Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls – I present to you: my first magical crime!
I have stolen a copy of ‘Absolute Magic’ by Derren Brown. (#sorrynotsorry)
I resolved to steal this book some time ago, I confess. I’ve developed a penchant for magic books of (relative) expense, but allowed myself to buy very few – Corinda, ‘Thought Veil’, the works of Andy Lastyname and various bookleteers, etc. I don’t perform magic (or do I..?), so reading about sleight-of-hand and stagecraft is appealing, but there is no foreseeable personal pay-off.
I’m also not sufficiently familiar with the magical world to discern if an obscure book is of actual value (ie, ‘1,001 Ways To Bend A Spoon’ by Mesmeros The Magnificent Mind Magician, 1953, Wigmore Publishing Inc., is a remarkable tome, but its scarcity reflects its limited audience and appeal, and thus it rightfully becomes something of a collector’s item amongst ‘those in the know’), versus internet-savvy modern magicians simply working the laws of scarcity and self-publicity.
My magical maraudings also meant that I would read such books and booklets, and was simply bamboozled by the names of Things. ‘The Magpie’ range of shoplifting magnets; ‘The Wizard’s Sleeve’ range of shoplifting clothing; ‘Quibblers’ guessing games; coins and cups and balls and Things. What wonders were these?
I would plot expeditions to magic shops, and drunkenly put pyrotechnic paper and disappearing ink into online shopping carts. I calculated how much money I could save by shoplifting minor cosmetics and groceries for my ‘Absolute Magic’ fund…
But then I pictured a 37-year-old woman, alone in her flat, sewing a shoplifting sleeve into her LK Bennett coat, and prodding at gadgets, gizmos and all sorts of contraptions in scenes resembling the start of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.
This would never do.
So, being a Creative Genius / Dangerous Maniac, I came up with a better solution…
Sooner or later, I expect, The Magic Circle will come demanding answers as to how a Muggle got so lost on their way back from ‘Miracle’, and acquired such vast hypnotic prowess as my own. Well, my forthcoming book – ‘A Compendium of Tricks for Lady Hypnotists’* – will include an extensive chapter entitled, ‘How to Stalk Magicians on the Internet’… But, for the record, the long pointy stick of suspicion points firmly – at a certain Hector Chadwick.
Yes, a year of scouring Uncle Derren’s Twitter feed – an act indistinguishable at the time from being an actual celebrity stalker – finally paid off. Amidst all the showbiz chitchat and reportage on his pets’ bowel movements, I found an irregular mention of the outrageously named Hector Chadwick – and immediately suspected him of being a magician.
Now, I had been following ‘Hipster Magical Card Wars’ on Twitter for some time. But Mr Chadwick seemed different, somehow… I imagined him to be an old man in a bowtie and waistcoat, tinkering in a shed somewhere pleasant like Banbury, his wife Margery fetching him cups of tea while he made Things to Derren’s specifications. Like Paul Daniels’ brother, basically. So, old Hector knocks up props and marvels at what they’re for, and Uncle Derren says: ‘Oh, nothing in particular – just A Madness Machine.” And then Derren pays him £70 to keep him in toffees and Old Spice until the next time, knowing he has a patsy should one of his experiments backfire.
HOWEVER! A closer inspection of the social media feeds of Hector and his magical chums revealed an interesting picture. Yes, my friends. There is, in our midst, a league of Fashionable Millennial Magicians who are very sneaky and very pleased with themselves, sharing Instagram photos of their finest calligraphy and clobber, and fancy Things on shelves…
It was then that it dawned on me: ‘All the Things are in their Fashionable Millennial Magician lodgings. So, if I can get inside their lodgings, they shall show me all the Things and demonstrate how they work… And then I shall steal borrow their precious books!’
And so the trap was set: I launched this blog. :-)
Tick, tick, tick…
I am very fond of the following quote:
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
– Roald Dahl (from ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’)
For surely one of the most magical things that has happened in my life so far is finding out that one of my friends is a secret former magician.
B is an old school friend who I hadn’t seen for 20 years. Thanks to Facebook, though, he’s become a dear digital friend and he has always been so encouraging when it comes to my writing. Imagine my irritation, then, when I sent him my ‘secret’ blog link and none such praise arrived…
Meanwhile, I happened to be finishing Uncle Derren’s latest mainstream publication, ‘Happy’. There is something diabolical in Derren Brown’s writing… ‘Happy’ is gentler than ‘Confessions of a Conjuror’ and ‘Tricks of the Mind’. But I pictured him at some resplendent writing desk writing words like ‘perspicacity’ and musing: “But will the poor darlings understand such big words as this?” and then writing ‘perspicacity’ anyways just because it’s a very pleasing word to write. Yes, he was diabolical, all right… I resolved: I would not rest until I’d read ‘Absolute Magic’.
Tick, tick, tick…
Finally! A Facebook message from B to confirm my writing genius.
And, lo, it transpired that B was a ‘failed magician’ (no such thing, btw), whose childhood hero was The Amazing Randi and who had once done an epic school assembly rope escape act aged 11.
Oh, he wrote, and: “I’ve also met Derren Brown. I have a first edition of an obscure book of his that’s out of print. I met him after a show with it, he signed it and I chatted to him for a while – he’s a lovely dude.”
I immediately demanded photographic evidence of this. B duly sent a photo of ‘Absolute Magic’ as well as the inscription: ‘B – good luck with it’. ‘Good luck with it’! Classic diabolical Derren Brown. I scrutinised the flamboyant signature beneath the inscription. Several delicious ideas for fun with forgeries immediately sprang to mind and, before you could say ‘hey presto’, I’d booked plane tickets to Dublin to see B.
Our three days together was basically this segment from ‘Step Brothers’ on repeat. I have never been to a house filled with such joys, wonders, surprises, horrors – and plentiful supplies of alcohol. From a custom-made vampire-hunting box (“Show me the secret compartments!”) and the big box of Things, to crossbows, macabre paintings, bottles of dragon’s blood and an antique booze globe, it was splendid.
Of course, B felt obliged to show me ‘Absolute Magic’ the moment I arrived. He, of course, insisted I borrow it, and I, then meaning it, insisted, of course, that I could do no such thing and popped it back upon the heaving magical bookshelf. (I’m not my writing, so I genuinely meant it…)
But I’ve recently been discussing my ideas with Kev Sheldrake of former Head Hacking fame and we got onto the subject of a sort-of ‘reverse Cialdini’ effect. So B’s downfall in my perfect robbery was showing me books of such beauty and rarity later that first night as a sort of self-fulfilling ‘meet-me-halfway’ effect. This included first editions of Robert-Houdin’s memoirs, which moved me to tears – and which I refused to touch as I’ve not (yet) earned the right. This genuine display, of course, moved B to (drunkenly) insist that I borrow these instead. I insisted, of course, I could do no such thing – seriously – and they were duly put away.
(For connoisseurs of magic, we progressed to even finer things: B’s from-sleeve flame thrower and me burning my fingers with flash paper because I didn’t know you’re supposed to let go with a magical flourish. We were quite, quite drunk.)
Now sure I wouldn’t be stealing anything at all, so giddy was I with happiness, it was a mere matter of innocently reading the opening three pages of Uncle Derren’s book the following morning, and thus chattering incessantly to B about what was inside for much of the day. Suffice to say that, by the end of the second night, B – and his girlfriend – were literally stuffing the book into my suitcase to shut me up.
And so, I return – triumphant – to this green and pleasant land, with my trophy.
For my next trick: stealing borrowing those Robert-Houdin memoirs.
And good luck with it to any magicians who doubt my imminent arrival at their respective lodgings to plunder their books and Things. (Tick, tick, tick…)
PS – My other top tip for stealing magic is to write mad letters to hypnotists and magicians on the internet. Thank you for your generosity – you know who you are. :-)
PPS – Should you be interested in a signed copy of a Derren Brown book, do feel free to contact me here.
*For which there is literally no market. WHERE ARE THE WOMEN?