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Carter Beats the Devil (Sceptre 21's) [Paperback]

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

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Book Description

28 Dec 2006 Sceptre 21's

Charles Carter, dubbed Carter the Great by Houdini himself, was born into privilege but became a magician out of need: only when dazzling an audience can he defeat his fear of loneliness. But in 1920s America the stakes are growing higher, as technology and the cinema challenge the allure of magic and Carter's stunts become increasingly audacious. Until the night President Harding takes part in Carter's act only to die two hours later, and Carter finds himself pursued not only by the Secret Service but by a host of others desperate to discover the terrible secret they believe Harding confided in him.

Seamlessly blending reality and fiction, Gold lays before us a glittering and romantic panorama of our modern world at a point of irrevocable change.

Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (28 Dec 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340936274
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340936276
  • Product Dimensions: 3.7 x 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,022,774 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.


'Here is a book - a first novel, no less - to blow you away. It seeks to stun and amaze and deceive and, always, to works on every level' (Guardian)

'An electrifying mystery tour from the turn of the 20th century to the end of the roaring twenties...[it] casts a spell that is sly, intoxicating, deceitful and enduring. Savour its every page' (Independent)

'A quirky life story that transmutes into a John Buchan thriller...Engaging, comical and, yes, magical, this is a sure-fire contender for the debut novel of the year' (Independent on Sunday)

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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
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
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
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 9 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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