“Let me tell you something, kid. In the carny you don’t ask nothing. And you’ll get told no lies.”

March 22, 2008


Carny #1: How can a guy sink so low?
Carny #2: He reached too high. . .

If you’ve never read Nightmare Alley (1946) by William Lindsay Grisham or seen it’s screen adaptation (1947) with Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell you won’t understand the passion it inspires in its devotees. Many in my generation saw it as a kid on it’s infrequent TV appearances, were mentally scarred for life and sought out screenings for ever after.

I had a similar experience with the indie cult classic, Carnival of Souls. Saw it once on TV in the early sixties, burned into my brain for life. Both pictures had fallen out of distribution for a number of years only to be revived first at art houses then as VHS and DVD releases. Nightmare Alley never had an official VHS release, but was available in that format as a bootleg from eBay and others.


“I sometimes think that if I have any real talent it is not literary but a sheer talent for survival. I have survived three busted marriages, losing my boys, war, tuberculosis, Marxism, alcoholism, neurosis, and years of freelance writing. Just too mean and ornery to kill, I guess.” –William Lindsay Grisham


The novel is in print today in a collection called Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s and 40s. This omnibus treasure – which should be on every American’s bookshelf – includes The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain; They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? by Horace McCoy; Thieves Like Us by Edward Anderson; The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing, I Married a Dead Man by Cornell Woolrich and Gresham’s Nightmare Alley.

If you haven’t got ’em, buy ’em today! I was right about the comet!

Pete Krumbein: Throughout the ages, man has sought to look behind the veil that hides him from tomorrow. And through the ages, certain men have looked into the polished crystal… and seen. Is it some quality of the crystal itself, or does the gazer merely use it to turn his gaze inward? Who knows? But visions come. Slowly shifting their forms… visions come. Wait. The shifting shapes begin to clear. I see fields of grass. . .rolling hills. . .and a boy. A boy is running barefoot through the hills. A dog is with him. A. . .DOG. . .is. . .with. . .him.

Stanton Carlisle: Yes. . .go on. . .his name was Jib. Go on!

Pete Krumbein: [Choked laughter] Humph. See how easy it is to *hook* ’em!

More to Come on William Lindsay Grisham. . .




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