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Carter Beats the Devil [Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Glen David Gold
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Aug 2003
The mysterious death of President Harding in 1923 is only the curtain raiser to this extraordinary novel of magic and science. Charles Carter is Carter the Great, a name given to him by the supreme showman, Harry Houdini. Carter was born into privilege but became a magician out of need. Only at the moment of the performance, when an audience is brought together by a single experience, can Carter defeat his crippling fear of loneliness. But with every step into the twentieth Century, the stakes are growing higher. Science and the cinema are fast out-stripping even the master magician and instead of that single magic moment, there is only a headlong rush into an uncertain future.

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (4 Aug 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184032855X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840328554
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 12.2 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,529,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

With romance, magic and science as its central themes, Glen David Gold's impressive debut Carter Beats The Devil is an inspired delight, a dazzling combination of fact and fiction. Charles Carter is given his stage name "Carter the Great" by the legendary Harry Houdini and the jazz age of the early 1900s is clearly well researched, yet the romance and strong cast of characters must owe more to the imagination than to history.

The novel begins in 1923 with the most daring performance of Carter's life. Unfortunately, two hours into the performance, US President Harding is dead and the magician must flee the country, pursued by the Secret Service. This is only an instalment in Carter's amazing life though as we are guided from his childhood, where both the family servant and a circus freak bullied him, to his rise to stardom and his eventual performance in front of the president. Subsequently, the protagonist is crippled by loneliness, widowed and hunted down by those who believe him a murderer and yet he rises again and again to delight and fulfil the highest expectations of his audience. The strong narrative and storyline make for a compelling read. And Carter is such a magical character that you cannot fail to be touched by him--loving whom he does and hating his enemies.

This is an ambitious and compulsive novel and deserves all the praise that Carter himself received and more. If you like this, you may also be interested in reading Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay --Hannah Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Engaging, comical and, yes, magical, this is a sure-fire contender for the debut novel of the year. (Christian House, Independent on Sunday)

Here is a book - a first novel, no less - to blow you away. It seeks to stun and amaze and deceive and, always, to entertain ... wholly original ... Gold's real aim is to recapture the lost era of the great illusionists and escapologists ... and his plot - garish, crude, infernally clever - is precisely honed to the task: it is a triumph of misdirection, a nest of boxes constantly springing fresh surprises. Stage illusions were a popular art; they worked at pace, with drive and rolling drums. Gold's prose has precisely that energy. He creates his own rich, strange world where anything is possible, where characters from fact and fiction mingle ... It's a novel that works on every level: as an evocation, an instruction, a revelation; as fun ... Gold is at his best in page after page of description of acts and actions, where the reader has his or her own seat in the stalls. He also has a gift for anecdote and dialogue ... This is the most exuberant stew of a novel: strange, tasty, addictive ... Glen David Gold has poured thought and toil and inspiration into telling his story, and he leaves himself with only one resounding problem at the close. After such a debut novel, what does he do for his next trick? (Peter Preston, Guardian)

History coloured by a wonderfully fertile imagination, it is a wry-humoured whodunit with a dazzling sense of suspense, it is a romantic tribute to a different age and, at its heart, it is a moving testament to the power of love over loneliness. .. Awesome. . .his timing and touch are immaculate as he creates one of the most diverting reads of the year. . . .Simply brilliant...By turns fearful, intriguing, emotional and confounding, but whatever it is, Carter Beats the Devil is never less than wonderfully entertaining. (Irish Times)

It's refreshing to see an author so obviously into his characters and debut novelist Glen David Gold radiates enthusiasm in his tale of magician Charles Carter, implicated in the death of 29th US president Warren Harding. What's most unbelievable about this stagey set-up is that it's based on actual events. The droll, good-natured narrative never stumbles over 600 pages and Gold's characters, the endearingly troubled Carter at the top of the bill, sit so naturally in the proceedings they positively seem to enjoy being part of his show. Encore please! (The Face)

Mesmerising ... the plot turns a dazzling array of somersaults ... Savour its every page (Graham Caveney, Independent)

Gold has acheived a remarkable sleight of hand in this, his first novel. The Harding mystery is just one strand to a multi-faceted narrative that incorporates fact and fiction, real life and invented characters. It's a long book, but reads like a novella, such is the pace and action Gold manages to pack into it ... Gold's role is as much grand illusionist as author, and as he misdirects, misinforms and ultimately reveals his truths, the reader can only applaud. This is a terrific novel of the Jazz Age that entertains, informs and moves. Gold has tackled a difficult subject for his debut and succeeded brilliantly. (Jim Driver, Time Out)

A magnificent achievement. The plot is endlessly inventive and surprising and pulls the reader through some very complicated events in the most compelling way. (Charles Palliser)

An extraordinary story ... a daredevil feat of writing that will remind you how much fun reading can be (Helen Brown, Daily Telegraph)

The first writer to have me suffocating with suspense was Wilkie Collins. I am now thrilled to have met his match in Glen David Gold, whose first book Carter Beats the Devil is the most audaciously plotted novel I have read since The Woman in White ... His characters are wonderfully eccentric - heroes, heroines and villains of gloriously Collinsian dimensions - and despite the high dramatic stakes, they never lose their credibility or sense of humour. (Helen Brown, Daily Telegraph)

The novel has some remarkable twists and turns and gives a detailed account of Carter's peculiar life and his gesture to the President in involving him in the dangerous magic. All in all weird tale that is immensely readable and tremendously convincing despite being outrageous. It has also fascinating detail of the science of television. (Publishing News)

A top-hat-and-tails performance...suspenseful, compendious, moving and persuasive (Michael Chabon)

A stormer of a novel, this- the perfect read for people who despise airport blockbusters yet find themselves on aeroplanes longing for a good, meaty page turner (The Guardian)

This fictional account of the career of Charles Carter, a famous American magician of the 1920s, takes the bare bones of his story and turns them into something as marvellous as the levitation and spirit tricks that once baffled his audience ... A quirky life story that transmutes into a John Buchan thriller. Although Gold welds the two styles together with considerable verve, what really sparkles is Carter's introduction to the world of theatrical magic. Live entertainment is now so frequently gazumped by its widescreen, digitally enhanced competition that a depiction of the golden age of variety performance could have appeared twee. Gold avoids this, showing a nation hungry for simple escapism from the restrictions of prohibition and that awful vanishing act where a generation of young men disappeared on the battlefields of France ... Gold uses many of the same tricks as his protagonist, including an ingenious visual trick hidden amongst the text ... He often leaves you spluttering, "but... what... how?" Engaging, comical and, yes, magical, this is a sure-fire contender for the debut novel of the year. (Christian House, Independent on Sunday)

An electrifying mystery tour from the turn of the 20th century to the end of the roaring twenties ... The prose breathes the very air of the burlesque house - the mixture of cheap glamour, false bonhomie and the faint hum of sexual tension ... Gold excels at the psychology of working the crowd, and the collective comforts of deceit ... The novel weaves biography and fiction with a seamless ease, history making various cameos and then being made to vanish like a dove into a handkerchief. Writing is thus the ultimate trompe-l'oeil: pick a word, any word, and Gold will tell you what it is ... To make the performance even more mesmerising, the book is also partly a thriller. When the President volunteers for one of Carter's tricks, he is found dead the next day. The magician becomes the prime suspect ... an ingenious device, brilliantly executed. If the magician is a murderer then both terms mean nothing, and the plot turns a dazzling array of somersaults. This novel casts a spell that is sly, intoxicating, deceitful and enduring. Savour its every page (Graham Caveney, Independent)

With elements of the whodunnit and, crucially fo a book about magic tricks, the howdunnit, this is a four-course meal of a novel (The Guardian)

I found myself unable to stop reading. It is a magnificent achievement. The plot is endlessly inventive and surprising and pulls the reader through some very complicated events in the most compelling way. (Charles Palliser)

This pacy book rips along to a marvellous and truly unexpected denouement (The Times)

[An] astonishingly assured debut novel ... one of the most interesting 'faction' novels in years. Already being hailed as a potential Pulitzer winner, CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL comes with all the burdens of heightened expectation. Few writers manage to survive the 'next big thing' tag thrust on them by an American literary establishment desperately trying to create some new faces. But Gold has managed to create a 600-page piece of wonder. [With] his enthusiasm for the characters, and a rather ingenious blend of historical fact and inspired fiction ... Gold is always in control and delights in misdirecting his audience ... an engrossing debut which more than fulfills the early Stateside hype. (Ian O'Doherty, Sunday Business Post (Dublin))

Carter Beats the Devil is a cracking murder mystery unfurling the genteel milleu (The Times)

This is the curtain-raiser for an intricately structured feast of a novel...a wonderful swirling novel (The Daily Telegraph)

[A] remarkable novel, a combination of paranoid conspiracy thriller, period romance and meditation on the nature of art. Gold has taken the historical Charles Carter and many of his illusions (records of which survive) and turned him into a spectacular pulp hero, whose breathtaking escapes and trickster personality provide the opportunity for set-piece description and fictional sleight of hand ... Gold is an inventive plotter who does not push the parallels between conjuring and fiction, but clearly loves the thrilling game of sudden revelation common to both ... Part of the art of illusion is misdirection, putting things in plain view, and ensuring that people will not notice them until the right moment. Gold uses this technique with great skill - the triumphs and disasters of his hero come from nowhere only if one has been lulled into failing to pay attention to details ... Gold is charming when discussing Charles's relationship with his homosexual brother and impressive in the magic set pieces. (Roz Kaveney, Times Literary Supplement)

Glen David Gold's debut novel, based on the real events of Charles Carter's life, is a fire-breathing, lion taming celebration of the golden age of magic. Forget Paul Daniel's- this was a world where feats of extravagant stage conjury dazzled an adoring public and Houdini really was the most famous man alive. Stupendous yet warm, wonderfully detailed and true to life, Gold conjures the mystery, romance and exuberance of a time before televised entertainment with a verve worthy of any virtuoso performer (The Observer)

Spellbinding ... An inventively plotted novel that despite its size manages to surprise at every twist. (Arena Summer Reading)

A novel teeming with real people ... the best pages drip with greasepaint ... [Mysterioso's] defeat is never in doubt - only the devilishly dazzling manner of it ... Gold takes the mystery of [Harding's] death and gives it a clever twist ... This is a novel that rescues the ephemera of history, puts them centre stage and shines a bright light on them. It is this spectacular recreation of a lost world that stays in the mind long after the last page is turned and the curtain comes down. (Adam Lively, Sunday Times)

An enormously assured first novel (New York Times) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What would you do if you knew an awful secret? 21 Dec 2003
Format:Paperback
I bought this book when I was feeling really down. Long train journey ahead, I thought it looked a thick and meaty read, somthing value for money. I don't usually go for books about 'magic', so was a little wary, but I thought what the heck. I'm glad I did.
The first third is tightly written and dark, but with a dash of humour that makes it difficult to supress a smile (especially when Carter explores his mothers bedroom). This opens the rest of the book beautifully.
Carter is a believable character, even though he is an unlikely hero- he's written in a very human way, given his profession and background. He could well have felt like a bit of a smart arse, but you feel his pain accutely, and share his joys and victories.
A book for easing you back to reality by drifting you into fantasy, lifting your spirits and learning to accept that you too can grab joy from the jaws of dispair. Thrilling and moving.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical! 22 Dec 2003
Format:Paperback
When people ask you about the book you're reading and you tell them it's a fictitious account of the life of an early 20th century stage magician, the usual response is not for them to say "Really? You must tell me more!" But resembles much more a silent bewilderment at how boring you must be. At least, in my experience, and maybe because I'm not very good at making things sound exciting. But this really is a very good book indeed. Honest. It is funny, gripping and genuinely captivating. It's one of those books you sit down with the intention of reading for twenty minutes or so, then find four hours have magically disappeared into the ether. Charles Carter, the principal character, is depicted beautifully, as the book follows his life from a young boy with a book on magic and some paternally frowned upon dreams, to Carter the Great. It's really impossible to describe the story, with its array of characters and plot twists, I can only say it is a truly amazing story written in a beautiful, easy style, that captures you at the start and doesn't let you go, and may also make you go off and buy books on card and coin tricks. Hats off to Mr. Gold.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Try as a reviewer might not to take the obvious angle, there's just no getting away from it: Glen David Gold's novel is just as remarkable a conjuring trick as Carter's extraordinary one-night-only show of November 4th 1923 which makes up the book's third act. Like Carter's show, it is a gloriously complex, deliberately over-the-top bit of theatre, time and again misdirecting the audience, with strong love interest but constant hidden menace, which ultimately leaves its readers with a very real sense of wonder. The only remotely comparable book I can think of is Robertson Davies' "World of Wonders" from his Deptford trilogy, which similarly features a central character who has turned to stage magic as an escape from childhood terrors. However, Gold's book is (for me, anyway) even better.
Charles Carter (who was a real historical figure) is already, as the book opens, well established as one of America's greatest magicians. At a show in San Francisco, he invites (fictitious) U.S. President Harding onstage to help him with his final act, in which he out-magics the Devil himself. Hours after the show, Harding dies under mysterious circumstances in his hotel room. Is Carter involved? The Secret Service certainly seem to think so...
With its multiple intricately intertwined subplots and deliciously melodramatic villain, the book could easily have come to seem too much of a good thing, particularly as it is really rather long. However, the audience are saved from being "delighted too much" by the very movingly handled love story between Carter and a truly remarkable woman, who rescues him from the despair and nihilism which have overtaken him after a tragic accident early in his career.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable page-turner of a first first novel 28 Sep 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Glen David Gold has made good use of his extensive research to give us a fictionalised account of the vanished world of stage illusion and magic before the coming of television. His central story is the progress of Charles Carter from the childhood events that give him the stimulus to explore the world of magic to his apotheosis as Carter the Great, one of the leading stage magicians in the last days of vaudeville. Along the way he makes and battles with enemies of several varieties and falls in love more than once. Gold paints his life in chiarascuro, putting Carter in situations that sent chills down this reader's back but also giving him joy and humour. The novel opens and closes with Carter's involvement in the death, or was it murder, of Gilbert Harding, the American President, but the book is packed with far too much colour and incident to be classified as a simple thriller; which is not to say that it is not thrilling - I found it compelling and was loth to put the book down whenever I had the chance to pick it up.
The author has learnt well the central lesson of magic: misdirection. Again and again the reader is led to draw conclusions that are confounded by subsequent paragraphs. Just as in a magic show one knows that one is being fooled - but the pleasure (heightened by frustration) is in knowing that one is being had, but still not being able to work out what is going to happen. This is a very impressive first novel - I look forward to Glen David Gold's next work. The only criticism I could offer would be that the book's very richness sometimes threatens to obscure the central narrative drive. The detailing is very involving and helps to give a strong sense of place and time, but from time to time the overall picture is at risk of being lost. However this is not a fatal flaw and I am confident that this book will give a lot of people a substantial amount of pleasure.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite simply wonderful
I've lost count of the number of people my wife and I have bought and recommended this book to. Do yourself a favour and read it.
Published 7 months ago by Tim Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
The third copy of this book I have purchased as a present. Would really recommend it. I love this book!
Published 8 months ago by Mystic Debbasina
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant read
This is a truly great thriller.

Based on true life events and characters.

This book was recommended by a friend, I thank him!
Published 8 months ago by Beerdadtwy
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it overall.
Sometimes I found myself liking this book at the same time as wondering if I was being tricked. But that may be a good thing in a book about a stage magician. Read more
Published 10 months ago by George Clarke
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical
This book is magical. Excuse the pun! It opens with a young boy learning tricks and that in itself is pure genious. Read more
Published on 16 Aug 2012 by PA
5.0 out of 5 stars A Magical Mix Of Fiction, Hocus Pocus And Fact
My son bought me this book for Fathers' Day (to be precise he bought me an Amazon voucher and sent me a list of recommendations to download). Read more
Published on 27 Jun 2012 by JohnBrassey
5.0 out of 5 stars A surprising and brilliantly written book - what a debut!
I read a lot of books in many different genres and I find this one difficult to classify. However, it remains one of my favourites of all time. Read more
Published on 24 Jun 2012 by Ian Charman
5.0 out of 5 stars A little gem!
A mate and I were discussing Boardwalk Empire and how it was such an interesting era. He then recommended this book on the basis that it is set around that time. Read more
Published on 22 April 2012 by S. L. Rider
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious
Probably my favourite book of the last few years. I love the early passages about Carter's discovery of magic and the things he can do. Read more
Published on 15 April 2012 by Gareth Davies
3.0 out of 5 stars More of a Draw than a Beating
I don't quite share the enthusiasm of many other people for this book. To start with I found it overlong and were never quite sure of whether it wanted to be a mystery novel, an... Read more
Published on 20 Sep 2011 by Mr. Peter Steward
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