Originally published in 1953, this great hard boiled pulp novel has just been reprinted by Black Gat Books, a division of Stark House, which has reprinted a number of pulp classics over the last few years.
Set in a traveling carnival that's stopped in a small town for a few weeks before its season ends, the book is populated by carnival barkers, strippers, fortune tellers, grifters, roustabouts and a host of the other seedy types that were associated with outfits like this in the middle of the last century. Everyone around the operation is on the make and seems to have his or her own con, and if there aren't enough marks among the square johns who come out to the carnival from town, a lot of the carnies are not above taking advantage of each other, in nightly poker games and other diversions.
The stakes are raised dramatically when two of the carnies hit a bank and get away with $42,000. Before they have a chance to enjoy the money, though, they're in a car accident. One of the robbers is killed; the other is laid up in the hospital for several weeks, recovering from his injuries. By the time the second robber is able to return to the carnival, others among the carnival's crew are beginning to put two and two together. Some of them will now be looking for the stolen money, which they assume that the robbers must have hidden nearby, and once the hunt begins, no one will be safe.
The search for the stolen loot sets off a cascading series of events that constitute the novel's story. It's an intricate plot, and watching the pieces come together is hugely enjoyable. The cast of characters is also expertly devised, and Brown creates a truly believable world. Just watching the inner workings of the carnival is fun in and of itself and, all in all, this is a book that will appeal to large numbers of readers who love classic pulp fiction.