William Lindsay Gresham
William Lindsay Gresham was born in Baltimore on August 20, 1909. His family moved briefly to Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1916, then to New York City, where he graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn in 1926. Gresham's was a tortured mind and a tormented life, and he sought to banish his demons through a maze of dead-end ways, from Marxism to psychoanalysis to Christianity to Alcoholics Anonymous to Rinzai Zen Buddhism. From these demons came his novel Nightmare Alley, one of the underground classics of American literature. He wrote one more novel, Limbo Tower, which went largely unnoticed. Three nonfiction books followed: Monster Midway, Houdini, and The Book of Strength. Nightmare Alley brought Gresham fame and fortune, but he lost it all. The second of his three wives, the poet Joy Davidman, left him in 1953 for the British author C. S. Lewis. He killed himself in New York City on September 14, 1962.