Synopses & Reviews
begins with an extraordinary description of a freak-show geek—alcoholic and abject and the object of the voyeuristic crowds gleeful disgust and derision—going about his work at a county fair. Young Stan Carlisle is working as a carny, and he wonders how a man could fall so low. Theres no way in hell, he vows, that anything like that will ever happen to him.
And since Stan is clever and ambitious and not without a useful streak of ruthlessness, soon enough hes going places. Onstage he plays the mentalist with a cute bimbo (before long his harried wife), then he graduates to full-blown spiritualist, catering to the needs of the rich and gullible in their well-upholstered homes. It looks like the world is Stans for the taking. At least for now.
Stan Carlisle is working as a carny and sets himself above the freak-show geeks. Onstage, he plays a mentalist and caters to the rich and gullible. It looks like the world is Stan's for the taking. At least for now.
About the Author
William Lindsay Gresham was born in Baltimore on August 20, 1909. His family moved briefly to Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1916, then to New York City, where he graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn in 1926. Greshams was a tortured mind and a tormented life, and he sought to banish his demons through a maze of dead-end ways, from Marxism to psychoanalysis to Christianity to Alcoholics Anonymous to Rinzai Zen Buddhism. From these demons came his novel Nightmare Alley
(1946), one of the underground classics of American literature. He wrote one more novel, Limbo Tower
(1949), which went largely unnoticed. Three nonfiction books followed: Monster Midway
(1959), and The Book of Strength
(1961). Nightmare Alley
brought Gresham fame and fortune, but he lost it all. The second of his three wives, the poet Joy Davidman, left him in 1953 for the British author C. S. Lewis. He killed himself in New York City on September 14, 1962.
Nick Tosches is the author of fifteen books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. His most recent novel, In the Hand of Dante, was published in seventeen languages and selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He has long been working on a book about William Lindsay Gresham.