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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?
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...
Published on 21 Dec 2003 by D. Parkman

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 historical one or a biography of American magician Carter the Great. Sadly for me it fell somewhere between the three. I persevered and managed to make it through to the end but at times it was a...
Published on 20 Sep 2011 by Mr. Peter Steward

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9 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Carter may beat the Devil but Glen David Gold disappoints, 11 July 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Carter Beats the Devil (Paperback)
Our book group has just read Carter Beats the Devil. Sorry, no more than 3 stars from us. We feel a bit like we're trying to expose the "Emperor's new clothes".
The book starts well: The Overture hooks readers in, prompting us to wish we knew more about early twentieth-century American history and President Harding, whom few of us had heard of. The blending of fact and fiction promises intrigue.
Act I: "Metamorphosis" enthrals as the almost-believable blip in young Charles and James Carter's sheltered and privileged lives (given mum's obsession with Freudian theory, why does she not anticipate any damaging effects of her extended absence on her impressionable young sons?) leads to their foray into magic, culminating in the ultimate transformation of Charles into Carter. The quirky, foretold meeting with Sarah hints at psychic twists and turns to come. This is a good read, we think, and move avidly into Act II.
But "An Inquiry into the Spirit World" has too much work to do - too many characters, who turn out not quite as they seem, for the reader to keep track of and pigeonhole for easy retrieval in case that character resurfaces and becomes pivotal to the story.
Act III would save the enterprise if Gold hadn't already alienated cynical readers by throwing in too many contemporary allusions. Are we supposed to smile smugly and knowingly at the historical positioning in American culture by apparently innocent references to Freudian psychoanalysis, the Secret Service, Pez, Pepsi, BMW, television and its cultural effect, and most irritating and least subtle of all, the establishment of San Francisco's growing gay community?
It all gets too clunky, too obvious, tries too hard. Each of the three "acts" could have been written by different people. If the difference in style and purpose of each act is meant to be a metaphor for the twists and turns in Carter's life, it is too alienating. The final betrayal is of the reader, when the ripping adventure turns into an unnecessary blood bath. And the wedding scene merely smacks of happy Hollywood ending. Just right for a made-for-TV mini-series, as another of your reviewers suggests.
Carter Beats the Devil is undoubtedly an ambitious and extraordinary first novel - but Glen David Gold's editor should have been a bit braver with his scissors and red pen.
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9 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Something rotten in the novel of Carter, 11 Feb 2006
This review is from: Carter Beats the Devil (Paperback)
I express no disbelief at the three star rating given by an earlier reviewer. Carter's book is a very good read: well written, with an absorbing narrative, fascinating historical detail, and appealing characters. True, it is too long, but that that can be said of any book these days, and the subplot involving the detective can seen recondite. The real problem comes near the end, in which the author wraps up the narrative with a nauseatingly cloy wedding celebration. It may seem unfair to judge a whole book by its ending, but it is difficult to escape doing so, and there is something particularly important about endings to popular narratives (hence the stress American cinema places on them); and the awfulness of the conclusion caused me to reassess the entire novel, an action that was not to the favour of this book. I was not surprized to flip to the dust jacket to read that the author was married to Alice Sebold, she who wrote a novel pervaded by a similar dreadfulness, Lovely Bones (God help us avert our eyes from the Peter Jackson film of that). The two share a facility for the trite, creators of superficially well constructed works that hide a wrong-headed approach to reality, a willingness to deny the nasty side of life and pretend life is one big wedding ceremony featuring a disappearing wedding cake (but it's all right, for it will reappear whole, better than it ever was). Perhaps the couple are of the McFerrin school of philosophy, one that teaches a passive,and essentially denialist, approach to life's vissitudes. The icing on the cake is a a section at the end, which features a sickmking acknowledgement of the author's wife. Perhaps this reviewer has got it all wrong, but this book left a nasty taste. After retrieving the book from the other side of the room, I felt compelled to reintroduce some equilibrium by listening to a Mozart piano sonata.
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6 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bloated 'big American novel', 9 July 2004
Gavin Blackmore "merthyrexile" (west sussex) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Carter Beats the Devil (Paperback)
Its not often I give up on a book - but I gave up on this. I allowed myself to be beguiled by the exciting looking cover. But from the start, it didn't ring right at all. It felt like the writer was trying to be too clever by half - and write his 'big American novel'.
The story shambles along through a series of unbelievable scrapes, and contorted plot changes. Halfway through, I thought "I don't care about this ridiculous, shapeless story". It felt like a school boy had been forced to sit down and keep writing a story that never ended.
300 pages in, and you don't care about the story or the characters? Never mind the quality, feel the width.
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0 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars so long with no direction...., 13 Sep 2011
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This review is from: Carter Beats the Devil (Paperback)
this is a huge, huge, huge, huge book - what a waste of my time, no real direction and poorly written from the outset.
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1 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars My goodness this is a long book, 13 Aug 2009
This review is from: Carter Beats the Devil (Paperback)
A while ago my mother told me that she doesn't read long books, because if the author can't tell their story in a few hundred pages, then it's not worth reading. She's not often right, but in the case of this book she was spot on the money. (Although having said this she has recently told me she doesn't like short books because they aren't good value for money). It starts off with the suposed murder of the president and is thoroughly gripping, but after that seriously looses it's way. Several irrelevent chapters about Carters childhood could quite easily be cut out, and considerably improve the book. By the time you return to the crime in hand (several months after starting the book in my case) you've forgotten all the salient points, and frankly, have stopped caring. I also find books that blend fact and fiction quite irritating, as you never know what is interesting historical fact and what the author has made just made up; I strongly suspect that there was lots of the latter going on here. In particular, the book spans the late 1800s to 1920 ish, and I think I remember something from GCSE history about a global confict involving the slaughter of millions- well you won't know it from reading this book, where it is at best just glossed over. And Carter's gay brother also seems to have a remarkably easy time of it considering that homosexuality was a crime at the time...
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Carter Beats the Devil
Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold (Paperback - 16 May 2002)
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