Thursday, December 11, 2014

Empire of Sin

Gary Krist

From bestselling author Gary Krist, a vibrant and immersive account of New Orleans’ other civil war, at a time when commercialized vice, jazz culture, and endemic crime defined the battlegrounds of the Crescent City

Empire of Sin re-creates the remarkable story of New Orleans’ thirty-years war against itself, pitting the city’s elite “better half” against its powerful and long-entrenched underworld of vice, perversity, and crime. This early-20th-century battle centers on one man: Tom Anderson, the undisputed czar of the city's Storyville vice district, who fights desperately to keep his empire intact as it faces onslaughts from all sides. Surrounding him are the stories of flamboyant prostitutes, crusading moral reformers, dissolute jazzmen, ruthless Mafiosi, venal politicians, and one extremely violent serial killer, all battling for primacy in a wild and wicked city unlike any other in the world (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

This story starts in the 1890s, when a decision was made to create a legalized vice district. The idea was to sequester things like prostitution, gambling, alcohol and music into one area, with the intent that this would make the rest of New Orleans safe and appealing to Northern investors. As you can imagine, there was alot of politics involved, both for and against the concept. In its heyday, this vice district was the place to go for anyone looking for action. It saw the beginning of jazz music and allowed interracial mingling. And it was these very same issues that brought about its demise in the 1920s.

This was so well written. The author seamlessly writes about this very interesting time period in the history of New Orleans. This was not just a statement of facts and statistics. Mr. Krist chose certain main characters to follow - well know brothel madams, astute businessmen, politicians and jazz musicians. By following along with them, we get the little nuances and side bar stories that make a historical piece so much more interesting. I really did find this to be an intriguing piece of New Orlean’s past and enjoyed the book from beginning to end.

My thanks to Crown Publishing, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.


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