Ahead of the Pack
by Jack Avis and Lewis Jones
Photos by John Derris
HB 288 pages. First published 2002
by Rob James
Lewis Jones and Jack Avis are two creative guys who have put together a good-looking 288 page hardback book of more than 60 effects and techniques focussing on cards, mentalism and number magic.
Card magic forms the majority of the material. In fact, there are so many items that it is hard to know where to start. But… on initial reading, I was pleased to find a gaff-free version of Bill Goldman's very underrated "Monkey in the Middle", an ambitious card move of Slydini's that made me smile at the sheer temerity of it and a section dealing with outs for Dai Vernon's "Five Card Mental Force". Exploring tricks and ideas that really should have been explored before seems to be the speciality of the authors. This is not only true of the outs for Vernon's force but also an excellent chapter dedicated to subtle nuances and new ideas for the rollover riffle force that elevate its status from a humble sleight into something far more useful and deceptive.
"Up Close and Personal" is the name of the chapter that deals with effects with the audience's personal information. Using their names, birthdays and phone numbers to accomplish magic often produces meaningful and strong effects. In "Channel Tunnel" a somewhat pedestrian card trick takes a sharp twist and ends with a revelation that comes as a shock - almost like a small violation of the spectator's mental space. Strange and surprising, and a great trick to change the direction of a performance from magic to mentalism. And, as luck would have it, fans of mentalism happen to be pretty well catered for. Jack Avis describes his no palming variation of the centre tear and a bold effect called "The Third Eye" can either be played as a serious extra sensory thing or a comic effect where all but one of the audience are let in on the secret. In "Mystral" a spectator is asked to choose a city, word, a playing card or indeed almost anything. They are then asked to call a number and are told by a friendly psychic (read friend of the performer) on the other end of the line exactly what they selected. The basic principal of this technique has been explored in basic ways by other magicians and mentalists but Jones has gone into great detail to come up with something that is really practical and useable.
A little light relief is provided by a few magic-related jokes scattered throughout. However, I found one or two of them to be in questionable taste. This slight quibble is the only one that I have about the book which as you may have guessed, is otherwise excellent. Not only does it contain the sort of tricks that magicians will enjoy learning and playing round with but more importantly the ideas and routines are straightforward, un-fussy and downright devious which means that they make perfect material for real world performance.
It is not often that I read a magic book that is such a wealth of information. "Ahead of the Pack" comes unreservedly recommended.
© Rob James July 2002
Ahead of the Pack is available from International Magic. Telephone: 020 7405 7324