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William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: October 8th, 2013, 7:51 pm
by Diego
Centipede Press has recently published a new edition of William Lindsay Gresham's classic novel, "Nightmare Alley" and a "Grindshow-The Selected Writings of William Lindsay Gresham."

Both have introductions and added material by Bret Wood.

Beautifully produced, they contain information about Gresham and his works that haven't been mostly known until now.

Bret Wood has had a long-time interest in Gresham and talked to his widow and other family as well.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: October 8th, 2013, 11:11 pm
by Bill Mullins
Centipede makes limited-edition, high quality (read: expensive) versions of books. I'd love to get a "reader" copy of these.

Nightmare Alley

Grindshow

Here's an essay by Gresham reprinted in Nightmare Alley to wet your whistle.

It was only recently that I found out that the Debra Winger character from Shadowlands had been previously married to W. L. Gresham.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: October 9th, 2013, 4:11 am
by Diego
Yes, they are limited editions and not cheap, but well written, edited, and bound.

Gresham dedicates, "Nightmare Alley", to Joy Davidman, who later married C.S. Lewis.
These new books and other books-in-progress can shed new light that doesn't make Gresham out to be the bad guy, as has been the case in the past.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: October 9th, 2013, 6:11 am
by Bob Farmer
Don't forget his Houdini book and "Monster Midway."

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: October 9th, 2013, 11:43 am
by Diego
Some of the articles reprinted in, "Grindshow", and this edition of "Nightmare Alley", include selections from, "Monster Midway." Some of those chapters of that book which were originally articles Gresham had written for magazines.
Gresham was always pitching articles about Houdini and other magic & carnival related subjects to magazine editors, with varying success.

The Centipede edition includes the original Rhinehart edition's text, which was later edited/cleaned up for later editions.
Today in a world where books like, "50 Shades....", are bestsellers, it might be hard to believe that the U.S. Postal authorities held up foreign distribution of the novel as it was regarded as pornography by them,back then...which could have been the reason for the more sanitized later editions.

Gresham's lesser known works, such as the novel, "Limbo Tower", and his body-building instruction book, "Book of Strength",(with drawing/illustrations by James Randi) can still be easily found on ebay, etc.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: October 16th, 2013, 9:48 pm
by Bill Mullins
The movie version of "Nightmare Alley" is coming on Turner Classic Movies right now.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: September 18th, 2016, 11:38 pm
by Bill Mullins
Other carny books:

Death on a Ferris Wheel by Aylwin Lee Martin
Cat Man by Edward Hoagland
Rodeo Clown by Bill Neely
Love Doll by Mel Johnson (pseudonym for Barry Malzberg)
The Man Who Was Not With It by Herbert Gold
Joyland by Stephen King
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: September 19th, 2016, 5:09 pm
by Max Maven
Don't forget Fredric Brown's Madball.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: September 23rd, 2016, 1:20 pm
by Bill Mullins
Brown did a series of detective novels about Ed and Am Hunter. Ed was a teenager, and Ambrose was his uncle, a carnival worker, who helped him solve crimes. The first one (also Brown's first novel) was The Fabulous Clipjoint was full of carnival material, and it won an Edgar award.

Missing from my list above is the science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein, which contains some carny stuff. Bill Patterson, Heinlein's biographer, suspected that Heinlein used Gresham as source material. But the book is dedicated to Fredric Brown (who wrote SF as well as detective fiction -- the Star Trek episode "Arena" [the one where Kirk fights the Gorn lizard-man] was based on a Brown story), so I suspect that Patterson is mistaken.

Here are some clips from the movie Nightmare Alley.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: September 23rd, 2016, 9:15 pm
by Don Hendrix
Both books are now showing as "sold out".

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: September 23rd, 2016, 11:55 pm
by Diego
The Centipede editions are on eBay often, including right now.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: September 26th, 2016, 11:27 pm
by Bill Mullins
Gresham uses the phrase "cold reading" in Nightmare Alley. Is anyone aware of an earlier usage in print? (Background here)

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: September 27th, 2016, 12:57 pm
by Diego
In previous threads on The Genii Forum, the origins of the word/term, "Geek" and "Cold Reading" have been discussed/explored.

Searching thru books pertaining to carnivals, sideshows, circuses, etc. there is no mention of the term "Geek", and none specifically referring to a "Wild Man" type oddity/attraction. Searches thru The Billboard Magazine, show no references to the term, "Geek" in any articles, news, ads, until Gresham's book comes out.

So far, research has not shown any use of the term, "Cold Reading", as used to to do a (psychic?) reading on someone cold, with no prior info on the person, pre-1946. No magic/mentalism books or magazines, use the phrase until Gresham's book appears.

Mentalism dealers Robert Nelson and Syl Reilly do not make references to the phrase until Gresham's book. Nelson published books/manuscripts on doing readings, but the phrase would have certainly have been used by them, if it had been part of the language/terminology of doing readings pre-1946.
In 1951, Nelson did publish, "The Art of Cold Reading", which is the first time I have found it used in any magic/mentalism/psychic/mystic,
references.

In one letter by Gresham, he mentions bringing/creating into the English language, words/phrases that didn't exist until he put them on paper.

The odds are strongly in favor these being the creation of Gresham. There are no references/evidence showing otherwise to this date.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: September 27th, 2016, 1:11 pm
by Diego
While Nick Tosches was working on his writing for the 2010 edition of "Nightmare Alley", we discussed these questions which prompted me to pose these questions on The Genii Forum back then. The responses helped the research that you read in my previous post.

If anyone DOES find a reference to the words "Geek" or "Cold Reading",(as used in "Nightmare Alley") prior to 1946, please let us know.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: September 27th, 2016, 2:43 pm
by Bill Mullins
I didn't recall the earlier discussions.

Here is some of what I've sent Diego offline, in case it is of interest to others.

"Geek" appears in Billboard well before Nightmare Alley. The online Oxford English Dictionary has:

geek, n. 2., U.S. slang. A performer at a carnival or circus whose show consists of bizarre or grotesque acts, such as biting the head off a live animal.

1919 Billboard (Cincinnati) 25 Oct. 74/4 (advt.) At Liberty—Snake charmer or geek man; would like to join show going south. 1935 Amer. Mercury June 229 Geek, a degenerate who bites off the heads of chickens in a gory cannibal show. 1948 N.Y. Times Bk. Rev. 7 Mar. 25 An amiable alcoholic who keeps a real live chicken-eating geek in his garden. 1961 Times Lit. Suppl. 27 Jan. 62/2 He‥enslaves a ‘geek’, a dumb sideshow stooge whose daily routine consists of being exhibited in a pit which he has to dig for himself. 1975 R. Davies World of Wonders (1977) i. viii. 130, I was compelled to exhibit Willard as a geek.‥ You lecture for a while on the yearning of the geek for raw flesh. 2001 H. Bone (title) Side show: My life with geeks, freaks & vagabonds in the carny trade.

I recently found a 1914 citation in the NY Clipper.

and Fred Shapiro (a librarian at Yale and author of the Yale Book of Quotations) found a 1912 Billboard cite.

(Yale subscribes to an archive of entertainement magazines, including Billboard, that I can't get into :(

However, this database has partial runs of Billboard, Variety, the NY Dramatic Mirror, and the NY Clipper with loads of show business journalism. It's where I got the NY Clipper citation, but it doesn't seem to include the 1912 Billboard one.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: September 27th, 2016, 3:00 pm
by Bill Mullins
Bill Mullins wrote:I didn't recall the earlier discussions.


Okay, I went and found them. And I was a participant. And I said some of the same stuff that's been discussed here.

Forgetfulness? Dementia? I'm lucky I can find my way home in the evening.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: December 28th, 2016, 11:34 pm
by Bill Mullins
Fredric Brown is mentioned above. Haffner Press is compiling all of his works excepting his science fiction. The first volume of his short fiction has been released.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: May 18th, 2018, 12:12 pm
by Bill Mullins
This article, which is full of other good stuff, says that Guillermo del Toro is planning to remake Nightmare Alley.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: May 18th, 2018, 1:00 pm
by Bob Farmer
Bill, that's a great article. years ago, when no one was really following Gresham, I was lucky enough to obtain copies of all of Gresham's books as well Brown's. Brown has a great short story where the murder victim ends up being--the reader.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: May 18th, 2018, 6:17 pm
by Diego
It was announced a few months ago for plans of the remake. Be interesting what the screenwriter and director do with the story today.
In Martin Scorsese's office, behind his desk is a Nightmare Alley poster. I always thought he would be the person who could do something with it...what he did with Travis Bickle or Jake LaMatta, what could he do with Stanton Carlisle?

Bob, the article is interesting, but shows the author's limited knowledge of Gresham...interesting regardless. He doesn't note or know how Darryl Zanuck changed the ending. (I have seen various scripts with at least 5 different endings of the 1947 movie) While it was originally going to end like the book, Zanuck added an ending with a hope for the better.
(You can almost see Zanuck ranting, "Are they crazy, Ty Power ending up as an alcoholic/geek?! We do Betty Grable musicals, with happy endings here!")

In 1978, it was announced that Barry Gordy was going to produce a remake with Billy Dee Williams and Diahann Carroll. I very briefly talked to Williams back then, who confirmed this, but it never was done. (I could see Carroll as Lilith Ritter, as the femme fatale.)

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: May 18th, 2018, 8:49 pm
by Bob Farmer
Diego, Gresham's biography of Houdini is a great read. There's also, "Monster Midway"http://www.deuceofclubs.com/books/268monstermidway.htm

The movie doesn't tip the trick with the flea (I recall, but I may be wrong).

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: May 18th, 2018, 10:18 pm
by Bill Mullins
Diego wrote:It was announced a few months ago for plans of the remake. Be interesting what the screenwriter and director do with the story today.

I think the story originally came out in Variety, and that was used as a source for a number of other websites and publications. But they all said the same thing; that del Toro was going to do a remake. One site pointed out that del Toro has made similar announcements/plans for a number of other movies which never came to pass (which is par for the course for Hollywood -- how many Houdini bio pics have been announced, but never made?) So don't go buying tickets yet.

Nightmare Alley wouldn't required much in the way of special effects, but del Toro has previously worked with magician/special effects creator Mike Elizalde (Hellboy) -- this movie would be right up his "alley".
In 1978, it was announced that Barry Gordy was going to produce a remake with Billy Dee Williams and Diahann Carroll. I very briefly talked to Williams back then, who confirmed this, but it never was done. (I could see Carroll as Lilith Ritter, as the femme fatale.)

Lando Calrissian as a circus geek? I'd watch that . . .

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: May 18th, 2018, 10:28 pm
by Bill Mullins
Gresham on the Bullet Trick.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: May 19th, 2018, 3:21 am
by Diego
Bob,
No, the movie does not deal with the fleas or the scale in the office, as the book does. In his Houdini bio, without mentioning "Nightmare Alley", he does tip the scale/flea mystery, saying it was a stunt, Ed Saint,(Beatrice Houdini's companion) used to do.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: May 19th, 2018, 6:05 am
by performer
There is a little bit of information about Gresham in the Jay Marshall biography. It seems that Marshall knew him personally and there are descriptions of his interaction with him.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: May 19th, 2018, 12:17 pm
by Diego
Yes, Jay Marshall knew Gresham well. I remember years ago, talking with Bob Lund, (who also knew Gresham well) that Gresham's life story, needed to be told/written.
He replied, "The person who could do that, would be Jay Marshall."

In his book, Sandy Marshall remembers Gresham who treated him well and not just as some kid.

In his Houdini book, he credits Jay Marshall, Bob Lund, and others.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: February 13th, 2019, 1:09 pm
by Bill Mullins
Here's a nice association copy of Nightmare Alley for auction.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: February 13th, 2019, 5:58 pm
by Diego
Gresham autographed it to, "The Great Merlini", which was the pen name for Clayton Rawson.
Gresham, Rawson, and John Dickson Carr, were good friends....New York based writers who were
magicians, amateur or otherwise.
Magic was often a theme or sub-theme of the stories they wrote.

In his suicide note/letter to his wife, he asks that certain magic-related items of his,
be given to Rawson and Carr.

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: February 17th, 2019, 4:46 pm
by Bill Mullins

Re: William Lindsay Gresham - New Editions

Posted: February 17th, 2019, 5:26 pm
by Diego
ReReading the article in BOLD magazine, by Gresham on The Bullet Catch, is an example of the type of, "men's" magazines and other pulp magazines that Gresham wrote mostly for, in his later years.
Those type of magazines, whose covers hyped stories of nazi torturers, dangerous jungle adventures, brutal murders, wanton females gone wild, etc., went away...mostly replaced by the skin magazines, and a new generation of more urban readers.
Reading Gresham's letters to publishers, he is constantly pitching stories, often with magic/occult/carnival themes.
Ironically, in one letter, Gresham acknowledges the life of a free lance writer, constantly needing to pitch/write/sell stories to pay his bills can be a daunting existence...but he added the plus side was that he wasn't some publisher/editor's geek, jumping to their orders.