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The Collected Oldest Trick(s) in the Book(s)

It was the oldest trick in the book, but in her experience only the best tricks survived to become old tricks.
—Adam Fawer, Improbable (2005)

It was the oldest trick in the book, but we were acutely short on tricks at the moment.
—Jay Vick, Poisoned Medicine (2002)

I know, it’s the oldest trick in the book, but it must work for some people or, I assume, it wouldn’t be in the book at all.
—Barbara Pachter, The Jerk with the Cell Phone (2004)

[I was] thinking about how this had to be the oldest trick in the book, and wondering if there really was a book.
—Kelli Jae Baeli, Armchair Detective (2005)

It was the oldest trick in the book, but it had worked flawlessly.
—Clive Barker, Coldheart Canyon (2002)

I fell for the oldest trick in the book, and I wrote the damned book.
—Michael Silverhawk, Drifters: The Final Testament (2004)

[E]ven the oldest trick in the world still has new life in it if you give it some thought.
—Anthony Owen, “A Review of ‘Cyclops’ by Bob Farmer” (2000)

Sometimes in the movies, when the bad guy is holding a gun on the good guy, the good guy says, “It won’t work, Scarfelli.  My men are right behind you with their guns drawn.”  And the bad guy says, “You can’t fool me, Murdoch, that’s the oldest trick in the book.”  Well, exactly what book are these guys talking about?  Have you ever seen a book with a bunch of tricks in it?  Magic tricks, maybe, but I don’t think the thing with the guns would be in there, do you?  A prostitute might have a book of tricks, but once again, probably no mention of the two guys with the guns.  And anyway, even if there really were a book with a lot of tricks in it, how would you know which trick was the oldest?  They were all printed at the same time.  You’d have to say, “You can’t fool me, Murdoch, that’s the trick that appears earliest in the book.”  But that’s not good movie dialogue, is it?
—George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)



About the Author


Craig Conley is a magic enthusiast and scholar.  Recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation,” his intensive and eccentric research has led him to compile a true masterwork entitled Magic Words: A Dictionary.  He has also authored One-Letter Words: A Dictionary, among other strange and unusual lexicons, and is a regular columnist for Pentacle magazine.  Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time.  He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan.  His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size.

Featured Works:
  • Magic Words: A Dictionary
  • Magic Archetypes: The Art Behind the Science of Conjuring
  • The Skeleton Key of Solomon
  • The Collected Oldest Trick(s) in the Book(s)
  • Esoteric Articles
  • Trump L’Oeil: Tarot of Portmeirion

    Published Works
    Published Works by Craig Conley


  • Online Resources


  • Kenton Knepper’s WonderWizards.com
  • Jeff McBride’s YourMagic.com
  • Eugene Burger’s MagicBeard.com
  • Rebuilding a Mystery
  • Joe Lantiere’s OldeWorldMagick.com
  • Online-Visions.com
  • Abecedarian blog
  • Magic Words blog
  • The Mystic's Book of Days

    A free daily symbolic outlook
    for magical people


    You open The Mystic’s Book of Days at page 542,739.  How does each symbol speak to you?  Watch for patterns and note the flow.  For further insights, generate and print your own personal symbolic calendar for the month...