Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Published February 25th 2014 by Plume
Mary was more or less born into the world's oldest profession. Both her mother and her grandmother followed the same calling out of necessity. The same was true of Mary as she plied her trade as an "alley whore" on Venus Alley. But, as various opportunities arose, she steeled her herself and took them, not wanting to be under the control of her pimp any longer.
This is also the tale of the creation of "Storyville", the red-light district or the Tenderloin. And the book has cameo appearances by some Jazz and Blues greats such as Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. There is also the appearance of the photographer E.J. Bellocq.
There is a lot of history in this book, but there is still a creative touch. The authors explain in the afterward what is history and what they changed or embellished. For that reason alone, it's an interesting book if you are a fan of Jazz Age New Orleans. The descriptions of the city are fascinating and often sensory oriented - smells, sights, textures, sounds.
A lot of time is spent on the becoming of Josie Arlington, not so much on how she is as a Madam. She worked hard to come up in the world, I expected to see more of how she acted as a Madam. More of an explanation for why she is the way she is at the beginning of the book. It felt like the bit about her life ended rather abruptly.
Mary and those closest to her were the best fleshed out characters. The other major Madam in the book was also painted well, if in an unflattering light. The plot is slow in parts. Other parts zip along well. It took me longer than I would have liked to finish the book because of the slow parts. Still, overall, it's a good book - interesting plot, characters, and details. The inclusion of photographs from the time period is a nice touch.
I liked the book, but I didn't love it. I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. I would recommend it most for people who have an interest in New Orleans history, particularly in the oldest profession and the creation of the red-light district. It is gritty. I would not call it a romp, though it does have it's light-hearted moments. It is a realistic view of what life was like for a prostitute at that time in history.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.