Living in New Orleans has always been dangerous. Hurricanes, flooding, and tropical diseases were among the natural dangers present even before widespread settlement. As a busy port for French and Spanish colonies, it attracted many rough characters and supported a booming vice economy. Some histories portray the city as racially tolerant before it become a part of the U.S. and less so when it really succumbed to Southern culture. It had notorious slave markets. By the 1880s, it had a bad reputation that business people and upper crust New Orleanians wished to improve. Novelist-turned-historian Gary Krist recounts a struggle for law and order in the city in Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans.
As he did in his Chicago book City of Scoundrels, Krist weaves together stories of crime, politics, and culture and how they shaped a city's future. Unlike that previous book in which the events occurred in twelve days, Empire of Sin is a story spanning decades and including many characters, including saloon owner and state representative Tom Anderson, brothel owner Josie Arlington, and young jazz musician Louis Armstrong. Some of the most interesting of the characters were trying to profit from vice while living in the respectable part of New Orleans.
I listened to Empire of Sin on an audiobook read by actor and frequent book narrator Robertson Dean. It was a pleasure.
Krist, Gary. Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans. Crown Publishers, 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780770437060
Audiobook: Dreamscape Media, 2014. 9 compact discs. ISBN 9781633793231.