Secrets of Improvisational Magic

by Justin Higham
Softback, 72 pages, size A5
Author publication
Reviewed by Al Smith

The back cover tells us that: “In this concise guide to improvisation, Justin Higham reveals the fundamental secrets of creating and performing close-up card magic on-the-fly”. And indeed he does; at least as well as such secrets can be revealed. The secrets may not be to the liking of those many who think it’s simply a case of Do-This-And-This-And-That-Happens.

Although the “secrets” disclosed in this book can easily be applied to all aspects of magic, it is, as the author admits, largely from a cardperson’s point of view. In the Foreword, he says, “Improvisation is particularly suited to card magic and most of the examples given will be card based. However, the reader need not be a card magician to make use of these principles.”

The book is written in what I’d call typical “Higham-Style”, quite academic. His analysis and dissection of the subject is recorded under (for example) such chapter headings as, “The Improv Show”, “Jazz Magic”, “Mishaps: Strategies And Outs,” Challenges: Prevention And Cure”.


To me they’re really all the same thing. All magic is conditional and these terms are useful in identifying varying situations. Of course, such perceived differences do make for an interesting debate. For example, if you catch a glimpse of chosen card because the spectator flashes during the process of showing the card to others, do you continue with the original effect, or take advantage of this one-off situation and do something else? Something improvisational, in fact. Well, you might say, it depends... Exactly.

Although a number of tricks are mentioned largely to support or validate the point being made, a full blown dissertation is offered on The Trick That Cannot Be Explained. And it’s here where the realities of improvisation are distilled and best illustrated. It’s forever a case of what, if, but and maybe. So the possibilities are, for all practical purposes, endless. The performer’s experience and skill-set, dictate the outcome. There are no illustrations in the book, which means of course that it’s text-heavy. A turn off for some, because it means the book has to be read. Now there’s a novelty.

I like the book because it’s the kind of thing that I like. Others might not be so keen, but for anybody looking for food for thought, here it is. The book is not specifically a limited edition, but Justin hasn’t published thousands. Get it while it’s hot.


Secrets of Improvisational Magic by Justin Higham. £12.50 plus £1-30 P&P. Or £1.85 surface worldwide and £2.30 airmail Europe £2.80 airmail rest of world. Available from the author at 4 Van Bern House, 83-85 Prince of Wales Road, Kentish Town, London NW5 3LY. Alternatively, via Paypal: or visit


© A E Smith, May 2010