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Showing 1-10 of 30 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 41 reviews
on December 21, 2009
"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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on July 4, 2012
"The French Quarter; An Informal History of the New Orleans Underworld" is an extremely detailed, well documented history running from the founding of New Orleans in the early 1700's until the late 1930's when the book was written. The author, Herbert Asbury, specialized in this type of history. He also wrote "Gangs of New York' (later a movie) and "The Barbary Coast."
The book is chock full of names and dates of all the crooks, prostitutes, and scandals that formed the history and somewhat notorious reputation of the legendary city. Slavery, voodoo, gambling, murdering, arson -- they are all there in intricate detail.

It is a long sometimes fascinating, frequently confusing account which helpfully, carefully locates each atrocity and house of ganmbling and/or prostitution geographically on the streets of the city. It could literally be used as an aid in a walking tour of the sinful history of New Orleans, expecially the French Quarter.

I enjoyed reading it very much, but it is a little bit like going to school, if they taught such scandalous material.
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on February 7, 2013
I love "The City", and particularly its French Quarter. NOLA's history is incredible in the annals of our Country's early development. Asbury does an excellent job of detailing its darker side of that history and truly, it is interesting. My main fault is that this book seemed a bit ponderous read and one that required quite a time to complete.

That said, his book seems well researched, factual and for a student of history, particularly the darker side of early New Orleans, well worth the considerable investment of time to learn of and understand it.
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on May 31, 2010
This is a history of New Orleans and the French Quarter, from the earliest Western settlements to the end of the 19th century. It's less a story than a chronicle (think Barbara Tuchman rather than Gangs of New York, although Herbert Asbury, who wrote this book, also wrote Gangs of New York). And it's a chronicle of the underworld of New Orleans, not a history of the city per se. Asbury takes us through a colorful succession of scoundrels, giving the impression of New Orleans as a kind of small-scale criminal opportunist's paradise -- there's always a way to cheat other people out of their money, take advantage of others' greed and/or gullibility, and capitalize on the "vice" trade.

One of the things I learned by reading Asbury's book was the diversity of influences on New Orleans culture -- Caribbean and African blacks, Acadian/French, Spanish, English, Irish, Italian, . . . . (Native Americans are not prominently mentioned -- not sure if that's just a reflection of Asbury's emphasis on the New Orleans underworld).
The mafia and even the Spanish Inquisition (which no one suspects) play a role alongside river thieves, brothel owners, gamblers, and all the rest. Especially striking are the number of women who appear in roles as brothel owners, thieves, and murderers.

Not a page-turner but a book that will give you a broader perspective on the history of New Orleans.
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on August 5, 2013
I have been to NO several times of the past 5 years. Was there after Hurricane Katrina too. I wish I had read this book before my travels there. It is easy, fun and exciting reading. I really enjoyed the books. 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. It really opened my eyes up to the history and going-ons of early French Quarter with it's rascals, murderers, thieves, politicians, heros and underbelly. Now that I read this book I will enjoy NO and The French Quarter next week on my return. I look forward to retracing some of the places of history and interest.
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on May 23, 2012
While written in 1936, many of the names are familiar ones today in New Orleans and Louisiana history.

One of the great things about this book is each of the 14 chapters stands alone - if you want to just read about criminals, or voodoo, or the early history - you can do so. The book has many laugh out loud moments, which help balance some of the more serious episodes in the book - such as the lynching of the Italians.

I have the paperback edition published in 2003 by Knopf. While the illustrations are not as clear as some hardbacks, they still show the detail needed to support the stories.

Denver Mullican
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on June 26, 2016
I made the mistake of assuming this book was bout the mob- The Mafia - in New Orleans. Its not. It was written in 1936, and covers mostly the 1800's. The first 1/3 of the book deals with New Orleans under French and then Spanish control. I lost interest before the War of 1812.
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on January 3, 2014
This book is somewhat dated and reflects the prejudices of its time. Nonetheless, it's a fascinating account of the early history of one of the most interesting cities in the US. I found it an invaluable research tool. New Orleans in its early days was dangerous and dirty, but also exotic and lively. Asbury's chronicle is one of the best.
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on February 1, 2012
One of the best books on the history of a place that I have ever read. Starting from the VERY beginnings of New Orleans the author took me on a ride that I will never forget. There were things in this book that my very own mother and grandmother, who were born and raised in New Orleans had never known. So, I had to buy the book for my mom too. Even if you are not interested in the history of New Orleans this is an amazing book to read. I absolutely loved it.
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on February 4, 2012
I am a mardi gras devotee, attending 20 yrs now. We've ridden in parades, gone to the balls, etc. Love everything about New Orleans: music, food, cultre, history, archtecture-everything. This book gave me lots of interesting information about the history of my favorite city. Anyone who has an interest in New Orleans, pirates, history in general, should enjoy this book.
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