Carter Beats the Devil

Carter Beats the Devil

4.4 44
by Glen Gold
     
 

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Glen David Gold's literary debut dazzled critics and fans from coast to coast. Now Carter's center stage for a spectacular paperback . . .

The response to Glen David Gold's debut novel, Carter Beats the Devil, was extraordinary. He hypnotized us with his portrait of a 1920s magic-obsessed America and of Charles Carter—a.k.a. Carter the Great—a

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Overview

Glen David Gold's literary debut dazzled critics and fans from coast to coast. Now Carter's center stage for a spectacular paperback . . .

The response to Glen David Gold's debut novel, Carter Beats the Devil, was extraordinary. He hypnotized us with his portrait of a 1920s magic-obsessed America and of Charles Carter—a.k.a. Carter the Great—a young master performer whose skill as an illusionist exceeded even that of the great Houdini. Filled with historical references that evoke the excesses and exuberance of Roaring Twenties pre-Depression America, Carter Beats the Devil is a complex and illuminating story of one man's journey through a magical and sometimes dangerous world, where illusion is everything.

Editorial Reviews

Washington Post Book World
Serves up sparkling vignettes like that one in droves, and in the end Glen David Gold makes good on the promise of his title.
BookPage
Gold's novel defies the reader to perform the trick of putting the book down.
Michael Chabon
In his first novel, Glen David Gold gives a top-hat-and-tails performance worthy of a veteran trouper . . .
Kevin Baker
. . . an absorbing mystery, full of magic, romance, and history and populated with fascinating characters, both real and imagined . . .
Aimee Bender
Settle into your chair, get comfortable and prepare for an absolutely marvelous journey into magic and illusion . . .
New York Times
An enormously assured first novel.
Publishers Weekly
Set against the backdrop of early 20th-century San Francisco during the heyday of such legendary illusionists and escape artists as Harry Houdini, this thoroughly entertaining debut by an amateur magician with an M.F.A. in creative writing is a fanciful pastiche of history, fantasy and romance. The plot turns around the questionable circumstances surrounding scandal-beleaguered President Warren Harding's unexpected death on August 2, 1923, shortly after appearing on stage with the magician Carter the Great in San Francisco. Trapped without adults during the historic San Francisco blizzard of 1897, nine-year-old Charlie Carter discovers a book on magic in his father's library and entertains his brother with coin and card tricks. By the time he is 17, at the suggestion of famous "20-Mule Team" millionaire Borax Smith, Carter finds a booking with a seedy vaudeville troupe during summer vacation. Following graduation, he procures a more reputable booking and elects to postpone Yale for a year. At the end of his second tour, he is hooked and never returns to academia. Marvelously layered between flashbacks romanticizing the real Charles Carter's early years on and off the stage and later action in the mid-'20s with Secret Service Agent Griffin's conviction that Carter knows Harding's apocryphal secret, the saga has the dash of Harold Robbins and the sweep and erudition of E.L. Doctorow. As it unfolds as both mystery and historical romance, readers, long before the denouement, will be torn between the pull of the suspense and wanting the epic to go on forever. (Sept.) Forecast: Hyperion is putting $100,000 of marketing muscle behind this dazzling debut, with eye-catching cover art from avintage magic poster on the front and effusive praise from the likes of Michael Chabon on the back, so prestidigitation won't be required to make it fly off shelves. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Debut historical, based on the real life of magician Charles Carter, that manages to get several balls in the air at once, only to let them drop along the way. According to Gold's account, President Warren Harding's death in 1923 came only hours after he attended, and participated in, one of Carter's performances. Indeed, the depressed Harding and the mysterious Carter even had an opportunity for a chat, in which, supposedly, Harding confided to Carter that he knew a terrible secret. Should he let the country in on it? From here, Gold backtracks to Carter's early life in upper-middle-class, turn-of-the-century San Francisco, a period and place he lovingly re-creates. After Carter turns his back on Yale and hits the vaudeville trail, eager to learn his craft, we follow him through the defeats of rival magicians, a meeting with Houdini, the early development of television, and on to his arrival at the pinnacle of the profession. Woven throughout is his suspicious involvement in Harding's death, which he can never shake, along with a rather odd federal agent, who dogs him every step of the way. It's very clear that the author himself is enchanted by the history of magic. He often historical data to set a scene to wonderful effect, describing in detail, for example, the strange and elaborate mechanisms magicians used to make bodies disappear and devils fly. But too often Gold lets his research become his tale when it should simply "inform "it; storytelling and character development grind to a halt under the weight of all that imparted knowledge. Moreover, as the story progresses, it shifts too rapidly from one character to another, one scene to another, one period to another, effectivelycooling down any tension the lengthy narrative may have built up. A wildly ambitious performance from a first-novelist who has all the tricks in his bag-but just doesn't know how to use them yet.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786886326
Publisher:
Hyperion
Publication date:
09/18/2002
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
496
Sales rank:
265,174
Product dimensions:
6.25(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.25(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Jonathan Franzen
Here's excellent magic: the hours vanish, the pages turn themselves.

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