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Download Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul, by Karen Abbott Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (5,715 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Karen Abbott Narrator: Joyce Bea Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Step into the perfumed parlors of the Everleigh Club, the most famous brothel in American history—and the catalyst for a culture war that rocked the nation. Operating in Chicago’s notorious Levee district at the dawn of the twentieth century, the 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 thirty 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 twentieth-century modernity.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Described with scrupulous concern for historical accuracy…An immensely readable book.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “Delicious…Abbott describes the Levee’s characters in such detail that it’s easy to mistake this meticulously researched history for literary fiction.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “A colorful history of old Chicago that reads like a novel…A compelling and eloquent story.”

    Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Sean | 2/8/2014

    " A lot of interesting historical info, obnoxiously written. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Wendy Blake | 2/3/2014

    " Vivid, well-sourced nonfiction about turn of the 20th century prostitution in Chicago, focusing primarily on the Everleigh Club (where it's reputed the term "getting laid," a shortened form of "getting Everleighed" originated). Madams, harlots, politicians, and Christian missionaries duke it out for control of the windy city's destiny. A great follow-up (by a different author) to Devil in the White City. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Marcus Lynn | 1/31/2014

    " Abbott writes well enough but failed to tie in the disparate characters in a fashion that would drive me to recommend this book to everyone. If you love Chicago, or curious to how prostitution can run rampant from the law, then this is probably a book you'll enjoy more. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by JuJu | 1/28/2014

    " If I could give it 3 1/2 stars I would. "

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