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Heinlein the card player 
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Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 12:40 pm
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Post Heinlein the card player
In Gulf, the protagonist and Kettle Belly communicate while in jail by sending coded messages through a stacked deck of cards. It's been a few years since I read the story, and I don't really recall exactly how the stacking was done (or even if it was described in the story), but I wonder to what extent Heinlein was familiar with playing card sleight of hand. To stack a full deck is difficult, and to do so while making it look like you are just shuffling or otherwise noodling around is nigh-on impossible. A card magician with that level of skill will have only picked it up after years of practice -- practice which the protagonist doesn't seem to have accomplished.

I remember reading in one of the biographical sketches that Heinlein saw one of the touring illusion shows in his youth (Thurston, maybe?). Bill P., did his personal library include any magic texts? His characters played bridge in Farnham's Freehold -- did he and Virginia play cards regularly?


Tue Dec 02, 2008 10:38 am
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Post Re: Heinlein the card player
The story says that they start off trying to make it look like normal shuffling but soon move to undisguised stacking.

I don't have any specific cites but as someone quite familiar with magic, sleight of hand and the like (I said familiar; I'm no damn good at it, though), Heinlein knew what he was talking about when he included the subject. IMHO, he knew more than book-larnin', too.

Ditto for carnie life and lingo. He didn't reference it much but when he did it was dead on. Impressive, since even Carnivale didn't get it entirely right. :D

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Tue Dec 02, 2008 10:43 am
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Post Re: Heinlein the card player
The description in Stranger of carnival life (and the other Carnie lingo throughout) is a vivid portrayal of a lifestyle that no longer exists.

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Tue Dec 02, 2008 7:22 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein the card player
From what my grandfather, a Naval Academy graduate (class of 1923) told me, Heinlein probably knew about card stacking and most of the other tricks you could do with a deck of cards while playing poker. From what Grandad said, it would have been an unusual student in that era who wouldn't have learned this in the barracks. (As you might guess, Grandad was not unusual in that sense.) ;-)

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Tue Dec 02, 2008 8:38 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein the card player
Bill Mullins wrote:
In Gulf, the protagonist and Kettle Belly communicate while in jail by sending coded messages through a stacked deck of cards. [...] A card magician with that level of skill will have only picked it up after years of practice -- practice which the protagonist doesn't seem to have accomplished.


Both men are de facto supermen...
;)


Tue Dec 02, 2008 8:42 pm
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Heinlein Biographer

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Post Re: Heinlein the card player
Jack Kelly wrote:
The description in Stranger of carnival life (and the other Carnie lingo throughout) is a vivid portrayal of a lifestyle that no longer exists.

I strongly suspect that all of that carnie background came out of Nightmare Alley


Wed Dec 03, 2008 7:58 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein the card player
James Gifford wrote:
The story says that they start off trying to make it look like normal shuffling but soon move to undisguised stacking.

I don't have any specific cites but as someone quite familiar with magic, sleight of hand and the like (I said familiar; I'm no damn good at it, though), Heinlein knew what he was talking about when he included the subject. IMHO, he knew more than book-larnin', too.

Ditto for carnie life and lingo. He didn't reference it much but when he did it was dead on. Impressive, since even Carnivale didn't get it entirely right. :D

What he said. Additionally, Heinlein received special permission (needed in a low protestant home as late as the 1970's -- and possibly still) to own and practice sleight of hand with a deck of cards. Ginny also commented that he had fantastically fast reflexes; she stopped playing "hot hand" with him.


Wed Dec 03, 2008 8:00 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein the card player
I haven't read Nightmare Alley, but carnie lingo is hard to fake right. As I said, even Carnivale, which was an amazing production from beginning to abrupt end, fluffed a few terms and tricks.

I read a recent book that was purportedly written by someone who was with it for years... but I could spot every reference cribbed from common books. Not so Heinlein. Maybe I'm just not familiar with his crib notes... :)

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Wed Dec 03, 2008 8:48 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein the card player
Bill Patterson wrote:
Additionally, Heinlein received special permission (needed in a low protestant home as late as the 1970's -- and possibly still) to own and practice sleight of hand with a deck of cards.


Eh??? Permission from whom?


Thu Dec 04, 2008 6:13 am
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Post Re: Heinlein the card player
His parents, when he was a child. The post is awkwardly worded. He didn't need permission from anyone in the 1970s. (Or so I assume...)

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"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders." - Luther
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Thu Dec 04, 2008 8:05 am
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