I had the honor of hosting a round-table discussion on "Capturing Magic" at The Yankee Gathering last Thursday night. We had a group of almost 40 people show up at midnight to spend an hour discussing the methods magic history writers use to share their passion and knowledge with their readers.
The number of authors in the room (Barry Wiley, Gabe Fajuri, Phil Schwartz, Arthur Moses and others) helped to ground the discussion not only in the process, but also the importance of developing up-and-coming authors to share our craft not only with magicians but with the world at large.
Some topics discussed included: research tools, finding a reliable editor, market forces, the important of context, rounding out details to present a whole picture, publishers, the importance of capturing recent history, suggested writers to study and emulate, the writing process, and when to step away from the research and begin writing.
The dedicated magic history journals: Magicol, Gibicire, and The Yankee Collector all offer writers an opportunity to present their research and passion in shorter article-length format and provide a stepping off point to possible longer works. All of the broader magic journals also have room for this type of writing as well.
I feel it is important to support newer writers in the process and expand our influence to the public at large.
My absolute favorite titles have already been mentioned (Illusion Show, Milo & Roger and The Last Greatest...), but other titles include: Goodnight Mr. Dante by Val Andrews, Spellbound by John Harrison, The Life and Times of Augustus Rapp by Augustus Rapp and My Magic Husband: Howard Thurston Unmasked by Grace Thurston. All have their flaws (some in sheer hyperbole), but each provide and elucidate the place of the performer in the context of the world they inhabit. Another great source is any of the history books produced by Mike Caveney's Magic Words. I cannot say enough positive things about the quality of the writing, editing and production on their titles (http://mcmagicwords.com/
One other title that was mentioned at our talk was the Glen David Gold book Carter Beats the Devil that, while containing aspects of magic history, blurs the line in a way that intrigues and entertains but must not be confused with legitimate magic history. There is a definite place for historical fiction but one hopes that it is kept to a minimum in the "scholarly" books.