When I was asked by the late, great editor, Janet Berliner Gluckman, to contribute a story to David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible, I jumped at the chance. Yes, he is that David Copperfield, the famous stage magician, who would contribute to the anthology his name and image, a story of his own, and an introduction to each contributor’s piece. Plus, the anthology was to be a gorgeous hardcover published by HarperPrism with custom wood-cut illustrations for each piece, and foreign rights would be sold all over the world.
I guessed that quite a few of the authors would write about stage magic, given our eminent sponsor, but strangely they didn’t. I was virtually the only one. I didn’t want to write about contemporary stage magic (a lot of which is computerized and gimmicky), but about the Golden Age of Stage Magic—the 1880s through the turn of the century. I’d recently turned in The Gilded Age, A Time Travel to Bantam and was conversant in the fin de siècle period.
But what about the magic?
My husband, Tom Robinson, the San Francisco artist and bespoke jeweler, grew up in Glendale, California, a charming suburb northwest of Los Angles and next door to Pasadena. He, as a young teen, had been enamored of stage magic. He could perform decent sleight-of-hand, but didn’t want to go onstage. As a budding young craftsman, he was more interested in how the illusions were constructed, how they worked.
In one of those instances when Real Magic happens in life, he and a friend were roaming around their neighborhood one day and came upon a fenced backyard that had a lot of odd constructions lying about. Constructions that looked a lot like stage magic illusions. The boys hopped over the fence and in no time Tom was assisting John Gaughn, one of the greatest illusion-builders in the world, a fellow who furnished Blackstone, Mark Wilson, and other famous stage magicians with props for their acts.
Tom fell in with a group of Hollywood stage magicians, went to the Magic Castle (a magicians’ hangout in Hollywood, now recently renovated and opened to the public), and participated in a fake séance or two.
Tom liked to collect stage magic books and magazines, new and used, and carted around a boxful of these in his various wanderings. That box wound up in our library and there I found the research for my story.
I learned about the conflict between Spiritualist mediums of the time and stage magicians like Harry Houdini. Houdini wanted to believe in communication of the Dead; he wanted to speak with his beloved deceased mother. But time after time, he debunked Spiritualist mediums as using stage props and stage magic techniques to bilk the bereaved out of their hard-earned money.
There too I found the image for the ebook’s cover, an illustration of P. C. Sorcar, a Hindu stage magician from the early 1900s, and the wonderful quotation from the magician Harry Kellar, which opens the story and provides the story’s title.
From the author of Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony;
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