Scam School, Book 1 is the first (naturally) of three companion ebooks to online network Revision 3‘s popular series. The premise of the show (and the book), according to the website, is that “Award-winning magician Brian Brushwood takes viewers on an inside tour of bar tricks, street cons, and scams,” and this ebook is truly kind of magical, but not for the reasons you might think. More on this later.
The book opens with a terrific Forward where Brian Brushwood recalls how he was inspired at age 8 by watching Penn & Teller, and how he wrote to Teller (with no anticipation of a reply), and received in response an incredibly instructive and inspiring letter teaching him some of the finer points of the illusion arts, including this fundamental tip: always engage an element of surprise (a tip Brushwood uses to great effect in many of the book’s scams).
Brushwood categorizes the scams in the book into three different types:
Openers — simple easy-to-perform tricks that are virtually guaranteed to work every time. These are meant as party ice-breakers, to get the attention of the room, and to prep them for the harder tricks.
Tweeners — tricks that require participation from someone else, and are meant to build momentum with the audience.
Closers — These tricks are the big wowzers that you can leverage into getting people to buy you free drinks, or perhaps getting those digits from that cutie you’ve been eyeing.
Here’s a brief description of a ‘Closer’ that you can take to the next bar and try out on an unsuspecting ‘mark’: take 17 matches, coins or other small objects and lay them on the bar. Tell your mark that you want to play a game where you each take turns pulling away either one, two, or three of the matches, and the loser is the one with the last match. Here’s how you will always win this game: make sure your mark always goes first. If he takes 1 match, you take 3; if he takes 2, you take two; if he takes 3, you take 1. Because your combined total is always 4, your mark will always be stuck with the last match.
But I have yet to describe what I consider to be the real magic of this ebook. Because it’s an ebook, every scam is not only fully described in detail in the text, but Brushwood introduces every trick via embedded audio, and demonstrates most of the tricks with embedded video. Not to mention, every trick also has plenty of links to online Scam School episodes where they were first introduced, and YouTube-hosted versions of the tricks.
Brian Brushwood fully exploits the connective, interactive nature of the medium, and Scam School is a prime example of how a modern ebook should work. If impressing random bar patrons and earning free drinks is your thing, you couldn’t find a better instruction manual than Brushwood’s book.