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Publisher's Summary

One of the 20th-century's most darkly beautiful works of crime fiction - a story of carny life, spiritualism, and a con man of merciless resolve.

Nightmare Alley begins with an extraordinary description of a freak-show geek - an abject alcoholic and the object of the voyeuristic crowd's gleeful disgust and derision - going about his work at a county fair. Young Stan Carlisle is working as a carny, and he wonders how a man could fall so low. There's no way in hell, he vows, that anything like that will ever happen to him.

And since Stan is clever and ambitious, and not without a useful streak of ruthlessness, soon enough he's going places. Onstage he plays the mentalist with a cute bimbo (before long, his harried wife), then he graduates to full-blown spiritualist, catering to the needs of the rich and gullible in their well-upholstered homes. It looks like the world is Stan's for the taking. At least for now.

©1946 William Lindsay Gresham; copyright renewed 1974 by Renee Gresham (P)2021 Tantor

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What listeners say about Nightmare Alley

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Wow.

Dark, desperate and disturbing. Loved it!
A psychological noir classic that still holds up to its praises.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Very average

Story was fine, feels like the story doesn’t have much to do about the beginning or the ending which functions as a punch line

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Boring and hard to like

The book starts strong at a carnival and you slowly come to see the main character, but I never seemed to like him or understand his decisions at any time during the story. In general, the plot and characters all felt flimsy and dated—not because it took place in the past but because the characters’ struggles did not feel sincere. They felt forced and imagined and cliche. Don’t waste time on the book (or the movie, imo).

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Loved it.

This is a great read. I enjoyed the story immensely. The dark side of entertainment is as pertinent today as it was in 1940. Cannot recommend this book enough.

  • Overall
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good but hard to reconcile with today

I thought the narrator whispered often and while his theatrical performance made it interesting. It was hard to hear at times, even on max volume. The range in sound was too much.

The story is hard to stomach because you really hate the protagonist. I do think the ending was really well done and I can see why this story made its way into the literary circuit.