Summary and book reviews of Empire of Sin by Gary Krist

Empire of Sin

A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans

by Gary Krist

Empire of Sin by Gary Krist X
Empire of Sin by Gary Krist
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2014, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2015, 432 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky

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Book Summary

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.

Excerpt
Empire of Sin

It was, in many respects, the most brutal assault so far: a two-year-old child killed instantly by a single blow to the skull; her critically injured parents rendered senseless by multiple head traumas. Clotted gore soaked the bed where they all lay. Across the walls and curtains around them, blood spatters radiated like birdshot. And yet, despite this evidence of what must have been a savage frenzy of violence, no one in the neighborhood had heard a thing. The perpetrator had been able to escape without a single witness to the crime, and with hours to spare before his deed was detected. The axman was apparently becoming even more adept at his trade with time.

The crime had been discovered at about seven o'clock on a Sunday morning. Several neighbors had made earlier visits to the grocery, which usually opened at five a.m., and had merely walked away when they found it closed. But one little girl named Hazel Johnson was more persistent. After getting no ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Empire of Sin is a swift, breathtaking read that adds more depth to the history of early New Orleans for those already familiar with it, and tidal waves of emotion for whom it is new.   (Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky).

Full Review (621 words).

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Media Reviews

Where New Orleans
Focusing on the battle for (and against) morality in 'the Sodom of the South' from the 1890s to the early 20th century, Krist's hard-to-put-down read recounts a volatile time for vice in a town built on it.

Chicago Tribune
Wide-reaching, vividly drawn . . . Empire of Sin isn't simply the story of how New Orleans came to be, but rather how New Orleans came to learn to fight.

Washington Post
The book’s subtitle, A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans, sums up Krist’s story well — it’s a book both lurid and scholarly, and thoroughly entertaining.

Kirkus Reviews
Krist's lively book is only marred by an overlong section devoted to a series of axe murders that plagued the city. A wild, well-told tale.

Booklist
A fascinating, detail-filled tribute to a city and an era.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. [A] rich, well-structured story more vivid and twist-filled than most crime fiction... Krist leads a perfect trip into the short-lived societal experiment aptly named "Storyville.

Library Journal, Top 10 Editors' Picks BEA 2014
In the vein of Erik Larson's best seller The Devil in the White City, Gary Krist's exposé of New Orleans at the turn of the century…proves that truth really is stranger than fiction by detailing the prominent figures within Storyville, the Crescent City's red-light district.

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Beyond the Book

New Orleans' Spanish French Quarter

Nestled on page 69 of Empire of Sin is a surprising blink-and-you-might-miss-it sentence in parentheses: "Spain did, however, rebuild much of the central city after two devastating fires, which is why the architecture of the French Quarter is actually Spanish."

St. Louis CathedralIn 1718, John Law, a Scottish financier who had established a private bank in France two years earlier, established a "burg" at France's request to be called New Orleans. Jean Baptiste Bienville, a French Canadian naval officer who was also the governor for Law's Company of the Indies, created a military-style grid of seventy squares that would become the French Quarter. Of the original French Quarter, the layout of the streets and central square remain, as well as the ...

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