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

Karen Abbott

Random House,  June 2008

Step into the perfumed parlors of Chicago's Everleigh Club, the most famous brothel in American history -- and the catalyst for a culture war that rocked the nation. Minna and Ada Everleigh, the two sisters who operated the Club at the dawn of the last century, were unlike other madams: 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. But not everyone appreciated the sisters' attempts to elevate the industry. Progressive Era reformers, spouting lurid tales of "white slavery," ignited a furor that shaped America's sexual culture and had repercussions all the way to the White House, even leading to the formation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 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 provides a vivid snapshot of America's journey from Victorian-era propriety to twentieth-century modernity.

paperback | ISBN: 9780812975994 | Publication Date: June 2008

"Karen Abbott has pioneered sizzle history with . . . this satisfyingly lurid tale . . . Change the hemlines, add 100 years, and the book could be filed under current affairs."
--USA Today

"Lavish . . . an immensely readable book."
--The Wall Street Journal

"[Abbott's] research enables the kind of vivid description à la fellow journalist Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City that makes what would be a dry historic account an intriguing read."
--The Seattle Times

"Assiduously researched . . . Even this book's minutiae . . . makes for good storytelling."
--The New York Times

"Delicious . . . a lush love letter to the underworld."
--The New York Times Book Review

"Poetic . . . Abbott describes the Levee's characters . . . in such detail that it's easy to mistake this meticulously researched history for literary fiction."
--The New York Times Book Review

"Described with scrupulous concern for historical accuracy . . . an immensely readable book."
--The Wall Street Journal

"A colorful history of old Chicago that reads like a novel . . . [a] compelling and eloquent story."
--The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Gorgeously detailed."
--New York Daily News

"At last, a history book you can bring to the beach."
--The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Once upon a time, Chicago had a world-class bordello called The Everleigh Club. Author Karen Abbott brings the opulent place and its raunchy era alive in a book that just might become this year's The Devil in the White City."
--Chicago Tribune Magazine (cover story)

"As [Abbott's] delicious and exhaustively researched book makes vividly clear, the Everleigh Club was the Taj Mahal of bordellos."
--Chicago Sun Times

"The book is rich with details about a fast-and-loose Chicago of the early twentieth century . . . Sin in the Second City explores this world with gusto, throwing light on a booming city and exposing its shadows."
--Time Out Chicago

"A rollicking tale from a more vibrant time: history to a ragtime beat."
--Kirkus Reviews

"Abbott adroitly evokes the cathouse atmosphere, but it is the rapier-sharp character sketches that best show off her authorial skills and will keep readers continually bemused." --Booklist

"Vibrant . . . titillating . . . With colorful characters, this is an entertaining, well-researched slice of Windy City history."
--Publishers Weekly