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.

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