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A Novel of New Orleans

I love historical nonfiction, especially anything with a naughty bent, so I was intrigued to see “Madam: a novel of New Orleans” which was supposed to be based on a true story. This book by Cari Lynn and Kelly Martin covers the creation of the legalized red light district of New Orleans in 1897 as told through the eyes of a young whore who does her business out a crib, barely making ends meet. Using dramatic license to fill in blanks, the authors bring to life a time period that has been sanitized and glossed over due to its unseemly veneer. But the story of the women who made a living on their back is one that needs to be told, especially when looked at as a part of what made New Orleans the wide open town it’s still considered.

Mary Deubler is determined to help provide for her brother and sister-in-law, especially now that there is a little one on the way. She dreams of having pretty clothes and a better life, but knows that working in a crib there is little chance of moving up to one of the high end brothels. But with New Orleans planning on segregating the prostitutes to one specific area of town, her crib is soon to be closed down and Mary will have an even harder time of making it. When she is offered a chance to change not only her life but her family’s, can Mary find the strength to reach out and grab it? And at what cost to her? Can a low life whore ever become a sophisticated madam?

This was a really good read, with the authors doing an outstanding job of bringing the characters alive without glossing over the sordid and depressing parts. I finished this book eager to learn more about this time period, always a sign of a good book.

Book Blurb for Madam

When vice had a legal home and jazz was being born?the captivating story of an infamous true-life madam 

New Orleans, 1900. Mary Deubler makes a meager living as an ?alley whore.” That all changes when bible-thumping Alderman Sidney Story forces the creation of a red-light district that’s mockingly dubbed ?Storyville.” Mary believes there’s no place for a lowly girl like her in the high-class bordellos of Storyville’s Basin Street, where Champagne flows and beautiful girls turn tricks in luxurious bedrooms.  But with gumption, twists of fate, even a touch of Voodoo, Mary rises above her hopeless lot to become the notorious Madame Josie Arlington.

Filled with fascinating historical details and cameos by Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, and E. J. Bellocq, Madam is a fantastic romp through The Big Easy and the irresistible story of a woman who rose to power long before the era of equal rights.

Night Owl Reviews May, 2014 4.50