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the pathetic caverns - books by author - Glen David Gold

eclectic reviews and opinions

Glen David Gold

Carter Beats the Devil

Carter Beats the Devil offers a sleek blend of real historical figures and events -- like famed stage magician and escape artist Charles Carter, and the unusual circumstances surrounding the death of president Warren G. Harding, and a few I'll withhold to avoid spoiling surises -- with an inventive plot that's very nearly credible (if highly unlikely). In my perfect world, Tim Powers would be a household name, and although Powers' historical fictions incorporate overtly fantastic elements in a way that Gold's novel does not, a comparison between the two might still be useful. The two writers are similar not only in tone, but also in priorities: Gold's prose is confident, and several of the supporting cast as well as Carter are given considerable depth of character, but good writing is there to serve the story, rather than the other way around.

The more obvious reference point for many readers might be Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which also prominently features escape artistry and is also set in vividly portrayed pre-1950's America. That's perhaps a shame, because it's a comparison Carter Beats the Devil doesn't live up to. Gold's language is no match for the ebuillience of Chabon's rich and detailed descriptions, nor does he strive for the same thematic depth. It's also fundamentally unfair: Carter Beats the Devil is only Gold's first novel. Judged on its own merits, it's both a good yarn -- you could easily find yourself staying up late to finish it -- and a strikingly strong debut.

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