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The French Quarter: An Informal History of the New Orleans Underworld Paperback – February 27, 2003
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Top Customer Reviews
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:
" ...Read more ›
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'.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A classic. Take it with a grain of salt, but it's a great story about the French Quarter and New Orleans.Published 2 months ago by Kevin
It has many racist terms and views on events which do not seem to be substantiated by any citations or solid facts.Published 8 months ago by Wiselpsu
This book was good. It wasn't however what i expected and that is why I gave it 3 stars. Honestly the amount of research and work that went into its construction deserve more. Read morePublished 11 months ago by John A. Brissette
A nice inside look at old New Orleans, its traditions and subculture.Published 15 months ago by Write Stuff