" "The Night Club Era" should rate as a Broadway Koran. Other books on the subject are unnecessary if they agree with it, wrong if they differ from it, and in either case should be burned." -- Alva Johnston, from the Introduction
Written in the aftermath of Prohibition, Stanley Walker's "The Night Club Era" is a lively and idiosyncratic account of the people and places that defined New York's night life during the era of "the great American madness." Here we meet murderers and millionaires, gangsters, bartenders, celebrities of the stage, screen, and society, and a host of other colorful characters who populated the city's diverse night clubs, from El Fey to the Cotton Club. Walker relives the "night of incredulous sadness" on which the Volstead Act went into effect, visits a classic speakeasy, discussing the owner's delicate arrangements with policemen, prohibition agents, and bootleggers, and details the frequently brutal swindles practiced in the city's numerous clip joints and the tactics of the era's crime organizations, explaining precisely what happens when one is "taken for a ride." Among the larger-than-life night club habituA(c)s Walker sketches are Owney Madden, the elder statesman of the city's rackets; Walter Winchell, America's most influential columnist and the "brash historian of our life and times"; Mayor James J. Walker, who typified the gaudiness, smartness, and insouciance of the city he ran, yet was never too refined to shoot dice on hotel room floors; and Texas Guinan, the beloved entertainer, hostess, and entrepreneur who greeted customers with her trademark phrase "Hello, sucker " Vividly told, "The Night Club Era" offers a singular, serious -- though never sober -- history of New York City during Prohibition.
This bright book is vivid but accurate, thoroughly informed, and it moves at a smart pace... Entirely interesting to read and worth reading, this book deserves enthusiasm and will get it. * New York Times Book Review * Highly entertaining reading. * Variety * An extraordinary record written with contagious enthusiasm. * San Francisco Chronicle * The first good biography of Broadway. Fast moving, compact, exact. * New York Daily News * I know of no volume which is so authentically New York as this, no history of recent contemporary life so amusing-and so true. A juicy slice of life. * Boston Transcript * In this volume flies an endless procession of colorful figures-all the well-known Broadway names and many not so well known but just as interesting. The book is history-history so breezily written that the reader, absorbed in anecdote and incident, may not take time out to ponder its authenticity and importance. * Saturday Review of Literature *