Review From User :
Anyone intending to read this novel needs to own the edition pictured in this review and published in 2010 by New York Review Books Classics.
It has an introduction by Nick Tosches (which should not be read until after finishing the novel) that along with biographical information on William Lindsay Gresham reveals that this edition is the first complete and uncensored version of NIGHTMARE ALLEY to have been published since the first edition back in 1946.
One other thing: while the film version of this novel remains one of the greatest noirs ever made, it doesn't begin to approach the darkness or the sliminess found in these pages.
Nightmare Alley begins with an extraordinary description of a freak-show geek – alcoholic and abject 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. William Lindsay Gresham’s novel is a dark jewel, a classic American tale about the varieties of deception and self-deception and the dream of redemption – a dream that is only a nightmare in disguise.