Sin in the Second City

  • by Karen Abbott
  • Narrated by Joyce Bean
  • 11 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Operating in Chicago's notorious Levee district at the dawn of the 20th century, the Everleigh Club's proprietors, two aristocratic sisters named Minna and Ada Everleigh, welcomed moguls and actors, senators and athletes, foreign dignitaries, and literary icons, into their stately double mansion, where 30 stunning Everleigh "butterflies" awaited their arrival. Courtesans named Doll, Suzy Poon Tang, and Brick Top devoured raw meat, to the delight of Prince Henry of Prussia, and recited poetry for Theodore Dreiser. Whereas lesser madams pocketed most of a harlot's earnings, and kept a "whipper" on staff to mete out discipline, the Everleighs made sure their girls dined on gourmet food, were examined by an honest physician, and were even tutored in the literature of Balzac. Not everyone appreciated the sisters' attempts to elevate the industry. Rival Levee madams hatched numerous schemes to ruin the Everleighs, including an attempt to frame them for the death of department-store heir Marshall Field, Jr. But the sisters' most daunting foes were the Progressive Era reformers, who sent the entire country into a frenzy with lurid tales of "white slavery" - the allegedly rampant practice of kidnapping young girls and forcing them into brothels. This furor shaped America's sexual culture and had repercussions all the way to the White House.
With a cast of characters that includes Jack Johnson, John Barrymore, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., William Howard Taft, "Hinky Dink" Kenna, and Al Capone, Sin in the Second City is Karen Abbott's colorful, nuanced portrait of the iconic Everleigh sisters, their world-famous club, and the perennial clash between our nation's hedonistic impulses and Puritanical roots. Culminating in a dramatic last stand between brothel keepers and crusading reformers, Sin in the Second City offers a vivid snapshot of America's journey from Victorian-era propriety to 20th-century modernity.

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What the Critics Say

"An entertaining, well-researched slice of Windy City history." (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Great book - brilliant narrator!

Ms. Abbott's history of this little niche in Chicago's history and an important step in the take over of the politics by the religious right makes this book interesting beyond just the salacious subject matter. She handles the story with the class and wit that would make the Everyleigh sisters proud.

The other delight of this book is it's narrator Joyce Bean. I'll simply say: I want her to narrate everything I listen to!
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- Z. Halley

A Losing Battle

This was a very good book, I wasn't fully prepared for the depth of human trafficking that came with it. Not knowing the long and hard to believe history that America had with what was called "white slavery" the sale of young women to brothels and pimps. I am very interested in Chicago's history and there is a lot of it here. I recommend this book for sure, but be warned that there were some horrible things going on at the turn of the century and that it is all covered here. As far as the performance, I felt that it was a very good reading, not one of my favorites but good none the less.
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- Devin Shughart

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-06-2007
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio