Confessions of a Conjuror is part autobiography of a professional journey, part insight into a particular mindset, part self-help book, part work of personal philosophy, part guidebook to the world of illusion. It's structured like a magic trick; Brown remembers his younger self performing close-up card magic in a restaurant and as he follows himself through one evening's work, concentrating on one card trick performed at one table, we're navigated backwards and forwards in time, often digressing, often branching into footnotes, often misdirecting.
Along the way we're treated to glimpses into a personality (the mix of OCD and loneliness that would seem logical to the nascent performer is foregrounded here) being formed, into the mechanics of forcing cards, into misdirection, into the influences on Brown as a performer and, more generously, the ones who helped him along the way towards being arguably the UK's premier performer in magic and its related disciplines. It's a hugely fun book, and one rather more novelistic than it may seem at first. Brown's keen to privilege the importance of narrative to a trick (or an effect, as we're taught to term such a thing).
Ultimately, even though there may be no real confessions here (persona is very much part and parcel of the effectiveness of such a performer), this is a metanarrative, a story about the importance of stories, and there's never anything wrong with that, especially if along the way, it piques interest in some readers in key figures in magic such as Dai Vernon as well as performers like Jerry Sadowitz (a phenomenal card magician as well as a primal force in stand-up comedy), Tom Mullica, Chan Canasta and the now-unfashionable if never less than technically perfect Paul Daniels. Maybe Brown will return to mainstream professional card magic at some point, even if only to provide a change of pace from the mentalism he's firmly associated with.
Brown, Derren. 2011. Confessions of a Conjuror (London: Transworld Books), 327 pages, 978-1905026593