Thursday, January 01, 2004

Nightmare Alley

Last November, Jim Lewis, the editor of Syzygy, the journal of new religious movements, tipped me off about William Lindsay Gresham's 1946 crime novel Nightmare Alley. He suggested that this book about "carny" life--with its attitude that most people are marks, rubes, sheep and that all religions are tricks and con jobs, held the blueprint for Anton LaVey's creation of the Church of Satan twenty years later.

The relationship might be analogous to the way that the Church of All Worlds was based on Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land -- terminology, polyamory, and all (except for Martians).

Gresham's books are apparently "collectible," and the cheapest way that I found to buy the book, after cruising Advanced Book Exchange, was to order a discounted copy of Crime Novels, an anthology of noir-ish ficition, from Powell's Books online. Nightmare Alley is included, along with The Postman Always Rings Twice and other classics.

Now for the truly strange part: he and his second wife, the poet Joy Davidman, became strongly interested in the writing of C.S. Lewis in the 1940s. They broke up in 1954; she went to England and later married C.S. Lewis herself.

L. Ron Hubbard comes into the picture too, but I think that's enough weirdness for now.

(That makes two posts in a row using the word "noir." What's going on? I don't plan these things.)


Post a Comment

<< Home