Carter Beats the Devil
I recommend this gem by Glen David Gold. It has something
for everyone: humor, suspense, mystery, romance, action, crime, tragedy and
above all, magic.
Gold’s novel is based on the life of the famous American
magician, Charles Carter, who was called Carter the Great by Harry Houdini.
The novel opens in San
Francisco on August 2 1923. Carter’s most daring
performance is on at the Curran
Theatre. The President of
the United States,
Warren J Harding, attends and takes part in Carter’s battle with the Devil. The
President is apparently murdered and suspicion falls on to Carter. Agents
Starling and Griffin
of the Secret Service investigate. Griffin
is all washed up from having allowed former President McKinley to be
assassinated, and has a lot to prove.
The narrative turns to Carter’s childhood and his early
forays into magic, and also describes when he was put into a torture device
known as a brank, and had to use his wits to escape. As a young man he becomes
as an apprentice to the evil Mysterioso, who he ruins. He also inherits a tame
lion called Lady from Mysterioso. Carter goes on tour and is on his way to
becoming famous. He falls in love with the feisty lion-tamer Annabelle and they
marry. But tragically she is killed in a magic trick that goes horribly wrong.
This is a loss he will never recover from fully.
The story returns to 1923. Carter has money problems and his
manager brother James is trying to get him out of trouble. A new stupendous
show is planned. While walking Lady one night Carter meets blind Phoebe Kyle,
who has her own tragic story to tell. Slowly a romance blossoms. But Carter has other challenges to face.
Agents from the Secret Service try to murder him by locking him in a crate and
drowning him in San Francisco
Harbor. He must call on
all his ingenuity as a magician to escape. Then Mysterioso returns, bent on
revenge. The climax is real nail biting stuff.
Gold has faithfully re-created San Francisco in the 20s and the world of the
magician. His research into the various magic tricks and devices is extremely
thorough and it shows. This is an extremely enjoyable and exciting novel.