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  • Laura Lee Bahr

Knockout Noir! What's Laura Reading? "Nightmare Alley" by William Lindsey Gresham

I just finished reading "Nightmare Alley" by William Lindsey Gresham, and I have to say, it's the best piece of noir fiction I've ever come across. Oh my God, I can't believe I haven't read it until now. I stumbled upon it serendipitously while researching Spiritualism and delving into its portrayal in literature. I also checked out "The Bostonians" by Henry James, and I'll provide an update on that soon.

I already knew the plot of "Nightmare Alley" from Wikipedia, but when I actually started reading the book, it hit me like a revelation. The prose is incredibly modern and visceral, almost knocking you out. It's a true knockout noir. I'm planning to watch the movie adaptations next, and then I'll definitely buy my own copy to study this nightmarish knockout noir more thoroughly.

"Nightmare Alley is a novel by William Lindsay Gresham published in 1946. It is a study of the lowest depths of showbiz and its sleazy inhabitants—the dark, shadowy world of a second-rate carnival filled with hustlers, scheming grifters, and Machiavellian femmes fatales.

Gresham attributed the origin of Nightmare Alley to conversations he had with a former carnival worker while they were both serving as volunteers with the Loyalist forces in the Spanish Civil War. Gresham wrote the novel, his first, while working as an editor for a "true crime," pulp magazine in New York City during the 1940s. He outlined the plot and wrote the first six chapters over a period of two years, then finished the book in four months. Each chapter is represented by a different Tarot card."

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