Haven't done a serious book review in a while. So here I offer you a book on magic theory which is way underrated in my humble opinion. The Secret Art of Magic by Eric Evans and Nowlin Craver. It's been originally published by "Magic To Laugh By" in 2003. Reprints are still available for 45 dollars.
The book is basically separated into two parts. Each part stands on it's own. Both are about approaching the classic work "The Art of War" by Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu and applying it's principles to magic. What may sound a little weird actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Magic is a bit of a war. You are fighting for a certain goal. That goal is deception. War is all about deception and its time honored strategies are all about dispersion.
The first part, "Street Magic and The Art of War" written by Eric Evans probably is the more accessible part. Eric wrote:
I am not much of a fighter. I prefer to think of street performance, or for that matter any performance of magic, as a tactical war. A war only won by identifying and executing sound principles. As the magician, I become the general, and to some degree, the sovereign; the tricks are my weapons; and the audience is, at different times, the land to be conquered, my opponent, and my allies. Thus, tactics and strategies are my primary concern for a successful campaign.
Pretty esoteric one would think at first glance. But Eric takes the subject and shows that the principles of war do in fact apply to magic. The whole first part is about how the strategies can be used to improve street magic. The terms Laying Plans, Terrain, Offensive Strategy, Espionage and Attack by Fire sure sound like military terms, but they do have magic counter parts. (Trick Selection, Pitch, Stopping People, Hecklers and Festivals in case you wondered).
It's a great book if you want to become a really, really good busker. You can learn it slowly the hard way by making your own experiences, or you can drastically shorten the time by adding the knowledge of the book with your own experiences.
The second part of the book, written by Nowlin Craver probably is where most of you would raise an eyebrow. In order to understand it you need to know about "The Thirty-Six Stratagems" a compilation of 36 military ruses. Fist one: Lure the Tiger from the Mountain, second one: Conceal a Dagger Behind Smile and so on. These strategies are applied to magic. Nowlin Craver really tried to put it all into focus. His main epiphany was that those strategies don't describe war tactics, but more or less tactics of dispersion. We magicians use misdirection all the time. Think about it. Misdirection is much more than looking to the left and doing something with the right hand. Having a spectator examine the cups prior to the performance of the cups and balls is important, as you don't want the audience to think that the cups have something to do with the routine. How is that misdirection. Well, misdirection has two functions. First making you look away from the secret and second, to make you look at the effect. If the cups are not examined before the lemons appear, the effect has less impact. In order to make the effect (the military strike) have as much impact as possible you need to know that no lemons where there before. The more surprised the enemy is, the quicker the battle ends. Or to use magic terms: The more surprised the audience, the stronger the effect. Sounds simple! Well it is!
The Secret Art Of Magic is a great little book. I have not met many people who have read it. If you are serious about magic, if you wanna become good in the proper routine construction for your sleight of hand routines, you better read that book. More than once!