RARA-AVIS: Gresham & Bardin

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 01 Jul 2000

I plan to buy DARK HIGHWAYS but my choice of which two sections to post from the list of writers would be William Lindsay Gresham and John Franklin Bardin. I did not choose Kersh because of the excellent material Paul already has on the Ellison website. By the way, I need to reread Kersh's PRELUDE TO A CERTAIN MIDNIGHT to see if it is as good as my memory of it.

Gresham's nonfiction book on carnivals is superb. A decade and a half ago I met the carnival expert with the Smithsonian Institute and he raved about the Gresham book. He was, however, unfamiliar with Fred Brown and carefully made note of the titles that involved the carney world. One of the most interesting afternoons of my life was a behind the scenes tour of a large carnival set up by the Smithsonian expert. We spent a lot of time at the
"freak show" talking with the old woman in charge. She had been in the business for forty years and took over management of the freak show (think it was also termed a "seven in one" show) when her husband died some years back.
 She bitterly complained about the difficulties in recruiting freaks in the modern era. It was a combination of modern medicine and abortion reducing the pool to choose from and social welfare programs that meant "they don't have to work to earn a living now that the government will send them a check every month." But she had hope for the future. "With all the drugs kids take these days, I know a lot of freaks are being born and things will be easier for us soon."

Remembering it now for the hundredth time a chill still goes down my spine. Talk about hard boiled!

Bardin wrote several interesting, somewhat surreal novels. Its hard to describe his novels...reminded me of Woolrich in some ways and now and then a touch of Philip Dick. Penguin did a three novel omnibus a decade ago that I recommend. I also have his later PURLOINING TINY, which I have yet to read, nor have I tried his mundane-appearing novels published under a pen name
(Gregory Tree?). TINY certainly looks interesting. Any opinions out there?

Richard Moore

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