Carter Beats the Devil

Discuss general aspects of Genii.

Postby Steve Bryant » 09/19/01 11:05 PM

Glen David Gold's novel, Carter Beats the Devil, just received a glowing review in the Sept 24 issue of The New Yorker. It's one of the few bright spots in an otherwise grim issue: the cover is solid black, the typically hilarious cartoons are noticeably absent, and the writers and photographers cover last week's tragedy in detail unequalled elsewhere. The timeliness of the issue made me take note, far more than I had before, of the fact that the mail has continued to work and work well. This keepsake issue, not to mention a fine issue of Genii, are in hand, both ahead of schedule, despite all that might have delayed them. But back to the subject: Mr. Gold gave a fine speech at Stan Allen's MAGIC Live convention. I made a note then to add his novel to my reading list; I now have even more reason to realize that pleasure.
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Postby Brad A._dup1 » 09/20/01 01:48 AM

I've only seen good comments about that book. Yet I haven't met anyone who's read it.

Saw it at Barnes And Noble. A very pretty book... heck if you don't want to read it, just buy it for the cover!

-Brad
Former Vonnegut Character
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Postby Tom Dobrowolski » 09/20/01 02:15 PM

I read it good book, good read. Worth picking up and yes the cover is beautiful.
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Postby Guest » 09/20/01 02:51 PM

The New Yorker cover, btw, actually shows the silhouette of the Twin Towers, printed 100% black, barely discernible against what looks to be a 95% black background.
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Postby Guest » 09/21/01 02:36 AM

I picked up a copy at the airport on the way to Chicago last Monday. Due to Tuesdays events, I had plenty chance to read it in the car on the way back to Los Angeles Thursday and Friday (*^%%!!).

While I agree it is worth the read and a real page turner in parts it is yet an uneven work. Certain character motivations seemed implausible even in the context of a mystery inside a mystery.
Still I applaud Mr. Gold for a first work and look forward to his next. He describes lots of "period" historic trivia/tales/characters that, perhaps due to the central magic figure reminded me of a San Francisco/west coast version of Doctorow's "Ragtime". And it was great to have a magical hero and backdrop! I gather from the credits that the cover poster repro and the several other printed internally come from Norm Nielsen.
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Postby Dave Shepherd » 09/21/01 06:23 AM

Originally posted by Tim McD:
While I agree it is worth the read and a real page turner in parts it is yet an uneven work. Certain character motivations seemed implausible even in the context of a mystery inside a mystery.


I agree with Tim. I am about halfway through the book, and although I am completely gripped by the story, I find it at times uneven. Without tipping too much of the plot, I found the demise of one of the characters in the first half to be somewhat perfunctory (for example).

Still I applaud Mr. Gold for a first work and look forward to his next. He describes lots of "period" historic trivia/tales/characters that, perhaps due to the central magic figure reminded me of a San Francisco/west coast version of Doctorow's "Ragtime". And it was great to have a magical hero and backdrop! I gather from the credits that the cover poster repro and the several other printed internally come from Norm Nielsen


It's interesting to see the reference to "Ragtime," Tim. I had exactly the same impression. I am moved to try to learn more about the death of President Harding, among other things. And not having read Caveney's bio of Carter, I wonder: did Houdini in fact play a central role in kicking off Carter's career?

As I've said in another thread on this board, a magic-related book I highly recommend is "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay," by Michael Chabon (author of "Wonderboys.") Although written by a non-magician about completely fictional characters, the sense of "inside-ness" into the magical world seemed even a bit more authentic than in the Carter book. K&C is not primarily ABOUT magic, but magic and escapism play a central role.

Dave Shepherd

[ September 21, 2001: Message edited by: Dave Shepherd ]
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Postby Robert Kane » 09/21/01 09:25 PM

I agree with everything that Tom D. said. I am reading it now and enjoying it greatly, especially all of the text about San Francisco. My old home town you know. :D
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Postby Michael Edwards » 09/22/01 09:28 AM

Dave: While Charles Carter and Harry Houdini had become good friends by the summer of 1903, there is no evidence of which I am aware that Houdini played a significant role in launching Carter's career. One of the wonderful aspects of Glen Gold's book is how deftly he interweaves fact and fiction. Some of this is a result of his skill as a writer, but much of it has to be attributed to the careful and loving research he did in developing his story. I believe Glen, who has become a good friend over these past several years, has a real respect for magic and its history. At the same time, he was always conscious that he was crafting a novel. As he wrote me in early January of this year, "I expect to have made factual succotash on purpose (fiction trumps history in the phrase 'historical fiction')." Carter Beats the Devilputs it all together in a very tasty dish.

[ September 22, 2001: Message edited by: Michael Edwards ]
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Postby Michael Edwards » 09/23/01 06:16 PM

Tim: You are quite right. The cover art as well as the posters interspersed throughout the book -- Kellar Toasts the Devil, T. Nelson Downs King of Koins, the Strobridge Thurston: Do the Spirits Come Back?, and the Chung Ling Soo Highest Pinnacle -- are all from Norm Nielsen's collection. Interestingly, as Glen Gold got deeper and deeper into his research, he developed a real love of magic posters...and has begun to put together a modest collection of his own. Drawing on Norm, Ken Trombly and Charles Greene's help, he has become quite knowledgable about this area of magic history and collecting. I think that this is well reflected in the book.
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Postby Guest » 09/23/01 08:23 PM

Further to Dave's comments about wanting to learn more about President Harding etc. : I too now want to learn more: about Carter (just got a copy of Mike Caveney's book), about character P.F. (initialed so as not to give anything way), and about early B.M.W. (initialed 'cuz it is what it seems...)

And Michael, it certainly comes as no surprise that Mr. Gold would develop such a love of magic memorabilia; the background reading list he provides is more extensive than I would bet most avowed magicians can claim! It suggests he fell in love with the subject somewhere along the path of simply doing research.

rgds,

Tim
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Postby Guest » 10/02/01 05:50 AM

Anyone else see this as a potentially great movie? ;)
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