Author Talks: Nicholas J. Johnson – You can’t make this stuff up

I tell people that I write fiction because I can’t be trusted with the truth. After all, I’ve worked as a professional magician for almost thirty years. My entire life has been dedicated to fabrication. I’m not just a regular magician either. I play an ‘honest con man’ swindling audiences with card cheating demonstrations and short cons. I am a liar wrapped in a con man inside a bullshit artist. Telling a true story is not something that comes naturally to me.

It isn’t that I haven’t tried. My first two books were supposed to be nonfiction. I was living in Europe tracking the Romanian street swindlers who make their living playing three card Monte with tourists in Barcelona, London and Stockholm. I had planned to write a book telling their stories but somehow ended up writing a crime novel set in Melbourne about a teenage con artist whose only experience of scams is from the movies. Chasing the Ace was nominated for Best First Fiction at the Ned Kelly Awards.

My second book was intended to be an expose of Today Tonight. I’d been working for the now defunct tabloid current affairs helping them create bogus stories about non-existent scams. I was making fake news before fake news was a thing. Finding it harder and harder to look myself in the mirror, I set out to write an expose and redeem myself. And while the final product—Fast & Loose—is set firmly in the world of Australian current affairs, it is yet another piece of fiction. The allure of the imaginary (and the fear of litigation) had won again.

And now, my third book is about to hit the shelves. The eldest of my two daughters was beginning to read and I thought it was time to write a children’s book. Not just any children’s book, I would write my life story. After all, I’ve been a professional magician since I was 10. Imagine the stories I could tell of my childhood as a boy magician.

It started true, I swear, but somewhere around chapter three my mind wandered. I wanted to give my daughters strong female characters to read. It wouldn’t hurt to slip in a mentor for young Nick. She could be his age and teach him magic tricks. And every good story needs a villain. Would it really be that much of betrayal to add in an evil magician intent on stopping the hero from becoming a conjuror? That would make a much better read. Besides, my memory is terrible. Who’s to say what did and didn’t happen? Of course, once I’d started, I couldn’t stop and the final book now intertwines the real with the imaginary into a Gordian knot of biography and bullshit.

I gave the final product to my niece. A few years older than my kids, she was a confident enough reader to test drive the first draft. She and her mum devoured it in an afternoon. Then she called:

“Uncle Nick! Is that true? Is that what really happened?”

You tell me kid. You tell me.


Tricky Nick

I’m Tricky Nick. The world’s greatest magician.

This is my absolutely not-made-up story of magical greatness. Magic changed my life and it could change yours too.

I learnt my first trick when I was ten and now I’ll teach it to you (plus a whole bunch more). You’ll also meet Trixie, a magical mystery girl, and the strange B.U.M (Brotherhood of United Magicians), and find out other Top Secret Stuff I can’t reveal just yet.

This tale is so incredible, so unbelievable, you’ll swear I’m making it up. But you can trust me, I’m a magician…

Tricky Nick by Nicholas J. Johnson, is published by Pan Macmillan in September 2020

Pre-order today from Booktopia


About the Author:

Nicholas J. Johnson (aka Tricky Nick) loves doing the impossible.

Nicholas grew up in the circus, he really did become a professional magician by the time he was ten. (We told you it was a true story.) Today, Nicholas has gone on to become one of Australia’s leading entertainers. Known as ‘The Honest Con Man’ Nicholas exposes the tricks behind the tricks; the crafty reasons why we’re scammed, tricked and bamboozled.

He’s revealed the secrets of deception on The Project, A Current Affair, Sunrise and TODAY as well as at countless schools, libraries and organisations. He is the host of the monthly magic show Sleight Night, as well as a regular performer at Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Adelaide Fringe and Edinburgh Fringe.

Nicholas is the author of two books for adults, Chasing the Ace (which was nominated for a Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction) and Fast and Loose.

Tricky Nick is his first book for children.
https://www.funnybones.com.au/

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