I used to life above a former firehouse with a magician. No, that’s not the first line of a joke. We rented an apartment on the top floor above what was then being used as a studio for yoga, aerobics, and (apparently) neo-pagan womyn’s rituals. Meanwhile, we were upstairs; me working on a manuscript that would eventually become a nearly unreadable novel, and my friend perfecting sleight-of-hand routines. He taught me a lot of card tricks and told me stories of the great magicians of the good old days. My favorite of these was about John Scarne.
Scarne performed magic for audiences ranging from FDR to Fidel Castro, he taught G.I.s how to not get swindled by card cheats, and used to entertain Al Capone at parties. He played Paul Newman’s hands for fancy card play shots in The Sting and was considered the best card manipulator of all time by most magicians. Somehow, he’s most proud of inventing a couple of board games that no one ever plays anymore. (When’s the last time you played “Teeko”?)
Anyway, the story my friend told me was about a trick where the magician has you pick a card, he shuffles it back in the deck, then throws the deck at the ceiling. All the cards fall back to the floor, except for your card; which stays stuck magically on the ceiling. It’s a fairly simple trick: I’d do it for you here at the bookstore except that the ceilings are too high for me to throw to. However, in my friend’s story, when Scarne did this trick for Capone, he threw the cards at the non-opening window of the Chicago high-rise where the party was taking place. The deck struck the glass and fell to the floor, with Capone’s card staying stuck. When Carne asked him to go get his card, Scarface went to the window and discovered that his card was attached on the outside!
Now that, in my book, is one cool dude.
And we now have his book on our shelves just waiting for the right reader.
The Odds Against Me, the autobiography of John Scarne
1966. Stated “First Printing” but possibly a Book Club Edition. Harcover.
Very good condition with Fair dust jacket. $14
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