Ross Bertram: Master Magician

ON SLEIGHT OF HAND


Ross' enthusiasm, rekindled by the reception granted to his first book, began to work on a second. Once again, Msgr. Foy would be the Boswell to his Johnson. The result was Bertram On Sleight Of Hand

Like its predecessor, Bertram On Sleight Of Hand contains some extraordinary magic using cards, coins and other objects. Ross also tipped the fact that he used some simple, but effective gimmicks over the years to augment the power of his sleight of hand. There are several masterpieces in the book.

Ross’ chapter on the Tenkai Palm remains the definitive text on this sleight. Five-Zero-Five—the trick he fooled me so badly with in the backroom of Morrissey Magic—was explained in great detail. He also described Bertram’s Bounty, a superb handling for the torn and restored cigarette paper.

Ross Bertram
Photos from the chapter "Tenkai" ​​​​​​​in Bertram on Sleight of Hand.


Even though critics applauded the book, Ross was not happy with it. The book was twice as expensive as his first. This made it economically inaccessible to most magicians. The cost of the book doubled because of errors by the publisher. When the book was laid out, dozens of photographs had disappeared from the book, despite being cited in the text. Ross was furious and insisted that the book be reset. The cost to create the book virtually doubled because it had to be reset.

Further, Ross was annoyed that Lloyd Jones messed up the title of the book. Ross wanted the book to be called Bertram’s Sleight of Hand, not Bertram On Sleight of Hand. Ross wanted the title to be his homage to Sach’s Sleight of Hand, a book that influenced him as a youth. Finally, even though the missing photographs were restored in the reset, other errors crept in. Ross provided, for example, a series of colorful anecdotes and requested that they be scattered throughout the book as had been done with his first book. Somehow the publisher neglected to do this and front-loaded all of the stories as a separate chapter at the beginning of the book. 

Lloyd Jones had his own health problems to deal with at the time. Litigation was threatened and Bob Farmer volunteered to represent Ross. Lloyd Jones passed away and a settlement was reached with the Jones Estate. The copyright in both books reverted back to Ross Bertram and passed on his death to his friend Dr. Gene Matsuura. Dr. Matsuura has subsequently licensed their reprinting to Lee Jacobs and both books remain available from him. Bertram On Sleight Of Hand remains a seminal text for any student of magic.

Ross was made the guest of honor of the Society of Canadian Magicians conference in Toronto and he was awarded the prestigious Creative Fellowship from the Academy of the Magical Arts and Sciences. Ross was deeply appreciative of both honors.