Cryptical Envelopment
by John Hostler

Overlooked by Al Smith

Subtitled “Five Gentle Frauds for the Close-Up Performer,” this is a 50 page photo illustrated ebook. Published by the author, it’s currently available from—and apparently exclusive to Vanishing Inc Magic. £7.00 or $10.00.

According to Vanishing Inc Mister Hostler is a talented magician, thinker, and writer, and “we are pleased to present his second ebook exclusively”. John Hostler describes himself as a Magical Recluse and Semi-Professional Curmudgeon.

A few years ago Mister Hostler published The Rauschenberg Effect. This too was an ebook, but with an interesting novelty attachment. It was free. There was a vetting process, devised to ensure only genuine magic fans could get their tinterwebian digits on the thing. Whether it worked is another matter. An effort bordering noble, though. This time the process is simpler. Cough up a few quid and it’s yours.

The material is all cards and all close-up. A table or working surface is required for all the effects, but it’s not strictly card-table stuff.

Mister Hostler does a very good job of writing/explaining the material, but his attempts at humour seemed forced and are a bit wearing. I also got the feeling that he was trying to “write in the style of........” any number of people. I’m probably dreaming, but I certainly felt I detected shades of Jon Racherbaumer in the introduction (particularly) and throughout the book generally.

Now with all that out of the way, it’s fair to say that card fans who like to have their thinking heads stirred will find things of interest. Which is another way of saying that although from a technical point of view there is nothing particularly taxing, the stuff does require work. None of the material is impromptu, though Estimated Prophet can be done with any pack any time. It does, however, require a lot of “casual” handling, not to mention the ability to cut to a predetermined number of cards, which probably constitutes something resembling technical. Alternatives to this less-than-simple procedure are suggested.

The Slipknot Deck, which has engendered the odd comment here and there, requires a few DIY skills as well as a few interesting “special” cards. It’s an interesting concoction, to say the least. Everything’s relative, of course, and one person’s beef drink, or even yeast extract, is another person’s emetic, but I must confess to a strong disinclination to even contemplate constructing this item.

This “construction” theme applies also to Bertha, an approach to the Fred trick. This is interesting, but requires a bold and for my money somewhat clumsy switch. I also think the trick has been done better. And more often. Other construction devices include stacked packs and the introduction of a duplicate card into the action of an assembly.

Overall I wasn’t overly enamoured of the material, but I did enjoy studying Mister Hostler’s approach. It’s thoughtful and considered. He’s also keen on applying credits, which is something of a forgotten (or never learned) art among many of today’s “creators”.

Anyway, as already stated, there’s much to think about here and let’s face it at the price, it’s worth dipping a toe in the water. You might be glad you did or even (pun alert) dead grateful.


© A E Smith, June 2012