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Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder,…
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Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New… (edition 2014)

by Gary Krist (Author)

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3706643,135 (3.78)61
Member:Dmoorela
Title:Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans
Authors:Gary Krist (Author)
Info:Crown (2014), Edition: 1St Edition, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:Louisiana

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Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans by Gary Krist

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Showing 1-5 of 66 (next | show all)
I’ve always been fascinated with New Orleans. It’s such a contradictory city, with a touch of evil hovering over it, and an unsavory feel that often makes me nervous to visit. Yet, the foods that come from that part of the country are unparalleled.
Until I read Gary Krist’s nonfiction piece, Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans, I had come to believe that the debauchery of the 1960s through the ‘70s was at its height there. To me, and what I knew about the city, New Orleans made Las Vegas seem like a night out for nuns and priests.
Krist focuses on a scant thirty years, from 1890 to 1920. When I first realized that the book 448 and that 105 of them were the bibliography, notes, and index, I was a little overwhelmed, afraid that the writing would be too deep for me to sink my teeth into. However, Krist’s has written an easy-to-read narrative that held me attention from the beginning.
I enjoyed reading/learning about such characters and places as Storyville (where the city tried to coral its vice) and Tom Anderson (its unofficial mayor). There were the madams like Lulu White and Josie Arlington. There were the saloons and gambling houses. There was the immigrant population---Italians, whom too seemed to be in the same mess today’s illegals are in. I ws mesmerized by the corruption that ran rampart from the slums to the highest echelons of state government. Old Huey Long was a saint compared to some men back then; they make today’s politicians looks like humble old ladies.
I knew that New Orleans was a port-of-entry for many Italians, and they lived in slums and ghettos that reminded me of New York’s tenements. And I had learned of “Little Sicily” from a PBS special, The Italian-Americans.
There are three areas in the book that I really enjoyed reading: First, of course, are the jazzmen. Guys like Robert Charles, Buddy Bolden, Jellyroll Martin---how they created the music form that we now know as jazz, and how hard it was a musician wanted more than a gig in a whore house.
Second, was the Mafia or the Black-Hand. Krist could have delved into that more in my opinion, but still the rise and fall still fascinated me.
Third, the serial killer, The Axeman, seemed to target the Italians. Brutality knows no generation.
Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans is an easy read that I highly recommend. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. ( )
  juliecracchiolo | Jan 23, 2018 |
This is a history of New Orleans covering, roughly, the first quarter often 20th Century. It covers the rise and fall of the red-light district (Storyville and the French Quarter), the battles for political control of New Orleans, the development of jazz in the city, the development of criminal gangs in the city and the changing states of racial integration, harmony and tension during this period. Sensational murders are used as a framing device for these stories. Krist writes well and uses his main sources (the plethora of local journalism and police and court records) to strong effect. This is exciting history, excitingly presented.

Where the book falls, I think, is in trying to cover too much ground (see that list at the start of this review) and ends up not really giving enough space and depth to any of his subjects. Nor does he really tie all of these strands together (for example, the sections on jazz are not well integrated with any of the other themes). Maybe, there are one too many books struggling for recognition here. ( )
  pierthinker | Dec 28, 2017 |
So this book has been stilling in my Currently Reading pile for a long time and I finally think it is time for me to review/ explain this. As you may know I am a Young Adult and Middle Grade blogger and reader and so Nonfiction is not normally my 'jam'. I picked this book out from Blogging for Books in hopes that the history would be able to pull me in and really push me through the book. Sadly this did not happen, i am just stuck in my ways.

Empire of Sin is a historical account of New Orleans and how it came to be and tells the history like a story. Reference is used throughout, like newspaper quotes and journal entries etc, but the information is put to the reader as if a tale. It follows various people of the time and place and how they interacted with New Orleans and other community members and portrayed all of this in a very interesting way.

So why couldn't I finish this, even though I liked it? Well the pages were so dense with text that I would start reading and get very discouraged about my progress or lack-there-of. I was interested in the content but I often read before bed/in bed and the historical aspects and the wall of text would end up putting me to sleep. I was very disappointed with myself that I could not keep up with this book. so for now I am adding it to the DNF but do give it 3 starts because I was liking it even though I could not finish it (at this time - I may pick it up again at some point). ( )
  sszkutak | Sep 28, 2016 |
This is a fascinating history of New Orleans centered on the three themes of music (Jazz), vice, and crime. All themes are played out in a wider context of struggles for power using methods illegal (crime) and legal (political). The most successful players in the struggles were those who played on both sides of the street: using seduction and brute force when necessary, and using the political power of the statehouse when convenient. Well referenced with an extensive bibliography, the book provides entertainment in its detailed descriptions of the lives of several bad boys, and bad girls, who contributed to the image of New Orleans that many people outside Louisiana hold today; one in which Mardi Gras takes place in some form all year long.

There is a somber, pervasive, dark theme throughout the book when it comes to the plight of people of color, not all of whom could be considered black. Enjoying a somewhat free and equal societal status in the 1890s, their story illustrates equality gone wrong. They did become equal in rights and freedoms to all other people of color in many of the southern states surrounding Louisiana, but that was a downward, undesirable trend. Yes, many city residents of color would go north to seek better employment opportunities and a lifestyle with more freedom, but both “halves” of the country had, by the 1930s, institutionalized racial systems; they were just expressed differently.

Faced with limits on how many pages a book should have, the author/historian has to choose how to focus the book; when is it time to quit telling the story? In this case the author chose a chapter (logically, just prior to the afterword) to wrap up the city’s history in a few paragraphs which went from the 1930s to post Hurricane Katrina. I was disappointed and surprised that it ended so abruptly. My Kindle book noted I was at 68%, after that it was bibliography and notes. This might please a historian greatly, but I wanted more of the story hinted at in that almost last chapter.

When I think of New Orleans, my preconceptions remain, many of them reinforced by this book. New Orleans is Mardi Gras and Huey Long. Maybe that is for future Krist books.
  ajarn7086 | Mar 5, 2016 |
[NOTE: First time reviewing nonfiction.]

When I first read the synopsis of this book, I thought it would make for a good departure from my usual read -- some creative nonfiction. And while Empire of Sin definitely delivered on that front, I thought it had a few weaknesses that really hampered how effective it was as an interesting history of New Orleans.

But let's start with the good: the variety of content.

Krist manages to cover a significant number of topics key to the development of New Orleans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. From the birth of jazz and black-white race relations to New Orleans' reputation as a city of sin and vice -- this book paints the numerous threads that were gradually woven together over the course of several decades post-Reconstruction to create the very colorful city of New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century. I was impressed at the breadth of topics discussed in this book and how each connected to all others to form a fairly cohesive picture of the city. One that I was totally unaware of -- I've had very, very little exposure to the history of New Orleans prior to reading this book.

So, on that front, this was an interesting read. It gave me some fairly good insight into the development of New Orleans, and I learned quite a bit. Always fun.

However (and here's the bad), this book suffers from a number of structural issues that weakens its overall execution. While the topics discussed always kept my attention, the chapters often abruptly jumped from one topic to the other. The transitions between themes were almost nonexistent, and because this book includes so many historical figures, I frequently found myself confused -- mixing up names and the like -- because by the time the book got back around to continuing on a previous theme, I'd long forgotten most of the people involved. There were simply too many people to keep track of for me to effectively do so with the book jumping around like it did.

I also thought the opening emphasis on crime added little to the overall book. It frames the book as if everything would connect to the mentioned crimes in some way, but most of the topics were almost wholly unrelated, and when the book finally got back around to discussing the crimes, I'd long stopped caring (and almost totally forgotten) about them. Had the focus on the crime not been there, I wouldn't have had the expectations I did going into the rest of my book, and I might have enjoyed it slightly more.

Finally, I found the ending of the book VERY weak. Everything winds down suddenly and without much detail, which I thought was strange given how much detail went into everything else. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate succinct writing as much as the next reader, but in this case, the ending jumped right over succinct and hit awkwardly abrupt territory. Instead of a big finale, the book just sort of fizzled out.

Overall, I think Empire of Sin made for an interesting history of New Orleans, but it suffered quite a bit from its jumbled structure.

_____

Rating

3/5

_____

...// Disclosure

I received a free copy of this title from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  ClaraCoulson | Nov 16, 2015 |
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It is no easy matter to go to heaven by way of New Orleans. - Reverend J. Chandler Gregg
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"The crime," as detectives would later tell the newspapers, was "one of the most gruesome in the annals of the New Orleans police."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0770437060, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:10 -0400)

"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"--… (more)

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