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The French Quarter: An Informal History of the New Orleans Underworld Paperback – February 27, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (February 27, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560254947
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560254942
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 5.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"For any true-crime collection." -- Library Journal, July 2003

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Customer Reviews

Critics wrote it was like going back in time to a real New Orleans brothel.
pjcabba
As with any book there were a few areas which did not interest me as much as others, but all total it was a fun read.
Harley C. Morgan
Even if you are not interested in the history of New Orleans this is an amazing book to read.
Karri Dell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book stops at 1917 with the closing of Storyville, and was first published in 1938. If at all possible, buy a good original printing. The trade paperback now out has poor, small reproductions of the original illustrations. This is a wonderful, engaging, laugh-out-loud book to be read time and time again. However, it has some factual errors. Asbury implies that Storyville was in the French Quarter-it was not. He also repeats verbatim some "legends" that were invented long after the fact. If you want a correct history of Storyville, see Al Rose's book.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Mary G. Longorio VINE VOICE on January 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Herbert Asbury must have been the daring writer of his day, daring to approach topics such as the red light district of New Orleans and the flesh trade in books that have retained a cult following to this day. In somewhat florrid prose, he manages to present a fairly accurate history of the French Quarter, its denizens, and chatacters, includong voodoo queens and madams and the social climates that shaped it. It portrays the politics and characters, the scoundrals and the thiefs. The book is as much a part of the era in which it was written, although New Orleans is a bit removed from the social climes of the rest of the country. It is a facinating portrait of a n era and a place that is a delight to visit for a time.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Myra Byanka on July 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
I am so happy this book is being reprinted! I had a copy some years back and howled with laughter at the antics of some the the Quarter's historic gangs, crooks, and ne'er-do-wells. If you are planning your first trip to New Orlean's, this book is a must read, or if you just want to sit back and have a good time and be tickled by some truly amazing characters (like Bricktop) and their pecadillos, buy this book.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Haschka TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
THE FRENCH QUARTER is a history of crime, vice, and general rascality in New Orleans from its founding in 1718 by the French to the abolition of the Storyville red-light district in 1917.
In fifteen chapters, author Herbert Asbury describes the disruptive roles played by keelboat ruffians, revolutionists, gamblers, duelists, prostitutes, corrupt cops and politicians, pirates, filibusters (soldiers of fortune), vigilantes, pickpockets, muggers, thugs, the Mafia, and voodoo practitioners in the lives of the otherwise law-abiding citizenry. Anyone reading Asbury's narrative might be led to believe that good folks were a miniscule minority.
THE FRENCH QUARTER suffers from being published almost seventy years ago. Aside from a number of old sketch reproductions, and several badly reproduced B&W photographs of bordello interiors and exteriors during the Storyville era, THE FRENCH QUARTER is sadly lacking in illustration. There's not even a map of the city from which to get one's bearings.
This work is wonderfully informative as far as it goes, perhaps occasionally more so than is needed to make the point that the city, especially in the mid-1800s, could be a noxious place. The narrative is sober and straightforward, only occasionally displaying dry humor. A couple examples from the text will suffice to give one a sense of the book's tone and the city's iniquity.
Regarding barrel-houses,the lowest form of drinking place: "The owner of one such establishment not only doped all of his liquor, but maintained his own staff of sneak thieves ... (who) worked on a percentage basis and took turns robbing the sodden wretches who were dragged from the barrel-house."
Regarding the streetwalkers of the Dauphine and Burgundy Street vice area after the Civil War:
" ...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Chris on December 21, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Times are not good here. The city is crumbling into ashes. It has been buried under a lava flood of taxes and frauds and maladministrations so that it has become only a study for archaeologists. Its condition is so bad that when I write about it, as I intend to do soon, nobody will believe I am telling the truth. But it is better to live here in sackcloth and ashes, than to own the whole state of Ohio."-Lafcadio Hearn, 1879.

Readers of Herbert Asbury's book will understand what prompted the sentiment of the comments by Hearn about New Orleans. Asbury makes the story of New Orleans a very involving one. I loved the descriptions of New Orleans in the 18th and 19th centuries. In Asbury's book many historical characters walk through such as Jean Lafitte and Andrew Jackson. You will read about the administration of Ben Butler during the Civil War and also the practice of dueling. Asbury is also not afraid to explore the seamy underside of this incredible city. A reader will not believe how colorful of a place New Orleans was. All of it is here: Voodoo, the slaves, filibustering soldiers, and Storyville. There are incredible stories from the 1850s of opposing political forces squaring off as heavily armed forces. You will read about the incredible hardships that the city suffered when hit by Yellow fever various times and how the death toll from that dwarfed even the awful death toll of Hurricane Katrina. A reader will understand that this city has seen hardship before and still will continue on. That Hurricanes, the British, Crime, Corrupt politicians or Yellow Fever will never stop it.

I recommend this book highly and think that it is definitely in the league of the author's 'The Gangs of New York'.

A+
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