A synopsis of books written by Jasper Maskelyne
The Conjurer's Kit Book (c1935)
Young aspiring magicians in the mid-1930s saw Jasper Maskelyne’s name on The Conjurer’s Kit Book (ca1935). This oblong folio book contains sixteen colour pages printed on card, each with tricks and puzzles to be punched out, folded and glued for assembly. Complete with a magic wand, and a one-page foreword written by Jasper, it includes such intriguing tricks as The Fireman’s Rope Trick, The Tea and Sugar Box Illusion, The Ink and Water Trick, and many more. Published by Raphael Tuck.
Image (below): The Davenport Collection
Maskelyne's Book of Magic (1936)
Maskelyne's Book of Magic appeared in bookshops in 1936. It contains explanations of simple tricks with coins, cards, handkerchiefs, paper, ropes and other common objects. The book is interspersed with essays on stage management, what clothes to wear on stage, make-up, where to buy tricks from, how to get bookings, and information on clubs and societies for magicians. Plus, there are sections covering the history of magic, describing individuals such as Houdini, Thurston and Chung Ling Soo, and descriptions of secrets to old illusions. Published by George C. Harrap, it was 'edited' by Arthur Groom. In fact, Groom wrote most of the book for Jasper, copying some of it from books written by Will Goldston (which caused Jasper some embarrassment at the time). 281 pages, with 76 photos and illustrations.
White Magic (1936)
Subtitled 'The Story of the Maskelynes', White Magic (1936) tells the story of the Maskelyne dynasty up to the mid-1930s. It covers how John Nevil Maskelyne became a famous magician, partnered with George Cooke and, later, David Devant. The book goes on to narrate the life of Nevil Maskelyne (Jasper's father) and, in turn, Jasper's life. Oddly, it omits the magical and other exploits of Jasper's uncle Archie, or his brothers, Jack, Clive and Noel, or his sister Mary. White Magic is mostly ghost-written, based on interviews between the uncredited author and Jasper. Published by Stanley Paul & Co. Ld. it runs to c70,000 words over 256 pages, with one photo.
Magic-Top Secret (1949)
Magic-Top Secret (1949) tells the story of Jasper Maskelyne’s wartime adventures. It covers 1939 to 1946 and establishes Jasper, an ex-Major in the Royal Engineers, as 'a camouflage expert in warpaint.’ Published by Stanley Paul, the book weighs in at just over 75,000 words and includes 26 photographs. Released in March 1949 it earned a second printing in June 1949. Evidence suggests the book was written with the assistance of a ghost-writer. Published amid a wash of other wartime memoirs it made only a little splash on the general literary market and within the magic community. Decades later author David Fisher used Magic-Top Secret as the primary source for a fictionalised account of Jasper’s war experiences, called The War Magician (1985).