Geek Novel Back in Print

June 1, 2010

Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham. Introduction by Nick Tosches. New York Review of Books/paperback.

On his way out of Spain in 1938, Bill Gresham, a Baltimore-born volunteer in the John Brown Artillery company of the International Brigades, heard a strange story from one of his comrades, Joseph “Doc” Halliday, about an alcoholic carnival “geek” whose featured attraction was biting the head off living chickens. The story haunted him, perhaps because Gresham was himself an alcoholic, and he tried to purge his imagination in the highly successful novel, Nightmare Alley, published in 1946. It was later made into a movie starring Tyrone Power. It’s the story of carnival life, told from the view of strange and troubled outsiders.

Gresham followed that book with another novel, Limbo Tower, which achieved less success and with several works of non-fiction. He never fully purged his demons. In 1962, the Spanish Civil War vet committed suicide in New York City.

Now his classic horror novel has been reissued in a handsome paperback edition. Nick Toshes, who writes a brief introduction, is at work on a longer book about Gresham.


One Response to “ Geek Novel Back in Print ”

  1. Chris Brooks on June 4, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    I am looking forward to reading the forward to the book. Mr. Tosches performed exhaustive research on Gresham. I have never had the opportunity to read Nightmare Alley, but will do so later in the summer.

    Chris B.