A trip to Tam Shepherds

The pilgrimage has finally been made. A quick dash from the Edinburgh Fringe festival to Glasgow to meet the genius of card magic – Mr Roy Walton. He was an incredibly nice man who talked for 20 minutes about many things including Dai Vernon, Alex Elmsley and Peter Kane. What an awesome day.



Magic Quotes #4

Do not be put off by friends telling you it’s not worth the effort to learn a second deal, as it has very little use in card magic, it is a sleight of considerable power which has not been used extensively, simply because not many people do it. It’s not that they cannot do it, but that they think they cannot do it. Once this mental block has been pushed aside progress will be rapid.

Roy Walton

Mystery Magazine Issue 2 – A Short Review

Recently received a copy of Mystery Magazine Issue 2. I was very unimpressed to be perfectly honest. The best thing in it by far was the trick by Roy Walton called “Ghostly Poker”. I don’t really enjoy reading about magic competitions and little gatherings. I also hope the standard of the effects get better (I’m obviously excluding the trick by Roy Walton), “Mirror Trick” by Michael Lyth – a jumbo card inside a sparkly frame trick – does anyone seriously present stuff like this these days? “The Long-Distance Card Trick” by Chris Wardle – using a very old number force to force a card – there are much better and stronger over the phone tricks than this.

I was laughing out loud whilst reading the interview with “Dynamo”. When asked about mastering his routines and the books vs DVD debate he replied –

The magic scene as a whole is very formulaic. People use the same ideas, follow the same sorts of paths, routes and so on. The way I look at it, to step out of that box and be different, you have to look elsewhere for your inspiration…I know guys who can do really impressive card magic, stuff that puts me to shame – and I’m pretty good. These are guys who can do all the technical things, but when it comes to performing an effect for somebody, they don’t have a clue.

“Step out of that box and be different” – I don’t see anything unique about him at all – just another Blaine wannabe who uses mostly marketed items anyone can do. “I’m pretty good” – no you’re not. Not only can you not do the technical stuff, you can’t present either. It really annoys me when people assume that just because you actually care about good technique and spend time mastering difficult sleights you must not be able to present anything.

As for “Dynamo” his success is due to the general public not being able to appreciate what good magic is. Some promoter see’s him doing poor magic, doesn’t know what good magic is and signs him up believing him to be good.

As for the magazine – I’ll keep getting it and hope it improves. After all we need a decent British magic magazine.

The Genius of Roy Walton – Guest Post by Joe Mckay

I think it goes back to Origami.

The obsession with how much you can extend a simple material into as many complex and ingenious forms as possible. Bend it, twist it, crease it, fold it. But never cut it. And never cheat with the use of sticky stuff. Glue, tape, staples… All out. The challenge is in meeting the conditions. The task is to tease out the possibilities inherent in a simple piece of paper. I have never been ‘into’ origami but I can recognise it’s charms. Indeed – in some deep sense the two volumes of The Complete Walton belong in the same field. When it comes to experiencing the twin joys of elegance and ingenuity, there is no better place to play.

Unprepared playing cards. Sleights and stacks and nothing else. No gimmicks here. No Cheating. Nothing but two hands, a deck of cards and flash after flash of genius. How much can be done with a simple deck of cards? How can we count the ways in which elegance and ingenuity can be applied to such a simple prop? Well – let’s find out…

Let’s start with Volume One…

But before that let’s start with Jerry Sadowitz.

The greatest performer of card magic in the history of magic. And an amazing creator…

He has ripped apart so many rules in both comedy and magic that it is hard to comprehend his many achievements. One of his traits has being the amount of time he has spent praising Roy Walton on his many national TV appearances. He even had a show called ‘The Roy Walton Moment’. In it he spoke about how incredible the two ‘Complete Walton’ books were. Later – he said he couldn’t find a photograph of Roy, but he did manage to find a picture of his son. The picture was a painting of Jesus Christ.

Another lovely joke he pulled was to have a spectator go through the two Roy Walton books. He would have them mention any effect from the pages of the books. He offered to perform any effect that was chosen. ‘The Overworked Card’ the spectator would ask. Well – that is an interesting trick which also goes by the name of ‘The Collectors’ he would reply. He would then proceed to do the effect that he planned on doing the whole time. Nice joke – but it makes an interesting point. You really can pick any effect from these books at random – and you will always hit upon either a recognised classic or something of real interest. In every Walton effect there is always something to admire. Whether it be a clever twist for an old move (he regularly applies the Elmsley count, half pass, turnover pass and the Gilbreath Principle in unusual ways) or a clever re-working of an old idea. Or maybe some ingenious piece of mathematical elegance. Or a magician fooler. Or a strange new plot which has never being worked before in quite this way. There is always something there. Buried in the small print of his ideas is something that will cause any thinking cardman to pause and catch their breath. To be astonished when learning an effect is wonderful. Roy can do that…

There is something about the structure behind Roy’s thinking which is gorgeous. He will often set up one effect whilst completing another earlier on in the routine. He tightly sets up the method such that the effect can be allowed to unfold later on with extra stages already built into the earlier phases of the method. He plans his effects like a grandmaster executing a sure-fire 6 move checkmate. To watch this thinking unfold is like watching an origami watch be slowly pulled apart. In the folds and creases you see the logic behind the magic. I can understand how it is put together but the wonder is in the creativity that designed it. It all comes together and ticks in the perfect harmony of a singular vision. A vision of how card effects should be constructed. A taste for how method and effect should intertwine in the most effective and ingenious way possible. The shortest distance between any two points may be a straight line. But I find the straight line is rarely the most elegant route. When looking for that route I turn to the maps created by Roy Walton.

I rate the two volumes ‘Complete Walton’ books as the greatest collections of card tricks ever published. I would rate the two volumes of  ‘The Complete Works of Alex Elmsley’ in second place. All well and good, but consider this…

R. Paul Wilson made the interesting point that in any one of the Walton books is more ingeniously constructed effects than in both of the Elmsley books. An intriguing observation – but one which holds up well when one makes the comparison. It is astonishing to consider this. Remember – Alex Elmsley was a bloody genius…

It is part of Roy’s legacy that he has had such an influence on such people as Jerry Sadowitz, Peter Duffie, Gordon Bruce and R. Paul Wilson. But his main influence lies in the hundreds and hundreds of card tricks he has created…

And, sorry – back to Volume One…

My copy of this book is falling apart.

Continue reading “The Genius of Roy Walton – Guest Post by Joe Mckay”

School Daze by Roy Walton

Anyone who can get their hands on old copies of Steve Hamilton’s Profile Magazine will have a real winner on their hands. This version of Henry Christ’s “Sum and Difference” has been blessed with the Walton touch and was published in Profile Issue 5, December 1991.

This is one of many excellent effects hidden within the pages of Profile, a magic magaine which should definately be republished.

Thinking backwards

One of my favourite card effects is “The Smiling Mule” by Roy Walton, a spectator names any card in the deck and it instantly appears between two face up aces in the centre of the deck. I suggest you look it up for the method but it does involve the use of a gag/sucker situation at the start which enables you to find the named card.

Darwin Ortiz published a “variation” of this trick in Scams and Fantasies which he calls “The Last Laugh” and the thinking is all backwards. Let me explain. In Darwin’s variation he decides to eliminate the impromptu nature of the Walton original method and substitute a memorized deck instead! This seems ridiculous and is a classic example of variation for the sake of variation. Instead of improving on the routine he decides to make it more complicated (thereby also limiting it to an opening effect or in a set of effects also using such as setup). In the original the secret action takes place when the audience is laughing and think the trick is over, in Darwin’s version the gag element is reduced and you also have to pinky count to the position of the named card in the stack. Unnecessarily complex in my opinion.

He does defend his reasoning at the end of the effect –

“…The Walton effect is impromptu but requires that you spread through the deck face up to locate the named card. I feel that this could, in retrospect, provide a clue to the method”

I disagree. Performed properly the culling of the card is not noticed as the spectators are reacting to the gag part of the trick and believe the trick to be over. Here’s a clip of Darwin performing the trick. He gets lucky in this clip as the women names the top card of the deck. As for his performance in general – he’s hardly putting this theories from Strong Magic into practice.