The secrets of Alkazar
by Allan Zola Kronzek¬†with illustrations by Joseph K. Schmidt
Dover Publications Inc., 1992
This book is a gem that belongs on every magician’s bookshelf. It’s practical, useful, widely available and very inexpensive. Yet, few magicians seem to have heard of it.
The Secrets of Alkazar¬†is a complete course on magic. While most beginner’s books focus on secrets and methods, this book teaches all the ingredients necessary for a successful performance. Each of the 12 chapters discusses a necessary aspect of performing, and uses a trick to illustrate it.
Chapter 1, entitled ‘Misdirection’, is a typical chapter. It starts with a paragraph explaining what misdirection is and why we need it. This is followed by a short list of classic principles that summarize how to control the audience’s attention, such as ‘The audience will always look where the magician looks.’ Next comes a description of the classic Salt Shaker Penetration, complete with effect, presentation, patter and modus operandi. The chapter ends with eight tips for the trick; some tie in with the principles given at the start of the chapter, while others apply to the handling of this particular trick.
Chapter 2, called ‘Handling’, discusses the importance of knowing what the effect of a trick is supposed to look like and how to accomplish that. Here we find a gem like ‘Anyone can know a secret. What a magician must know is a total performance.’ A nice touch is that the chapter explains how to segue from the preceding trick into the one presented here, and an alternative presentation is provided as well. The next few chapters discuss: the importance of guarding secrets; presentations; patter; and the use and misuse of repetition.
Then come three chapters that are worth the price of the book (although, at US$4.95, any chapter is worth the price of the book!). The first one¬†describes and analyzes two different presentations for a card trick, without explaining the method. It ends with a list of 15 different ways to have a card selected! The second one¬†describes the method with so much detail that the reader cannot help but master all its subtleties, and ends with a third presentation using the same principle. The third one¬†on cards describes four more presentations for the same trick.
The book continues with a chapter on naturalness and how to achieve it, a chapter on routining (with a lovely presentation for the card in orange), and closes with a very inexpensive stage illusion that should raise quite a few eyebrows.
I highly recommend this book to all magicians, be they beginners or professionals. While the more experienced magician will, of course, be familiar with virtually everything in the book, it is still useful to have all these principles formalized and listed in one place. It makes a great source of inspiration and provides many starting points for further exploration.