Saturday, March 24, 2007


by Glen David Gold
Hyperion Books
658 pages

One of the joys of the new internet era is on-line booksellers like Amazon and the fact that a book that is six years old can still be available for purchase. All too often life flies by and we don’t have to opportunity to read as much as we would like to. That’s where the on-line wish list comes to the rescue.

I vaguely recall, way back in 2001 reading a review of this book and thinking it was something I might one day like to read. Then I forgot about it. A few years go by and through some quirk, I stumbled upon its listing at Amazon. Remembering the review, I put the book on my wish list and once again forgot it. Shame on me.

Last year two highly successful movies were made about magicians; THE ILLUSIONIST and THE PRESTIGE. Both were set at the turn of the century, the first in Europe and the other in England. Having seen and enjoyed both of them, I was spurred to at long last order CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL and it arrived in mail shortly after the new year. Now, having completed it, I could kick myself for having waited so long to devour this absolutely fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable tale of Carter the Great!

Charles Carter is a native of California in the early 1900s and a very popular and successful magician. He is also a widower who lives a life of seclusion, devoting all of his energy to his magic career. When the President of the United States, Warren G. Harding, dies in a San Francisco hotel, only hours after appearing on stage with Carter, a dedicated Secret Service Agent named Griffin becomes convinced the magician is somehow responsible for the President’s demise.

What follows next is an exhilarating chase that weaves its way through the factual events of the time. Not only is Carter forced to evade the machinations of a very deadly and powerful government cadre that seeks to silence him permanently, he also becomes involved with a young genius inventor named Philo Farnsworth and his amazing discovery called Television. Escaping several death traps, while staying one step ahead of the tenacious Agent Griffin, Carter also manages to find a new love in a mysterious blind woman who somehow knows more about his past than is possible by normal means.

The characters are marvelous, original and completely mesmerizing. The history is both real and fanciful with an adventurous balance that allows to reader to get lost in a magical what-if scenario that paints a glorious picture of a newly emerging technical society. It is America as she is about to embrace the wonders of the new and exciting 20th Century.

After finishing CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL, I was saddened that this was not the magic book filmed, rather THE ILLUSIONIST & THE PRESTIGE. It is by far the better story. I waited six years to read this book. Don’t make my mistake and wait another six minutes. It is that good!!

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