"Born out of a desire to push mindreading into somewhere new"
Pure Effect – Direct Mindreading and Magical Artistry (to give it it’s full title) was first published by H&R Magical Books in 2000 and is based upon a “series of manuscripts Derren made in the 1990s”. Although Derren was well known amongst the magical fraternity at this time, he was yet to hit the big time. His big break came with his first TV special “Derren Brown: Mind Control” that was to air later that year in December 2000. The manuscripts and indeed the book reveal some of the techniques and performance idiosyncrasies that were to bring Derren his fame and fortune. The book was never designed for the general public, and assumes from the off a high level of magical understanding and card technique. This book is not for the amateur or the faint-hearted.
The book is split into three sections entitled “Practical”, “Magical Artistry” and “Direct Mindreading” and is written with a great wit and style that will come as no surprise to those of you who’ve been lucky enough to see him perform live. The three sections are really quite distinct, and I get a feeling that they originally were three distinct manuscripts now wrapped together into a single package – three books for one. After a brief introduction we rush straight into the “Practical” section that discusses ideas and techniques to ensure your tricks and effects have maximum impact on your audience. He begins by discussing how important it is to find meaning for your effect, so that your audience feels enlightened rather than puzzled by your magic. He is keen to stress that although you can introduce humour into the performance it’s important to have an underlying seriousness to the magic and that you too should believe in the powers you profess to have in order to have a sincerity that will make your tricks all the more startling. He briefly touches (so to speak) on the pseudo-hypnotic technique of “anchoring” your subject to a good feeling or mood, so that you can replay it later to the advantage of your performance.
He moves onto what I believe is the crux of how Derren’s magic works so well in the chapter entitled “Risk and Delight”. In summary, he’s a great believer in throwing in tricks that rely on chance. When these high risk tricks work the result is astonishing. If they fail, you just move on, and get them some other way. This of course is not new, many of the effects Banachek demonstrates have several “outs” so that failure can be turned into mind-blowing success. I cannot agree more with Derren on this point, and I love using these techniques myself. When they fail, it can be disappointing but as long as you don’t seem too surprised or troubled then neither will your audience. The rewards of success far outweigh the risk. This technique is a running theme throughout the rest of the book, with most effects having some elements of chance to them.
As we move into part two of the book: “Magical Artistry”, the book changes its focus and describes a number of card tricks from routines Derren was performing at the time. The tricks discussed and described in thorough detail are “Zamiel’s Card”, “A Three Card Routine”, “Magicall” and a section entitled “Magno Conatu Magnus Nugase” that Derren describes as “A selection of moves, sleights and assorted nonsenses”.
The third section, “Direct Mindreading” covers a number of tricks that we see performed in Derren’s infamous pre-fame DVD “The Derren Brown Lecture”, so fans of that DVD will be interested to learn the secrets behind these effects (I never did work out how he got the date of that 10 pence piece). The tricks covered in this section are: “Smoke”, “Plerophoria”, “Perfect Coin Reading”, “Transformation” and a couple of verbal card forces. This section should really be considered to be accompanying lecture notes to the afore mentioned DVD, and interesting they are too. Plerophoria has to be my favourite of these tricks, and the results when pulled off, are fantastic. I have a third edition of this book and I understand that two tricks: “Lift” and “Reminisence” were detailed in the the first edition, but removed in the second and later editions as Derren still performs them. These tricks are demonstrated in the lecture DVD, and if there is anyone out there owning a first edition and willing to share the details with me I’d be mighty interested.
This is a good book, and one that should appeal to magicians wanting to take their performance to the next level. The only downside to this book is that it is now out of print, and the Derren Brown fans have hiked the price up for a second-hand copy to an unreasonable level (they go for over £100 on ebay presently). If you are interested in the ideas and effects covered in this book, I would recommend first getting a copy of “The Derren Brown Lecture” that is available at a much more reasonable price, and covers some of the ideas and effects published in this book. After that you can judge whether you should get hold of a copy to take it all to the next level.
I will leave you with a sentence from the first chapter that, in hindsight, shows the great things to come:
“So these effects here are borne out of a desire to push mindreading into somewhere new, and a wish (which I hope one day to achieve) to combine conjuring, hypnosis and psychic effects into a heightened new form of close-up entertainment.”
I think we can all agree, that day has come.