THE BLUE MOON CIRCUS

Michael Raleigh, Author . Sourcebooks $22 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4022-0015-1

Lewis Tully, the proud, resilient protagonist of Raleigh's rollicking, warmhearted seventh novel, ekes out a living managing a circus in Oklahoma circa 1919, even though his Blue Moon Circus and Menagerie is prone to hardships devastating enough to shut down show after show. A catastrophic flood is the latest disaster, forcing Tully to retire permanently. Fast-forward to 1926, when Tully is being tried in court for gambling at a speakeasy. The judge (a family friend) suspends his jail sentence with the stipulation that Lewis return to circus life for one more try. With confidence that mounts as the story gains momentum, Tully manages to round up most of his original group of performers, including an aging but agile posse of clowns, a pack of feisty animal acts, a terrifyingly unique snake charmer, a red-haired ape, and mind reader Harley Fitzroy, "the greatest magician there ever was." Along for the ride is nine-year-old Charlie, a new arrival in Tully's life since Tully's sister Alma can no longer care for the boy. Despite the threats of a rival circus owner, vindictive Hector Blaney, and the memory of past failures, Lewis bravely takes his show on the road. Dozens of successful performances across the Western states buoy his spirits, but then Hector Blaney's henchmen try to sabotage the campground. It is another natural disaster, however, that delivers the final blow to Lewis's circus career. As dramatic and engaging as a high-wire act, the novel combines honest storytelling with down-home wit. There's plenty of smartly written, feel-good fun under this big top. (Apr.)

Forecast:This easy-to-like novel, issued in a 30,000 first printing, is a good hand-selling prospect for booksellers, who can recommend it to fans of Carter Beats the Devil and other show-business yarns.

Reviewed on: 04/07/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
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