Empire of Sin

Praise for Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans


Empire of SinOne of the Washington Post’s Ten Best Books of 2014

One of Library Journal’s Ten Best Books of 2014

From bestselling author Gary Krist, a vibrant and immersive account of New Orleans’ other civil war, at a time when commercialized vice, jazz culture, and endemic crime defined the battlegrounds of the Crescent City.

Empire of Sin re-creates the remarkable story of New Orleans’ thirty-years war against itself, pitting the city’s elite “better half” against its powerful and long-entrenched underworld of vice, perversity, and crime. This early-20th-century battle centers on one man: Tom Anderson, the undisputed czar of the city’s Storyville vice district, who fights desperately to keep his empire intact as it faces onslaughts from all sides. Surrounding him are the stories of flamboyant prostitutes, crusading moral reformers, dissolute jazzmen, ruthless Mafiosi, venal politicians, and one extremely violent serial killer, all battling for primacy in a wild and wicked city unlike any other in the world

“[Krist] chronicles the crazy excitement of the Storyville era in this well-reported and colorful tale of jazz, sex, crime and corruption. I can attest, as a native of New Orleans, that in Empire of Sin he has captured the flavors and class nuances of the town. And his interwoven story lines, intentionally or not, evoke a piece of jazz.”—Walter Isaacson, New York Times Book Review

“Compelling . . . an absorbing history with a body count . . . Mr. Krist can turn a phrase with the best. He also allows his characters and sources plenty of opportunity to speak, with the result a delightful conversation. He has written the authoritative account of a raucous American experiment.”—Preston Lauterbach, Wall Street Journal

“While there have been many fine books written about the city’s Storyville era . . . Gary Krist’s Empire of Sin is certainly one of the most well-researched and well-written, a true-life tale of a sui generis American city that reads like a historical thriller . . . The book’s subtitle, A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans, sums up Krist’s story well—it’s a book both lurid and scholarly, and thoroughly entertaining.”—Kevin Allman, Washington Post

“In Empire of Sin, author Gary Krist presents a thrilling tableau . . . [It’s] the perfect follow-up to his last book, City of Scoundrels, an expose of 12 horrible days in Chicago in 1919. The same factors were in play in New Orleans as in Chicago–race, vigilantism, and politics—but Krist expands his keen focus to explain how the emergence of jazz stood up to a darker type of reform.”—Stephen J. Lyons, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Masterful . . . New Orleans’ venal turn-of-the-century past has gotten a book worthy of the rich material in Empire of Sin . . . Krist’s engaging book hits all the right notes.”—Tim Bross, St. Louis Dispatch

“Nobody writes about decadence and disaster like Gary Krist . . . Empire of Sin is perfect grist for Krist. The subtitle promises “Sex, Jazz, and Murder,” and it does not lie. The only surprise is that Krist and New Orleans took so long to get together… Krist, a superb writer of fiction as well as popular history, has re-created a time and place that we’ll never see again. Empire of Sin is packed with enough color, atmosphere and decadence to fill years of miniseries. You can almost hear Sidney Bechet’s clarinet and Louis Armstrong’s cornet floating through the pages.”—Allen Barra, Dallas Morning News