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I'm deeply ambivalent about this one.  On the one hand, first time novelist Glen David Gold has done a really extraordinary job of rendering what the world of the great stage illusionists might have been like, from the true life hero of the book, Charles Carter, to Houdini and Thurston.  The magic shows are far and away the best part of the book, making the reader desperately wish he were witnessing the actual tricks.  But for my money, he doesn't do much with either Carter, who is so uniformly decent and naive as to deflect our interest, or the magical arts.

The main drama of the story is supposed to come from Carter's possible involvement in the death of President Warren G. Harding, who the book has attend a Carter show and participate in one of his greatest illusions, just hours before his death.  Now, largely thanks to Paul Johnson's generous portrait of him in the great book Modern Times, I'm more of a fan of the generally reviled Harding than most folks are likely to be.  But even I don't particularly care if he was assassinated or murdered, by his wife or his corrupt cronies or whatever.  I mean, c'mon, this was eighty years ago and Coolidge was an infinitely better President.  Who cares how he died ?  The country was ultimately well-served by his death.

So I guess I'd recommend the book, if for no other reason than the fascination of reading about the old vaudeville shows and the great magicians.  But, I have to say, after nearly 500 pages, it was a great relief to finally reach the end of the book.

One word of warning : if you don't want to read the book, don't even look at it.  The cover, a reproduction of a genuine poster, is positively mesmerizing.


Grade: (C+)


Book-related and General Links:
    -BOOK SITE : Carter Beats the Devil : A Novel By Glen David Gold (Hyperion)
    -BOOK SITE & GAME : Carter Beats the Devil
    -EXCERPT : from Carter Beats the Devil
    -INTERVIEW : with Glen David Gold (September 21, 2001, Bookreporter)
    -REVIEW : of Carter Beats the Devil (STEPHANIE ZACHAREK, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Carter Beats the Devil (Ron Charles, CS Monitor)
    -REVIEW : of Carter Beats the Devil (Dennis Drabelle, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of Carter Beats the Devil (Jerome Weeks, Dallas Morning News)
    -REVIEW : of Carter beats the Devil by Glen David Gold (Independent uk)
    -REVIEW : of Carter Beats the Devil by  Glen David Gold (Helen Brown, booksonline uk)
    -REVIEW : of Carter Beats the Devil by  Glen David Gold (Graham Caveney, Independent uk)
    -REVIEW : of Carter Beats the Devil by  Glen David Gold (Peter Preston, Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of Carter Beats the Devil (Robin Vidimos, The Denver Post)
    -REVIEW : of Carter Beats the Devil (Carlo Wolff, Boston Globe)
    -REVIEW : of Carter Beats the Devil (Bob Ruggiero, Bookreporter)
    -REVIEW : of Carter Beats the Devil (Amanda Ferguson, City Pages)

    -Carter, The Great -
    -Carter the Great Posters    -ESSAY : Conjuring by Harry Houdini (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Thirteenth Edition)