It’s no surprise that Guillermo del Toro sought for years to make his own neo-noir version of Gresham’s novel. The heady combination of the occult, tarot, the carnival and grifters in the ‘spook racket’ made the original novel a bestseller and led matinee idol Tyrone Power to risk his own career and fame to film it in 1947. At the heart of the novel is the tarot, something Gresham took very seriously. His preface to Charles Williams’ tarot novel The Greater Trumps serves as a primer to the ‘wicked pack of cards’ and demonstrates his skill in reading the deck. Gresham uses the Major Arcana to structure his own novel — with some interesting changes.
Gresham understood the appeal of reading the tarot to find answers to our deepest questions. He realised, too, how that desire to know could be exploited by those who master the tools of the trade only to swindle the vulnerable. Stan Carlisle learns to use the power the cards show him, but fails to see that cards also reveal the downward spiral that awaits him as he gets deeper and deeper into the world of fake spiritualism, looking for the big payoff that has eluded him.
K. A. Laity is an award-winning author, scholar, filmmaker, critic, editor, and arcane artist. Her film A Fire Ritual for the Heart was featured in the Silent Fire exhibition co-curated by the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Nasty Women Connecticut. Her fiction includes Chastity Flame, The Mangrove Legacy, Lush Situation, Love is a Grift, Satan’s Sorority, How to Be Dull, White Rabbit, Dream Book, A Cut-Throat Business, Owl Stretching, and Pelzmantel. She has edited My Wandering Uterus, Respectable Horror, Weird Noir, Noir Carnival and Drag Noir, plus written many short stories, scholarly essays, songs, and more. Laity has served as History Witch for Witches & Pagans. Her 2011-2 Fulbright Fellowship at the National University of Ireland, Galway, focused on Digital Humanities. Her work has been translated into Italian, Polish, Slovene, German, and Portuguese. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Her podcast Is It Funny? can be found here. Her radio programme Surreal Noir can be found here.
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