Carter Beats the Devil, Glen David Gold 

What We’re Reading

What We’re Reading

For this I tip my hat to the Onion AV Club's "Wrapped Up in Books" feature — a spirited online book club that until March devoted each month or thereabouts to a different cult favorite from recent decades, whether it's a literary milestone (like Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian) or the work of an overlooked genre master (like noir specialist Charles Willeford's The Woman Chaser). It's evidently on indefinite hiatus and worth a campaign to bring it back — in part so it can give books like Glen David Gold's 2001 adventure a shot at a new audience. For the length of Gold's extravaganza, I felt like I was 15 years old and seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time: In 1920s San Francisco, the world's greatest magician is implicated in the mysterious death of President Warren G. Harding. He spends the next 550 pages dodging assassins, battling pirates, thwarting a dastardly rival and pulling off miraculous escapes, in the shadow of life-altering tragedy. All the while, Gold pulls off his own sleight-of-hand with clever misdirection, flamboyant cliffhangers and prodigious feats of imagination — resulting in something like E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime reworked into a bang-up Saturday-afternoon serial.

Now, on to the next book. What should it be — Thomas McGuane's The Bushwhacked Piano, Nicole Krauss' The History of Love, Donovan Hohn's Moby-Duck, James Salter's A Sport and a Pastime, or Elif Batuman's The Possessed?

—Jim Ridley, Scene editor


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