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Carter Beats the Devil: A Novel Hardcover – Sep 5 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 151 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion (Sept. 5 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786867345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786867349
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 3.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 885 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 151 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #694,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

In Carter Beats the Devil, Glen David Gold subjects the past to the same wondrous transformations as the rabbit in a skilled illusionist's hat. Gold's debut novel opens with real-life magician Charles Carter executing a particularly grisly trick, using President Warren G. Harding as a volunteer. Shortly afterwards, Harding dies mysteriously in his San Francisco hotel room, and Carter is forced to flee the country. Or does he? It's only the first of many misdirections in a magical performance by Gold. In the course of subsequent pages, Carter finds himself pursued by the most hapless of FBI agents; falls in love with a beautiful, outspoken blind woman; and confronts an old nemesis bent on destroying him. Throw in countless stunning (and historically accurate) illusions, some beautifully rendered period detail, and historical figures like young inventor Philo T. Farnsworth and self-made millionaire Francis "Borax" Smith, and you have old-fashioned entertainment executed with a decidedly modern sensibility.

Gold has written for movies and TV, so it's no surprise that he delivers snappy, fast-paced dialogue and action scenes as expertly scripted as anything that's come out of Hollywood in years. Carter Beats the Devil has a mustachioed villain, chase scenes, a lion, miraculous escapes, even pirates, for God's sake. Yet none of this is as broadly drawn as it might sound: Gold's characters are driven by childhood sorrows and disappointments in love, just like the rest of us, and they're limned in clever, quicksilver prose. By turns suspenseful, moving, and magical, this is the historical novel to give to anyone who complains that contemporary fiction has lost the ability to both move and entertain. --Mary Park

From 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 a vintage 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, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I would love to read this book again. But what would be the point! I remember each detail as though I had read it yesterday.
Just looked up my old review and was amazed that it has been
2 1/2 years since I read it. This will always be one of my all-time favorites. Glen, you are really Gold.
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By A Customer on Feb. 15 2004
Format: Paperback
Carter Beats The Devil is a fairly interesting read. This book would definately find a nice place in the hands of those that enjoy history and interesting tidbits about how things gained their names ie how lofts (apartments) gained their name. Futhermore, CBTD starts off with a jump and kept my attention until a little over half way through the book. At this point, I found myself struggling to finish the book. I began exclusively seeking those historical tidbits just to make the last half of the book bearable. With that (attempting not to give anything away) the romance shared between Carter and his lover became highly unrealistic. It almost felt like the author was struggling to turn the novel into some dime store romance fling (and not a well written one at that). I found it completely unbelievable and dreadful to read. All in all, I finished the book and would like to conclude that it is creative and there are many interesting little side suprises throughout the book. However, if your looking for something amazing then I would skip this book and keep looking.
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Format: Paperback
The amount of research that Gold put into Carter Beats the Devil is readily apparent - yet this work of historical fiction reads like a novel. The first 80% of the book leads in a very pleasant and engrossing way up to the climactic scene that takes place during Carter's last major show. While Gold doesn't give away many tricks - he does make you feel as if you were standing in the wings of the Orpheum Theater. You can see, hear and almost touch the audience, the catwalk above, the dressing rooms...you are there with Carter (albiet with a slightly blocked view) as he performs his greatest tricks and has the time of his life - and as the other plotlines come to a head. I started into this scene at 10:30pm - and didn't stop until 12am even thought I had to get up at 5am!
The details of life in San Francisco in the teens/20's are rich, the writing is clear, Carter is well fleshed out (though the rest of the characters are a little stereotypical)...this is a good read. I'd recommend it to someone who was not in the mood for anything deep but didn't want anything cheesy or trashy. A fun book worth your while.
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Format: Paperback
***Some spoilers ahead***
This book took a little while to get moving for me, but once it did, it really took off and I was hooked.
"Carter Beats the Devil" is a sprawling thing, loosely historical (very loosely) and freshly unpredictable. I didn't realize until I read Glen David Gold's afterword that Charles Carter was a real magician performing in the heyday (teens and '20s) of the magic boom in the U.S. But don't be scared away by a dose of history with your fiction. The history on display here is only history in the loosest sense of the word. This book is first and foremost a work of fiction; let's face it---any book that has Warren Harding living on a deserted island with his wife and a menagerie of retired circus animals can't be taken too seriously, right?
The beginning of the book, detailing Carter's childhood and his motivations in becoming a magician, aren't that involving. For once, I just didn't care why he became a magician, and I would have accepted "he just wanted to perform magic" as reason enough. But on top of motivation not being necessary, the motivation Gold does provide isn't particularly interesting.
On top of the weak beginning, I thought the book was going to run a predictable course: Begin with framing device, explain childhood of protagonist, explain success of protagonist, explain downfall of protagonist, explain comeback of protagonist, return to framing device. I thought the novel would end with Harding's death, since that it is where it starts. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the real plot didn't even get started until after Harding has "died." Once I reached this point in the book, I couldn't put it down and found scene after scene to be thrilling and memorable: the demonstration of T.V.
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Format: Paperback
Thursday, August 2, 1923. Magician Carter the Great is performing the third act of his show, the act called "Carter Beats the Devil." He' set up earlier to have a volunteer from the audience come on-stage, President Warren G. Harding.
Two hours after the show, President Harding is found dead in his hotel room. Charles Carter, the Magician, is the main suspect, and Secret Service Agent Jack Griffin is determined to prove his guilt.
Glen David Gold's novel follows the life of Charles Carter, from his childhood days with his seemingly neglectful parents to his first major illusion that makes his name and earns the friendship of Harry Houdini -- and a terrible enemy. From that day on, he strives to create the next, great illusion and in the process learns of a secret from President Harding that will revolutionize the world, but which also puts him in danger. All the while, he struggles with the accidental death of his wife Sarah.
The characters are well-drawn and realistic, and that, mixed in with actual persons from the time period, make for a more believable story. The descriptions of the magic acts are some of the most suspenseful scenes I've read -- case in point is Blackmail, the first big illusion that gets him really noticed in the industry -- and had me eagerly turing the page to find out what happens. As it states in the book, a magician never reveals his tricks so you must read the book to understand what I mean. At the same time, gold creatives a vivid picture of Vaudeville and the life its performers lead. Not to mention the terrific desriptions of the San Francisco of the 1920's.
Full of fantastic charcaters, both real and fictional, this novel is full of excitement, adventure and intrigue.
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