The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sin Show - Carny Smut

"They Sold Sawdust and Sex in a Rolling Love Circus!"

mmmmmm. Sawdust

After reading a great and inspiring article in Paperback Parade #56 entitled "Carny Cuties and Killers" by Kurt Brokaw, I've been tracking down genre novels set in the carnival/ sideshow world. My first was Fredric Brown's Madball (which I read over vacation) and I just finished Sin Show by Don Holliday (likely a pseudonym of Victor J. Banis).

This one wasn't mentioned in Brokaw's article (it's possible he wasn't looking at under-the-counter lit) but it's worth a read. In the book a carnival barker is trying to buy half interest in the show he's traveling with, which is in danger of foreclosure from a corrupt small-town judge. The barker needs to raise a three grand stake which he attempts through blackmail, seduction and coercion. The barker is an amoral shit but he wants to save the show from the even bigger, towny shit so you kind of root for him.

Holliday doesn't include any of the barker's spiel which was disappointing but there's some nice detail about 1960s carnival games. I also discovered a vintage put-down which I hadn't heard before: when the barker saves a town pretty boy from two aggressive gay clowns, he tells the kid to beat it and that his "feet don't fit no limb". I have no idea what that means but I'm going to use it at the first opportunity.

There's also a really funny sex scene where the barker is pounding away at an over-the-hill, yet stacked fortune teller while feeling around for her stash. "My hands tightened beneath the mattress for leverage as I drove and hammered and thrust and then . . . I found her dough."

I wouldn't read any of these vintage smut titles unless you can take the misogyny and racism with a cinder block-sized grain of salt. The attitudes aren't any worse than films or television of the period, they're just more explicit (which makes them more historically interesting IMHO).

Next up: Side-Show Girl by Steve Harragan and Jungle Girl by John Moore.

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