Karen Abbott - Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul

I like to read books about a city while I'm there or shortly thereafter. Late last year I spent almost a week in Chicago or this book probably wouldn't have found its way on to my radar screen. I stayed at the Palmer House which was mentioned several times in the book. I think those somewhat familiar with Chicago will find it most enjoyable, but just about anyone can appreciate Sin in the Second City.

Abbott writes this book so that it almost sounds like fiction, but it is based on real events, people, places, etc. You have to question the honesty of some of the sources providing the quotes, but in the end it probably doesn't stretch the truth any more than much of the non-fiction out there.

The "white slavery" issue is a bit overdone, but I guess that is the point. It was overdone by those religious folks who profited off of selling books dealing with it so that the whole country was in a state of panic. I suppose it was the way the public got its "sex scandal" fixes a hundred years ago when there wasn't TV.

There are some interesting items at the end of this book. For instance, the author comments on her sources and their reliability as well as the writing process--something readers aren't normally privy to. She also includes a couple of pages of questions for those choosing the book for discussion in a book club setting. I haven't seen this before. Perhaps it is a new ploy by publishers to try to get book clubs to select their titles.

from the publisher:
Step into the perfumed parlors of the Everleigh Club, the most famous brothel in American history—and a catalyst for a culture war that rocked the nation. Operating in Chicago's notorious Levee district at the dawn of the last century, the Club's proprietors, two aristocratic sisters named Minna and Ada Everleigh, welcomed moguls and actors, senators and athletes, foreign dignitaries and literary icons into their stately double mansion, where thirty stunning Everleigh "butterflies" awaited their arrival. "How is my boy?" Madam Minna always asked, and it wasn't long before her boy was quite well, indeed. Courtesans named Doll, Diamond Bertha, and Brick Top devoured raw meat to the delight of Prince Henry of Prussia and recited poetry for Theodore Dreiser. Whereas lesser madams pocketed most of a harlot's earnings and kept a "whipper" on staff to mete out discipline, the Everleighs made sure their girls dined on gourmet food, were examined by an honest physician, and even tutored in the philosophy of Balzac.