I got Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold in London, it was everywhere (apparently something to do with his second book Sunnyside)! The title is fantastic, the story is about magic, a disapearing act and the early 20th century. How could I resist? You can get me to read almost anything if the story involves vanishing and disappearing acts.
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. (Amazon.co.uk)
I loved this book from the first page because the index has the form of a playbill announcing Carter´s tricks (or illusions as he likes to call them). The story starts out more or less with a mystery, as president Harding acts as a volunteer in Carter´s signature trick Carter Beats the Devil and dies a short time later. The next part of the book however takes the reader away from this and into Carter´s childhood. The account of Carter´s personal life was perhaps my favorite part of the book, he is such a likable character and I found myself rooting for him, through his discovery of magic to trying to deal with intruige and tragedy. The look behind the scenes of the vaudeville and Carter´s show were fascinating, I would have loved to be in the audience. Gold gives lots of information on the early 20th century in the United States, about the entertainment scene specifically magic shows. Houdini makes an appearane! Apart from Carter, the other characters were just as interesting and memorable, the dialoge read like a movie script and overall this book is great entertainment. I really wanted to go to a magic show after reading.
So this is definitely a book I can recommend to everyone, it never dragged although the book is about 500 pages long, and the finale is grand. You can read an excerpt here.