'Deception Downunder' is a new book from Brian McCullagh which he describes simply as "A Look at Magic in Australia". Brian was commissioned to produce this book for the ASM's hundredth anniversary and, because he was given neither the time nor the unlimited number of pages required to produce a comprehensive history of magic in Australia, Brian has chosen to produce (in his words) "my view of magic in Australia". He reiterates "I have done my best, yet some people will be offended because I have left them out or because I have left out people whom they think should be here."
So, in a sense, this is a sampling of magicians and magic in Australia over the last hundred years. For many it will be nostalgic, for others it will be eye-opening.
The first chapter looks at magicians who visited Australia including Howard Thurston, Chung LIng Soo, and of course Houdini.
Chapter Two looks at past Masters of Australian magic: Maurice Rooklyn, Arthur Buckley, The Piddingtons, Jean Hugard, Les Levante, Percy Abbott, Murray, Al Wheatley, and Peter Reveen. I found the magic postage stamps featuring five of these men amazing!
Chapter Three looks at the ASM and gives a brief history, including the controversial ending of the Sydney assembly of the club, as well as lists of award winners, editors, and the various assemblies of the club. It then gives brief bios of some of the more well known ASM members who are still alive today.
Chapter Four focuses on just two "retirees", Gerald Taylor and Arthur Coghlan, while Chapter Five is headed 'Some Current Successful Australian Magicians'. The profiles include Phil Cass, Tony Laffan, Tim Ellis, Magic2, Matt Hollywood, Steve Walker, Sam Powers, Brendan Mon-Tanner, Raymond Crowe, Cath Jamison, Mark Mayer, Sue-Anne Webster, Timothy Hyde, Sam Angelico, Doug Tremlett, Andrew Wimhurst, Chuck Fayne, and Joel Howlett. Of course, this is the chapter that could easily have included so many others (Harry Houdidn't, Ricky Ozimo, Patrick McCullagh, David Jones, Nick Nickolas, Enzo Ficco, Andrew Gill, Anthony DeMasi, Cosentino, Duck Cameron, Terry McSweeney, Super Hubert, Ben Bradshaw, Tammii Twister, Sean Taylor, etc etc..) If only Brian had been allowed another hundred pages and a few more months to research! But as he says in the introduction "I would like to do such a work"... let's hope that he has the opportunity to expand on this book!
Chapter Six is fascinating as it's filled with 'Australian Magical Names and Facts'. It's like a mini magic trivia quiz and also covers magazines, shops, conventions and clubs! It also includes some wonderful historical photos from Australian magic's early years.
Chapter Seven is titled 'Behind the Stage' and sheds light on the collectors, historians and craftsmen of Australian magic.
In conclusion, after looking at our past Brian makes a few valuable suggestions for our future: "more cities hosting the National Convention, unification of the magic clubs with a governing body, a national magazine and, finally, a greater effort to establish Magic rather than just concentrating on one's own achievements."
Even though the book is 76 pages, reading it you realise that it just touches the tip of the iceberg that is Australian magic. It's fascinating reading and I really hope Brian is encouraged to expand it and produce a massive volume filled with the many amazing stories the Wizards of Aus have to tell.