Home to the notorious 'Blue Book', which listed the names and addresses of every prostitute living in the city, New Orleans's infamous red-light district gained a reputation as one of the most raucous in the world. But the New Orleans underworld consisted of much more than the local bordellos. It was also well known as the early gambling capital of the United States, and sported one of the most violent records of street crime in the country. In The Gangs of New Orleans, Herbert Asbury, author of The Gangs of New York, chronicles the immense underbelly of 'The Big Easy'. From the murderous exploits of Mary Jane 'Bricktop' Jackson and Bridget Fury, two prostitutes who became famous after murdering a number of their associates, to the faux-revolutionary 'filibusters' who, backed by hundreds of thousands of dollars of public support - though without official governmental approval - undertook military missions to take over the bordering Spanish regions in Texas, the French Quarter had it all. Once again, Asbury takes the reader on an intriguing journey through a unique history of the American underworld.
The recent interest in the author's celebrated The Gangs of New York, has prompted this welcome reprint of his take on New Orleans. Here Asbury chronicles the underworld history of 'The Big Easy'; tracing events from Bienville's early difficulties in establishing the city, through Spanish rule, American Independence and up to the late 19th century. It's a very entertaining work, covering far more than the activities of criminal gangs. From the off the book throws out countless rich anecdotes and tales, such as those concerning the infamous Jean Lafitte - a gentleman hero and patriot to some, pirate and killer to others - and the nefarious activities of various women of the Blue Book - a kind of Yellow Pages of prostitution. Along the way there are dozens more glittering nuggets to enjoy, featuring an array of con artists, gamblers, killers, Voodoo priestesses, and a complementary gallery of feckless citizens, suckers and victims. (Kirkus UK)