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Topic: The Magician and The Cardsharp - Karl Johnson
Message: Posted by: NJJ (Feb 21, 2010 12:02AM)
I've just finished re-reading this fantastic book.

Karl Johnson is a New York journalist who has painstakingly researched the lives of Dai Vernon and Alan Kennedy and their meeting where Kennedy taught Vernon the kennedy centre deal who, in turn, taught it to us.

It's a great read for fans of the history of card magic and card cheating. It's also an excellent comparison of the differences between the people, moves, philosophies and practices of the two worlds.

Any suggestions of what to read next?
Message: Posted by: ImpromptuBoy (Feb 21, 2010 01:36AM)
As long as you're on the subject of Dai Vernon, if you don't have it, you should get a copy of his book 'Revelation'.
It's his annotation of Erdnase's material, and a bunch of new moves added (the hop, blackjack switch, the cull riffle of the mysterious kid AKA dad stevens, and that move alone, is kicking my a** right now). It also contains photocopies of past letters he wrote, draft manuscripts of pages he released in that very book, some letters and other stuff about the Kennedy Center deal, which is taught as well.
Great read, and a huge book. One of my current favourites.

Michael
Message: Posted by: Sonicstabber (Feb 21, 2010 01:48AM)
If you haven't read it yet, the Phantoms of the Card Table book by Gazzo and Britland is similar, if not better as it shows another side of Vernon and other magicians back in the day, as well as painting the picture of the gambling/cheating era in the US over a hundred or so year period.

I also reccommend the Revelations book, but try to get the newer edition, as it contains Vernon's original manuscript in his own draft form, and then a re-typed version with proper illustrations from Erdnase, and photos of Vernon himself performing some of the moves, as well as explaining things like the Kennedy centre deal, as Michael said. It's a great companion to put the story with the hand work side by side.

For more Vernon and his card sleights coming from the gambling world, check out the Vernon Chronicles, especially the fourth one, which has MUCH more history in more specific details. There's a funny story of Vernon in one of the Chronicles carrying a bucket of Mercury (For some reason haha), across a plank of wood as he was working in construction. The plank broke, he fell and broke both his arms. When he woke up, I think the first thing he asked I think Bertram was if he would be OK to perform that coming friday..

Very worthwhile,

Hope this helps,

Eddie
Message: Posted by: scott spencer (Feb 21, 2010 03:42PM)
I just read Magician and the Cardsharp myself and it was one of my favorite reads recently. The author really wove the stories of both men together nicely and painted a vivid picture of Mob run KC.

Im reading Phantoms of the Card table now.

S
Message: Posted by: kcg5 (Feb 22, 2010 10:21AM)
I have heard that the gazzo book has many errors. I hope not, as it was a great book.
Message: Posted by: KapBoy77 (Feb 23, 2010 12:56PM)
Any examples as to what those errors might be?
Message: Posted by: kcg5 (Feb 23, 2010 01:14PM)
Not so much, just heard David Ben in an interview-but then again no one is perfect. Still a great book.
Message: Posted by: ein_doppelganger (Feb 23, 2010 04:30PM)
I have come across threads about that here and in other locations. Some folks were claiming that Scott was a hoax manufactured to help get inside the NY Inner Circle. The thread I read ended with this being debunked... Having not read the book yet I cant really comment more.
Message: Posted by: AMcD (Feb 23, 2010 07:18PM)
A hoax, maybe not that strong. But me, for instance, I consider it's not that far from the truth...
Message: Posted by: NJJ (Feb 23, 2010 08:44PM)
Been trying to hunt down a copy of Road Hustlers. goes for $120 on Amazon.
Message: Posted by: ein_doppelganger (Feb 23, 2010 09:51PM)
AMcD: Can you share your take on it here? I would be interested in hearing more especially since I am reading the book now.
Message: Posted by: AMcD (Feb 23, 2010 11:27PM)
No, I'm sorry. Don't wanna start an endless fight again. I simply hope one day we will have a nice discussion about it, but don't forget Scott is one of the idols the magicians adore and it's a forum for (mainly) magicians here.

Don't get me wrong, I deeply like card magic and (some) magicians. But when it's time to talk about true cheating, our paths rarely follow the same direction...
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Feb 24, 2010 12:15AM)
I suppose that if one compares Gazzo's book with Ben's Vernon biography one can pretty much figure out the dispute, but it doesn't really seem to me that we'll ever really know.

Even assuming that the Scott demonstration had been set up in a dishonest and misleading manner, that is in no way conclusive evidence on whether Scott did the actual work in real life. Ben--who we must remember is a lawyer--obviously knows this, and never goes so far as to say that Scott himself was a fraud. The implications of setting up such an event, however, are also obvious.

But this hardly constitutes "errors"; rather, it constitutes perpetuating a myth that is based on a con job.

Now, if by "errors" one means grammatical errors, then "Phantoms" is full of mistakes. Chock full. Too many to give some examples. Whoever edited that book ought to be embarrassed.

In comparison, I only ran into three or four typos in Ben's book, and Ben himself clearly knows a comma from a semi-colon.

In the English wars, Ben wins. Or at least his editor does.
Message: Posted by: kcg5 (Feb 24, 2010 11:58AM)
Good job of summing up what I didn't want to write Jeff.
Message: Posted by: ein_doppelganger (Feb 24, 2010 01:30PM)
AMcD: I can respect that. I did a search and read the old (often heated) posts. Interesting arguments. it seems we will never really know.

stoneunhinged: Thanks for the summary! I haven;t read Vernon's bio yet. Wasn't there supposed to be a part 2?
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Feb 24, 2010 04:04PM)
Ben is working on part 2, but he's one of those guys who has ten projects going at once, so it may be a couple of years before it's finished.

According to his web site:

"Currently, David is writing several books including the authorized biography of Canadian media mogul Allan Slaight, the second half of Dai Vernon: A Biography, a book on the life and magic of Paul Fox, and a mediation on Artifice, Ruse and Subterfuge at the Card Table."

And that's not all. There are a few threads here about other projects he's got on the burner.

Anyway, we're pretty far off topic at this point.

The main point is that the "demonstration" of Scott's skills was a set-up of sorts. It doesn't mean he couldn't do the work. I think he probably could. But those presenting him wanted a sure-fire demonstration that would get back to Vernon as bordering on the miraculous, so they fudged it a bit.

Against this evidence one ought to point out that Gazzo watched Scott deal, so we *know* Scott could handle cards with first-class skill. We just don't know how much experience he had actually cheating.

On topic, the same questions exist about Kennedy. We *know* he could do a beautiful center, but around here there have been many fights about just how useful a center deal could/can actually be; the doubters are logically led to conclude that Kennedy didn't really use it much, either.

But who knows? The truth about this stuff lies in the shadows of the penumbras of legends and myths told by cheaters and their sycophants. One might as well try to document the sexual exploits of my ninth-grade basketball team according to present re-tellings of memories of the stories we told in the locker room.
Message: Posted by: ein_doppelganger (Feb 24, 2010 04:42PM)
As for Kennedy never using the center deal I got the feeling from reading Magician and the Cardsharp he was a true artist. What I mean is he may not have needed it but he was driven to create and perfect it out of a desire to do something new. many artists have created new and somewhat impractical methods of creating amazing work simply out of their own genius. Besides, if it looked as great as Vernon said why not use it. From the sound of the games he was in the sharps usually outnumbered the marks (who often had a train to catch anyway).
Message: Posted by: magiclimber (Mar 4, 2010 11:16PM)
Hiding the Elephant is what I read next

Nothing about Vernon, but a great read...
Message: Posted by: ein_doppelganger (Mar 5, 2010 04:16AM)
That's a fantastic book as well. Glorious Deception is next on my list.
Message: Posted by: NJJ (Mar 5, 2010 05:32PM)
Any suggestions for good fictional books on similar subjects? I'm yet to read a really good card cheating novel.
Message: Posted by: AMcD (Mar 5, 2010 06:46PM)
[quote]
On 2010-02-24 17:04, stoneunhinged wrote:
On topic, the same questions exist about Kennedy. We *know* he could do a beautiful center, but around here there have been many fights about just how useful a center deal could/can actually be; the doubters are logically led to conclude that Kennedy didn't really use it much, either.
[/quote]

As usual, everything is about context when we talk about card cheating. But let's be honest, when you see how much you've got to bend the card for Kennedy's center deal, you should play cards with blind people or heavy drunkers if you want no one spotting that something weird is going on...
Message: Posted by: ein_doppelganger (Mar 5, 2010 07:03PM)
Nicholas: Check out Jim Thompson (The Grifters) as well as the classics by Damon Runyon

AMcD: I totally get your meaning. According to the book I get the impression a lot of the folks he was playing with were drunk businessmen on a stopover from a long train ride. Its also apparent most people at the table were in collusion. I imagine he could get away with a lot under those circumstances.
Message: Posted by: kcg5 (Mar 5, 2010 07:18PM)
I hear Jim Swain writes cheating novels, or one.
Message: Posted by: NJJ (Mar 5, 2010 11:17PM)
Thanks for the grifters tip.

I've read swains funny money which, while accurate, wasn't much of a book.
Message: Posted by: No. 92 (Mar 6, 2010 12:58AM)
[quote]
On 2010-03-05 18:32, Nicholas J. Johnson wrote:
Any suggestions for good fictional books on similar subjects? I'm yet to read a really good card cheating novel.
[/quote]

Gamblers Rose by G.W. Hawkes is a novel about a family of cardsharps in hawaii 1971. Quite a page turner.
Message: Posted by: ein_doppelganger (Mar 7, 2010 03:41PM)
Richard Turner has his novel Re-Deal..
Message: Posted by: NJJ (Mar 7, 2010 06:56PM)
Gambler's Rose is a great book. It didn't feel like a book about cards but rather about family. I just read the synposis of Re-Deal on Amazon. Looks wonderfully trashy!
Message: Posted by: kcg5 (Mar 7, 2010 11:52PM)
[quote]
On 2010-03-07 16:41, ein_doppelganger wrote:
Richard Turner has his novel Re-Deal..
[/quote]

I had forgotten about this wonderful book. Very well done by Mr. Turner.
Message: Posted by: James Alan (Mar 8, 2010 01:48PM)
[quote]
On 2010-02-24 17:04, stoneunhinged wrote:
There are a few threads here about other projects he's got on the burner.
[/quote]

His latest is just coming off the burner, being served up right now: [url=http://bit.ly/9EeqDS]Igniting the Imagination[/url]
Message: Posted by: NJJ (Mar 10, 2010 12:13AM)
[quote]
On 2010-03-06 00:17, Nicholas J. Johnson wrote:
Thanks for the grifters tip.

I've read swains funny money which, while accurate, wasn't much of a book.
[/quote]

Re-reading this, I realised I was being pretty harsh. It's actually a fun read with lots of nice stories about mini-swindles scattered throughout the plot. It's not great literature but it's a great airport crime fiction.
Message: Posted by: ein_doppelganger (Mar 10, 2010 02:07PM)
I will check his stuff out - I found a few titles that looked suitably entertaining.

It goes without saying that seeking out classic pulp novels is fun too if you are looking for cons in fiction.
Message: Posted by: ein_doppelganger (Mar 11, 2010 03:12PM)
I just finished Phantoms of the Card Table. What an interesting picture thay paint of Vernon. I know the book isn't really about him and the impression is colored by Scott's experience of the man.

I imagine Vernon was annoyed since it sounded like quite a frustrating situation to be in. Here this guy is touted as your better and you don't get to see him work or verify it yourself.

Anyway, great book! I'm on to George Devol now.
Message: Posted by: NJJ (Mar 23, 2010 12:29AM)
I found the beginning and end of Phantoms really fantastic. However, I got bored in the middle by the squabbles and letters between the magic elite as they fought for status and to be the ultimate keeper of secrets. Reminded me of too many threads on this forum and too many magic clubs.

I might join you ein_dopperganger and re-read Devol....