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Secret Ways of Al Baker, The Review

Official Review

August 15th, 2003 3:44pm
Reviewed by Tracy Atteberry
Todd Karr's Miracle Factory began production in 1995 and from its inception has produced high quality books for the magic community that have excelled not only in content but also in production and artistic value as well. "The Secret Ways of Al Baker" is no exception. This Al Baker anthology weighs in at nearly six pounds with over 900 pages and 700 illustrations and is well worth the hernia you'll get lugging it around.

Al Baker was known by most of his magical contemporaries as an outstanding M.C., author, and inventor. Al Baker was born in Poughkeepsie, NY, 1874 and was introduced to magic at the age of 12 when his father vanished a cup of birdseed under a hat. Soon he was performing small shows for lady-finger cakes and the like. He later performed with the carnival, the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Show where he performed outside the big tent and helped draw the crowds inside, as a ventriloquist, vaudeville, other traveling shows, corporate and private engagements, banquets, etcetera. Today, magicians who are familiar with Al Baker generally admire him for his direct, simple approach and the uncanny way he could locate the weakness in an effect and remove it. This is certainly one of the things that impressed me the most while reading "The Secret Ways of Al Baker".

This volume contains nearly everything ever published by Al Baker with the exception of a few pieces that were duplicates of other items. It contains his books, manuscripts, contributions, instructions, magazine items, notebooks, letters, and more. It also includes a number of profiles, essays, and additional effects from other well-known magicians both past and present. A complete table of contents can be seen at The Miracle Factory website.

My favorite Al Baker quote (I just have to mention this) is one that comes close to embodying the mission statement of

"The kind of trick I like to own is one that works as well as the description in the catalog; a trick like that I can use. But they don't work that way."

-- Al Baker in "Magical Ways and Means"

I think we’ve all had that experience. My only real complaint is that this book is just too big to take with me to read when I’m traveling, even on the subway. In my opinion, these type of large anthologies are perfect candidates for a well-done electronic version. Yes, I know that it’s just more comfortable on the eyes to read from a book than a portable computer screen but 1) that won’t always be the case (see ZDNet article) and 2) it would still be great to have in addition to the book as an accessible reference in my portable library. Ah well, in the meantime I'll just have to take The Impostress Princess with me instead and read the giant grimoires at home.

Before reading this book, my exposure to the works of Al Baker had been limited to a few submissions (The Jinx, Greater Magic, etc.) and references in other works by more modern masters like Eugene Burger and John Carney. Now I'm embarrassed that it's taken so long for me to really explore his work. Don't wait as long as I did. Like most productions of The Miracle Factory, this book is destined to be in high demand and short supply. If you have the extra cash and are interested in magic history or just great magical thinking, then I recommend thinking seriously about obtaining a copy.

Five stars.
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Product info for Secret Ways of Al Baker, The

Author: Baker, Al
Publisher: Miracle Factory
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $150.00
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Manufacturer's Description:

Al Baker was one of the most creative figures in magic, a master of close-up, stage magic, and mentalism. Now ALL his legendary works are back in print in this volume, plus unpublished effects and much more:

? Complete new versions of Baker?s books: Magical Ways and Means, Pet Secrets, Al Baker?s Book, Al Baker?s Second Book, Cardially Yours, and Mental Magic

? OVER 200 ADDITIONAL BAKER EFFECTS from manuscripts, instructions, journals, and notes, many previously unpublished

? A dazzling array of never-before-seen Baker photos and rare memorabilia

? Added illustrations by Katlyn Breene

? Plus profiles and essays by Eugene Burger, John Carney, Jay Marshall, Max Maven, and Teller

912 large-format acid-free satin-finish pages, hardbound,
with beautiful dustjacket by Katlyn Breene.

Available from your favorite magic dealer.

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