Gus the Great by Thomas W. Duncan, a historical novel about a circus, is one of my favorite books of all time. I see that there are used copies available, most of them pretty cheap, on Amazon. It’s been long out of print, but it’s well worth the time and trouble to find it:
I first read Gus the Great more than 40 years ago. I have since read it many, many times. It sits on my shelf with age-tanned paper, a ragged cover, and a broken spine. I handle it reverently. The character of Gus is unforgettable–with his fast-talking flim-flam, his bulk, his complete and utter belief in himself and his PT Barnum outlook. Gus breaks hearts and swindles men with equal aplomb and yet there is something poignantly lovable about Gus. Through it all there is the circus, like a character in itself. Every character is vivid, and when the big cat trainer meets his appointed end you feel it was justly deserved. I was delighted to see this book available on Amazon. I would like to see many people fall in love with this book the way I did. Anyone who likes Water For Elephants or circus books in general, will love Gus the Great. It would make a great film.
Another circus book still available is The Catch Trap by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It’s the love story of two male trapeze artists, Tommy and Mario, in the 1940’s and ’50’s. Beautifully written, as are all of Bradley’s books, it’s also exciting, compassionate, and vivid.
A third one, also available inexpensively on Amazon, is a little self-published book called Circus Buffoon by Danny Chapman. The book is set in the more modern-day circus. The writing itself is naively amateurish, almost endearingly so, and the plot is rather “Greatest-Show-On-Earth”-ish, but because the author is a former circus clown in real life he brings wonderful reality to the details. It would be neat if a real editor and publisher would work with him and republish it professionally. There are used copies available cheap on Amazon.
I hope if any of you read any of these books you’ll let me know your thoughts on them.
P.S. — I’d like to add that my own book, The Phoenix, has a section in the last half wherein the main character joins the circus. It’s not a long part of the story but it’s fun.