence grise of modern card magic himself at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nova Scotia-born Patrick Coffin writes from Los Angeles.