Thursday, July 17, 2008


The Book: Glen David Gold, CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL. Hyperion, 2001 (first edition). Very good book in good dust jacket; back of dust jacket is imperfect, showing heavy creases caused by production or shipping errors.
First read: 2001
Owned since: 2001

Magic shows in real life usually disappoint me, with the notable exception of Penn & Teller. I'm fascinated by the idea of magic, and particularly by the magician's curse: a magician spends his entire life learning to deceive his audience, only to despise them when he succeeds.

Glen David Gold obviously shares this fascination. CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL is a historical fantasia based on the real life of master magician Charles Carter, a San Francisco native known as Carter the Great who was much more famous abroad than he was in the U.S.

The book begins in 1923, with Carter dodging Secret Service agents to avoid questioning after the mysterious death of President Warren G. Harding. How Carter came to meet President Harding -- and what role he might have played in Harding's death -- is the long, involved, enchanting story that follows. Along the way, Carter crosses paths with the millionaire Borax Smith, the inventor Philo T. Farnsworth, and a lion or two.

We don't remember Charles Carter when we think of famous magicians because his style of magic was overshadowed by the physical exploits of Harry Houdini. The book CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL never got the attention and acclaim it deserved because it was published in September 2001. Both the magician and the book deserve a revival.

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