An American institution of the first half of this century provides the background for a story which turns an Iowa community inside out. The sordid is there- along with the romance and nostalgia- and much of it does not make comfortable or pleasant reading. For the plot centers around one couple,- Ira Bixby, who controls not only the taxi concession, but acts as bootlegger in a ""dry"" town, his wife, Nita, who had made a business of her body for a large number of the town's lusting males, and small Carole, on whose future both of them were centered. But Carole was bound to know about her mother, sooner or later, if she didn't get out of town -- and the Chautauqua provided the catalyst that changed Nita's plans. Carole was chosen as The Sleeping Beauty; her innate gift held promise of a future on the stage; Nita decided to reform. And here fate tripped her up-and she found herself a murderess, with her husband charged with the crime. This thread weaves through numerous subplots:- Hale, manager of the Chautauqua, finally after nine years, finds Margaret, the girl he'd loved and lost; Jimmy learns that it isn't his childhood sweetheart, Betty, that he wants, but a girl with the show; and Betty finds she is pregnant by a traveling salesman -- and a news story brings him back to her. So in the end, almost everyone is on firmer ground, the Chautauqua moves on -- and the town sits back to look at itself with new eyes. Not for the squeamish- but it has its moments. Major publisher promotion.