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Carter Beats the Devil Paperback – 16 May 2002

4.4 out of 5 stars 77 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; New Ed edition (16 May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340794992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340794999
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,754 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.


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

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

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

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)

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)

Brilliantly inventive and constantly surprising ... you're unlikely to read a better book this year. (Eve)

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)

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)

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

An enormously assured first novel (New York Times)

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

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

Carter Beats the Devil is all the things a good novel should be ... A daredevil achievement. Bravo. (Barbara Mella, What's on in London)

An audaciously plotted and wonderfully camp adventure. (Telegraph Summer Reading Paperback Fiction Choice)

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

This was many critics' choice for book of the year in 2001, and a first novel that's hard to fault. The plotting is so immaculate, and the themes of illusion and deception so well executed, it's utterly mesmerising. (Shauna Bartlett, Glamour magazine)

A rollicking good read. (Mateen Kaul, Literary Review)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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By A Customer on 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the tale of a magician as he tries to make a living from a dying art and repeatedly gets himself into (and out of) scrapes with frightening enemies like the FBI, pirates and even other magicians. An entertaining read which I would never have selected of my own accord (mainly because I find magicians terribly dull and historical fiction even more so) but when it got selected for book club, I thought I might as well give it a go and I'm glad I did. The author has taken real events and lavishly decorated them with fiction to the point where they are virtually unrecognisable. The result is amusing, touching and funny with meticulous attention to detail. Just when you think you know where the story is headed a new twist refreshes your interest. The writing is excellent and characters are cleverly sketched.

It's not the sort of book that will have you thinking well into the night, it's just good entertainment and my only issue with it was that it was a bit too long. Like a lot of us, it could do with losing a bit of excess fat from the middle but I wouldn't blame you if you said I was being picky.
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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can't beleieve a reader only gave this 3 stars! This novel is absolutely fantastic - one of those books that you turn off the tv and stay up late to read. You allow yourself to read one more chapter but when you get to the end of it, you inevitably read the first sentence of the next one, and then you can't stop carrying on!
I think the fact that this is David Glen Gold's first novel has obscured the facts - this is a magical, compulsive novel. I hate the way people say 'well, it's his first...he'll get better with time..'. This is already brilliant, no matter how many novels he has or has not already written.
I was sucked in by the tale of Carter's childhood and the anachronistic method of describing events only increases the reader's intense excitement and involvement in the story. The death of the president is the hook, but the life and development of Carter himself is more than enough to keep you interested.
Contary to what one of the other reviews on this page has said, i think the characters do have depth, especially Carter. There are a couple of times in the book where he says he is drawn to people who understand him, and i believe that by the end of the novel the reader is one of those people.
The other characters too are rounded, such as Griffin, and i really enjoyed the method of using past events to help define why a person has become what they are.
This isn't a very erudite review of the book. This is because I find it hard to be objective and english-grad-like with such a great story. So don't believe three's a 5 star triumph!
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