Larry White, Magical Editor of M.U.M. (The house magazine of The American Society of Magicians) wrote the following in "The Shadow Digest" (a magical forum for bizarre and storytelling magicians):
Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2005.
Subject: KISMET - Book review by Larry White
I have deliberately waited to post the following review because the author was attending the Cameron Gathering and I wanted to wait until he would be available to respond to those who wish to contact him.
The gentleman is the marvellous Storyteller, Leslie Melville, and I am referring to his latest publication, "KISMET or The Enchanted Stepping Stones."
Other people here have given KISMET a favourable review. I want to go one step further and give it a RAVE review!
So, right off the top-- If you love storytelling magic with lots of audience involvement you MUST buy this book. Period. It will be worth its weight in gold to you.
You may be familiar with the "Kismet" principle. It is an old mathematical trick that is usually done as a puzzle with five cards laid in a row. With the magician's back turned a spectator places a coin on any card. He is then given verbal instructions which appear to offer the helper free choice yet the coin ends on a particular card.
Ho hum, yawn. Yea, that's what I thought too as I started reading but following the introduction to the principle I, simply could not put this book down! I am sure I must have said "damn that is clever" out loud a dozen or more times as I raced through this book with each page becoming more intriguing. Then, once I finished my speed-reading I read it twice more, each time finding new and fascinating. This is a lesson in storytelling and presentation as fine as any I have ever read!
What! a mathematical card puzzle could excite a 70 year old magician who has 'seen it all" that much? Yes indeed, and this is why I recommend, no I insist, that you buy this book. If you work stand-up for an audience I guarantee you WILL use this and you will use it every chance you get.
Why am I so excited about it?
First, Leslie does not use cards. He originally used chairs, but now uses " Stepping Stones" (rubber floor mats) and some paper grocery bags. This moves it off the table and on to the stage.
Second, even knowledgeable magicians who are very familiar with the Kismet puzzle will be totally fooled by Leslie's evolution of this concept. You cannot repeat the card version because the coin always ends up on the centre card. Because Leslie was doing this night after night in the same venue he changed the presentation so this does not happen by using a marvellously simple, "trick."
Lastly, Leslie is a gifted Storyteller. His tales are delightful, often enchanting, to listen to and he includes five distinctly different ones in this manuscript for your amusement and consideration. And the way he engages not only his volunteers but also the entire audience is a professional lesson in showmanship.
Leslie first offers us his, "The Prize-winner," -- a game of chance which is fun and extremely baffling to both children and adults. His discussion on the evolution of this basic routine is worth the price of this book. Trust me.
Leslie then offers three VERY DIFFERENT routines that will captivate
children: "The Treasure of Tortuga!" (A pirate tale), "Harry Potter and the Slimy Swamp of Sludge" (My favorite!) and "Arthur's Quest for the Dragon's Gold." These routines, although they all work on the basic KISMET principle, are so different and individually captivating I swear you could do one following the other for the same audience!
Finally, Leslie offers a clever and cute (non-offensive, very funny, kids can be present) "adult" routine, "An Egyptian Night of Rapture - Wife Swapping Among the Pyramids." If you work for adults you WILL use this for sure. Non-stop laughter.
Each of these will run 15-20 minutes. Your audience will relish every minute and you will have fun. Leslie has honed each routine to absolute perfection over many years. He not only shares his stories but also his hard-learned advice and wonderful bits of business with you. So, all you need do is assemble a few simple props and learn the story. You don't even have to remember how to do the one trick involved because, believe it or not, the helpers do the
trick for you.
Finally, the appendix of this manuscript gives you masters of all of the printed props and "instruction sheets" you require. These are printed on high quality glossy paper so you can make perfect copies.
With so many books containing pipe dreams or routines requiring hours of practice it is pure pleasure when I read one that contains stories and routines that are thoroughly audience tested and perfected. This is one of those rare books. If you work for children, adults, or mixed you WILL use this material.
Not just some of it, but I will bet you will use ALL of it. It is just that good.
Two final comments: You will be pleasantly surprised with a delightful extra "gift" Leslie includes with the book-- A beautiful ready-made version of the Buddha Papers which can be used as "Merlin's Purse" in the "Arthur's Quest" tale or one of your tales.
And, the last page lists 5 additional manuscripts Leslie offers for sale.
I predict when you see how excellent KISMET is you will take a second look at that last page.
It will not surprise you when I say KISMET has my very highest
recommendation. It is worth far more than the price.
Here is another....
From: David Lees (professional children's entertainer)
To: Leslie Melville
Subject: “Kismet or The Enchanted Stepping Stones”
This is just a short line or three, to thank you for sending me the first copy of 'Kismet or the Enchanted Stepping Stones.'
What can I say really, I think it is marvellous. The basic principle employed is straight forward and deceptive. If one were to utilise the 'basic' routine I.E. 'The Prize Winner' that in itself would be effective enough.
However by developing the presentation for different characters and themes this now becomes gold dust in the hands of a working performer.
There is even a routine for adult audiences !!!!
I often perform as a wizard or Pirate and those presentations WILL be working their way into my shows from now on.
Of course once the basic concept is understood one could develop so many different presentations that the mind boggles.
I can only talk for myself of course, but I honestly believe that the routines are worth their weight in gold, and that by presenting us with a variety of themes/storylines you also encourage the creativity of the reader.
Needless to say I am indeed a fan. In due course I believe I will be ordering everything that you produce. As you know I already have your storytelling CDs and 'Your Hair Will be Your Fortune'. Each one of these items is a 'lesson' in PERFORMING.
I want to thank you for sharing these items with us. You could very easily have kept them to yourself, and I would have been poorer for that.
I simply like the way you put together your material. The methods are not overly complicated, the effects are simple to understand, and all the skill is, in my opinion, focused on presentation. Which indeed is where many of us fall down.
Leslie, keep up the good work. Your 'stuff' is inspirational.
P.S. Would you please keep me up to date with any new releases, magic or story telling. I would appreciate it.
....And yet another!....
Mark Piazza, an American performing magician purchased the book in response to Larry White's review (above).
Upon its arrival, he emailed me the following:
From: Mark Piazza
To: Leslie Melville
Date: 05 Nov 2005
Subject: Re: Kismet
I'm half done reading the Kismet book and, so far, I think Larry's high expectations are correct! I think it's TERRIFIC!!
And here's the thing: I'm one who doesn't care for mathematical tricks! So, with that said, this Kismet book is shaping up to be even better than I expected!!
When I'm finished reading it, I will post my comments on the Shadow Digest, too.
On November 7th. as promised, Mark posted the following:
After having read Leslie Melville's KISMET book, I think Larry's high expectations are correct! It's a TERRIFIC book and idea!!
As a matter of fact, Kismet is even better than I expected!! Larry was right on with his review!
Please keep in mind that the above statements are of an unbiased nature.
Great work, Leslie!