Re: RARA-AVIS: Bearded Ladies

From: Kerry Schooley (
Date: 09 May 2003

I've a friend, not on the list, who is a big fan of carny noir, and to whom I've been forwarding the various missives coming in to Rara in this subject. He has offered in return some titles from his own collection that he has not seen submitted so far:

Carnival Queen by Richard Wormser, a three part serial that ran in Argosy Magazine beginning in the April 3, 1937 issue.

The Freak Show Murders in the May 1944 issue of The Shadow, by then a digest.

Murder Under the Big Top, originally published in 1943, reprinted as a Regency Suspense Novel, The Phantom Detective Book # 7, 1965.

The Murder of the Circus Queen by Anthony Abbot, 1932 by Covici-Friede, reprinted in 1948 by Popular Library.

The Carnival Murder by Nicholas Brady, first American edition published by Henry Holt in 1933. previously published in England as The Fair Murder.

Fatal Finale by Paul H. Dobbins. Phoenix Press, 1949.

Death Rides a Painted Horse by Robert Patrick Wilmot, Lippincott, 1954. For a few years, Wilmot ran his own travelling carnival, inherited from his father. This book has a dope ring using a carnival as a front.

The Headless Lady by Clayton Rawson. Putnam, 1940. This was the fourth

Great Merlini mystery with the magician in his element solving a murder at the Mighty Hannum Brothers Travelling Combined Shows.

-------Other books of interest, not necessarily crime, include:

Carnival, a non-fiction work by Arthur Lewis, Pocket Books.

The Man Who Was Not With It, Herbert Gold, Random House, 1956.

John Haase, The Sherbet Colours, Heinemann, 1961. (Previously published in the US under another title, though I'm unsure of it.)

The Tamer by Nicolas Fokker, Harper & Row 1971. (Originally published in Swedish by a veteran circus performer.)

The Ringmaster by Darryl Ponicsan. Delacorte, 1978. (Great book by author of The Last Detail)

Big Saturday by David Harper, Dodd Mead, 1971.

And of course Stewart O'Nan's great, tragic and moving The Circus Fire published a couple of years ago.

---------Here are a few more that are not noir necessarily, but interesting on the subject.


Alistair MacLean, Circus, Collins, 1975. Not vintage MacLean but it has its moments.

In the Days of the American Museum by Robert Edric, Jonathan Cape, 1990.

American Goliath by Harvey Jacobs, St, Martin's, 1997. About the Cardiff Giant and PT Barnum.

The Final Confession of Mabel Stark by Robert Hough. Random House Canada, 2001. Based on the real Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey lion tamer.


Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and profit by Robert Bogdan. University of Chicago Press, 1988. Outstanding book!

The Circus at the Edge of the Earth by Charles Wilkins. McClelland & Stewart, 1998.

The Great Farini by Shane Peacock, Viking/Penguin, 1995. About the Canadian showman and high wire artist.

The Fabulous Kelley: Canada's King of the Medicine Men, Simon & Schuster, 1968. Revised edition, General Publishing, 1974. (Probably wildly exaggerated like most of the stuff Kelley wrote, but still entertaining.)

Best Kerry

------------------------------------------------------ Literary events Calendar (South Ont.) The evil men do lives after them

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