Martin’s Latest Miracles. Some great reading!

I first heard about Martin Lewis when I played the esteemed Magic Cellar in San Francisco in 1974. Sadly, the Magic Cellar is now long gone but Martin Lewis is still very much around and has just released one of the finest magic books that I have been lucky enough ever to get my hands on. The book is Making Magic, and within its 350 pages, it contains 38 Stage and Parlor routines and 22 Close-Up routines. This is a treasure trove of great magic and one of the best written and illustrated magic books ever offered to the magic community. However, the technical quality of a magic book doesn’t amount to much unless it is matched by great material, and this book contains Grade A magic and routines many of which have been perfected for years in Martin’s highly commercial act. The book is accompanied by a disc containing templates and plans of various props described in the book.

Before I go into more details about the contents of Making Magic, let me take the opportunity to tell you a little about the man behind the book. As I stated the Magic Cellar is where I first heard about Martin, and since Martin and I both hailed from England everybody assumed that we had been early friends back in the U.K., but England isn’t quite as small as many people imagine it to be. I didn’t meet Martin until several years later at the Magic Castle when we drifted into a very comfortable friendship. That friendship is tempered by a great deal of respect on my part. Everything Martin does, he does well, whether it is creating, performing, or writing about magic.

Martin Lewis was born in England in the city of Northampton in the Midlands, but left England at 20 years old and began a new life in America. Martin’s sister Valerie had married an American serviceman and moved to San Bernadino. Martin’s mom Gladys, who was a red cross nurse in the war, came out to visit Valerie and decided to remain and continue her career as a midwife. This was a job for which there was a great need in California, and she was easily able to get a visa.

About a year later dad decided it was a good idea for him to also move to the USA along with Martin and his brother, whose full name was Andrew Robert Harbin Lewis. From that name you immediately know that dad was a magician, in fact, his best friend was the great Robert Harbin. Indeed, Martin’s father Eric was not only a wonderful magician but also something of a Renaissance man, a writer, and an artist. However, he was not the kind of person the government necessarily wanted to bestow a working visa on. Finally, after ultimately suing the US Government, Eric acquired the paperwork necessary to reunite the entire family in sunny California on January 1st, 1968.

In England, after leaving school Martin worked in the leather clothing industry as a clicker, cutting out leather into different shapes to sew into jackets. He was paid by the unit in what is known as the clicking room. No one wanted to talk too much as they worked because they were trying to make as much money as possible. Everyone worked with wooden handled, sharp curved knives cutting the leather on a wooden surface, and all you could hear was a clicking sound, hence the name “clicking room. This detailed and precise work would doubtlessly have proven a great apprenticeship for Martin’s skills as a magical creator and manufacturer. However, Martin had very little interest in performing magic in his first 21 years. That was soon to change.

On his 21st birthday Martin, accompanied by his dad, visited the Magic Castle and at the 7:45pm show in the close-up gallery had an epiphany watching the amazing close-up magic of Albert Goshman. “I came out of that room just bewildered,” Martin says. “I told my dad that I must know about this! I had never seen anything like this kind of magic. I had just seen stand-up prop magic.” Eric gave Martin a copy of the Royal Road to Card Magic and said, “You might want to take a look at this,” says Martin. “I learned every trick in the book, I am like that, when I’m interested in something I get into it 110 percent. So, I went back to him a couple of months later and said, I’ve learned everything in here.” “You, mean you’ve read everything you haven’t learned it,” said Eric, who then made Martin demonstrate various tricks from the pages of the “Royal Road….” Eric then gave Martin a copy of Bobo’s Coin Magic to continue his education. “That’s how I got started,” says Martin, “and when I was ready my father gave me all the help I needed.”

Upon arriving in America, Eric Lewis worked for Jim Worth at Simon Magic in Sun Valley building props and was later to reprise this role working with Johnny Gaughn. Eric was no stranger to making magic props; in the 1930’s he had founded the Magikraft studio of magician’s props in England. Martin was later to relaunch the Magikraft business and turned it into one of the top boutique magic brands in the worldwide magic community.

 

From 1968 onwards Martin was at the Magic Castle hanging out with Dai Vernon, Kuda Bux, and the gang almost every night; he also began appearing in the Castle’s Close-Up Gallery. When Eric Lewis moved up North to restore the legendary Albo magic collection, Martin went with him anxious to explore the vibrant Northern California magic scene. He discovered the Magic Cellar in San Francisco where he became the house magician from ’71 through‘74. During his residency, Martin expanded from his close-up magic roots and developed his comedy magic stage show. He describes the transition to stand-up as being rather scary having to leave behind the safety of having a table between him and his audience. I know many magicians share those qualms!

Returning to Southern California in ’74 Lewis began playing the “big” room at the Castle, which was then situated in the Castle wine cellar and known as the Magic Cabaret. In 1974 he won the prestigious stand-up magician of the year award from the Castle’s Academy of Magical Arts. It was to be the first of many awards. In the mid-‘70s, booked by Ron Wilson, Martin tried his hand as guest entertainer on his first cruise ship and quickly became one of the most popular cruise entertainers on the circuit.

In the early ’80s, Martin began working in the burgeoning comedy club market, and eventually, this led to Martin opening casino shows for Debbie Reynolds and touring with acts like Hoyt Axton and John Stewart. Martin began performing illusions when he was working in the Doo Dah Daze production show in Las Vegas and “Could it be Magic?” in Lake Tahoe. By now Lewis had become the fully-fledged triple threat, performing close-up, stand-up, and illusion magic. It was during this time that Martin was a key participant in magic’s fabled “Left-Handed League,” along with Harry Anderson, Jay Johnston, Mike Caveney, Tina Lenert, Turk Pipkin, and Catherine Miller.

 

After Martin’s father Eric passed in 1988, Martin picked up the reins of his father’s iconic Magikraft magic company. For many years Martin had been making high-end unique collectible magic props out of exotic woods. At a certain point, Martin realized he was creating some tricks that could be mass-produced, and his move into helming Magikraft was a natural progression. Lewis released items such as Cardiographic,Technicolor Prediction, and The Sidewalk Shuffle that became worldwide magical favorites. Lewis is lucky to be married to the perfect dyadic partner with his beautiful Austrian wife Susanne, whose financial and business acumen blended perfectly with Martin’s creative magical skills. They make a perfect team.

Let me back to Martin’s remarkable new book. I recently had the opportunity to ask Martin for his other thoughts and insights behind the book. As accomplished a performer as Lewis is, his first love had long been building magic. “Since I retired from performing,” says Martin, “I haven’t missed going back on stage at all. I don’t mind if I never go back. My time in my workshop is precious to me, and that’s what I love to do.”

“I’ve been working on Making Magic for 50 years really, but I spent a lot of time on cruises, and if it was a choice of sitting in a stuffy cabin pecking out tricks on a typewriter or drinking Pina Coladas by the pool. I opted for the pool. I started writing up different tricks and putting them into a folder but I never really did anything with them. Then COVID came along, business dropped out and I said, “I’m going to write the book now. So, this is my effort to gather stuff I’ve created over the past 50 years in one place. Since my magic is constantly evolving, I have rewritten everything to bring it up to date. It contains material from my lectures, magazine articles, videos, marketed tricks, and notebooks.”

 “I started physically putting the book together in 2020. I thought the writing part would be the hard part, but it turned out that this was the easiest part of producing the book. The hardest part was physically putting the book together. I learned how to use InDesign to do the layout, which was quite a learning curve, also I wanted to have illustrations in the book, I didn’t want photographs; I think that illustrations are much clearer and easy to follow. There are over 300 drawings in the book, and everyone was taken from a photograph.

 I wanted to put things down in detail. A lot of the tricks in the book have been published before, but they have always been just brief magic instructions, just a few lines giving people the general idea. I wanted people to see my timing, the details of my presentation, and why I do what I do. My goal was to fill the book with things that were exciting for magicians. There are a lot of books on magic featuring different subjects, philosophy, stage handling, and other topics. However, ultimately this book is just about tricks, but they are damn good tricks!”

 Making Magic is the kind of book that the magic world does not see often; it aims high and exceeds its goal. Packed full of high-quality routines, the writing and illustrations are exceptional. When you catch the subtle wordplay contained within the title of the book you realize that much of the material requires a little construction and handiwork to bring the routines into being. That’s why the writing and illustrations are so important. I am not much of a “do it yourself” guy, but Lewis takes you by the hand and guides you with quiet expertise.

 The tricks themselves are high quality and very commercial, with many of them direct from Martin’s act or his company’s roster of marketed effects. There is even a separate disc that contains the templates and extra information that you will need to construct Martin’s latest miracles.

I heartily recommend this book and think it is destined to become a contemporary classic of magic. It is a perfect example of how magical content, methodology, and the way they are combined can coalesce into something special. I give this book a five-star rating and wish there were more stars available. The cost of the book, including the accompanying disc is $95. There is also a limited deluxe collectors special edition available. Making Magic can be purchased at www.Magikraft.com 

~ by Nick Lewin on May 19, 2022.

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