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The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld
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The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  2,335 ratings  ·  240 reviews
In 1916, at age fifteen, Norma Wallace arrived in New Orleans. Sexy and shrewd, she quickly went from streetwalker to madam and by 1920 had opened what became a legendary house of prostitution. There she entertained a steady stream of governors, gangsters, and movie stars until she was arrested at last in 1962. Shortly before she died in 1974, she tape—recorded her memorie ...more
Paperback, 264 pages
Published March 13th 2001 by Da Capo Press (first published December 31st 1999)
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3.51  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,335 ratings  ·  240 reviews

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Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read a couple of the reviews of this book and I disagree with the readers that say it was a boring book. Maybe I liked the book as much as I did because I grew up in New Orleans and only a true New Orleanian can appreciate the truth of this book. Everything and everyone that Norma wrote about are real people in New Orleans and you can't get more to the truth than what she did when she wrote it. That's probably why it wasn't published until she and most everyone she wrote about were dead for 20 ...more
Karen Mardahl
Feb 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
(Read years ago. Date is a guess. Adding to my Goodreads files to share with others.)

For 5 years in a row, I went to New Orleans to work at my company's big computer conference. My focus was on the conference, but I could indulge in the great food the city has to offer. I also did the usual tourist things like take the Charles St. streetcar to the end of the line to have a beignet at the café there and walk around the French Quarter and Jackson Square. Only in my last year did I go to the market
Anita Dalton
Jan 25, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-we-own
I'm unsure how to go about reviewing this book. What do you say about an adequate biography that is interesting because the writer is competent and the subject matter is relevant to your interests? It was a fun-enough read and because I tend to keep any books that are not outright garbage, it will have a place in the biography sections on my shelves. But it was a merely adequate book. Not particularly thought-provoking. I read it when I was ill with H1N1, when Dr. Seuss would have been challengi ...more
Rachel Ropp
Aug 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
This story had so much potential to be an engaging piece of history - especially for New Orleans natives, who have the added appeal of seeing men with the same last names as our streets show up in a whorehouse - but choppy writing and poor organizing of the story itself caused it to overall being a somewhat tedious read. This had so much amazing raw material that could have been a truly intriguing and scandalous read with a defter, more creative hand.
Faith Justice
Sep 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Sex, bootlegged booze, beautiful women, and powerful men set against the steamy backdrop of corruption in New Orleans from the twenties through the aftermath of WWII. This is the stuff of which exciting novels are made. But, as in many cases, truth is more compelling than fiction. Christine Wiltz combines her mystery writing skills and deep affection for her native city in a real-life thriller, The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld. Norma Wallace, a powerful ambitious woman, ran o ...more
May 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I received this book as a special on Amazon. I was drawn to it because it was about a madam in New Orleans. I lived in New Orleans for 5 years. It is a city unlike any other.

Initially, I was drawn in to the book with the descriptions of streets in a city I knew well almost 100 years later. It was fantastic to be able to picture the current day city and streets described. Most of the detailed city descriptions are of the French Quarter. It is interesting how much has changed and how little. The
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is such a fascinating story and it allows you to glimpse into a time period that has been long gone in New Orleans. How anyone gave this less than 5 stars is beyond me. This book was written so well I felt like I was there.
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: amazon, kindle, memiors
I love to read anything regarding The Big Easy. I've had a fascination with it for many years. The history is rich with legendary characters and Norma was one of them.

This book is very well written and its obvious that Ms. Wiltz did a lot of research, the characters seemed to come back to life on the page. I especially liked the information about Jim Garrison after watching the movie "JFK" I wasn't aware of some of the aspects of his life. This book had me captivated and I'm ready to read more a
May 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
I wanted this to be better! The reviews said it was a page turner. It was not. The life of Norma could have been told in a much better way! So disappointed'
This book was interesting from a historical perspective, but the writing was kind of clunky and dry. I didn't find the book particularly raunchy; most descriptions were abstract and matter-of-fact.
Morpheus Reads
Norma Badon (later Wallace) climbed her way out of a life of poverty and neglect using her body, sharp mind, and good business sense. She started out hustling in 1916 at age 15 in the Tango Belt of New Orleans, at the time Storyville (the infamous Red-Light District organized to help control the spread of prostitution and drugs) was being shuttered after a shoot-out in the area caused a lot of the cabarets to shut down. Some think this may have caused the influx of prostitutes into the area as i ...more
Aug 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, history-us
The Last Madam is a rather sensationalized tale of a powerful New Orleans woman who operated a prostitution business during the mid 1930s – early 1960s. Norma Wallace was the last and best madam, surviving various NOLA political and police regimes throughout the years through payoffs and slick evacuation schemes that made her house seem legitimate when raided. She kept encoded records of her clients, particularly powerful patrons who could potentially be bribed. Married 5 times during these year ...more
Meg Meyer
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’d have to give this 3.5 stars. She had a fascinating life, but I thought the writing of it was a little choppy. More like little vignettes than a story from start to finish. She was definitely a broad with balls!
I didn't realize this was a true story when I downloaded it a year ago. I love New Orleans, and it was fascinating to read about this city in the roaring 20's, 30's, and 40's, even if it was told through the lens of prostitution. Norma was a force to be reckoned with; she had chutzpah, charisma, and was a savvy businesswoman. She never lead a dull life and was sassy right up until the end. Some of the history drug on and keeping all the politics straight was a bit boring at times, but it was wor ...more
Mar 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
"You know, in another life, under other circumstances, I might have been a captain of industry. What the hell—maybe I was." —Norma Wallace, who ran whorehouses in New Orleans and elsewhere for over 40 years

Norma Wallace turned her hardscrabble existence into a glamorous (though tension-filled) life. She said with complete seriousness, "My girls had to be of the highest moral caliber," which to her meant that they could not take drugs, rob customers, or try to extort money from anyone. Also, thei
James Pumpelly
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I chose to read this book for its snapshot of an era - the "last" of much more than just a "Madam". My novel, The Girl With the Pendant Pearl, is set in the same milieu, but post Katrina. Very apparent is Christine Wiltz's copious research, a rare gift to readers. Anyone alive during the Kennedy era will appreciate the name-sprinkled narrative, a not-so-subliminal hook to pull one along in the salacious, albeit political, frays of the period. Attention to detail leaves one not only feeling the t ...more
Jun 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
For anyone who loves the tumultuous and always exciting history of New Orleans, this is a must read. What I loved best about this book was not just reading about the fascinating life of Norma Wallace, but how the history of the city was woven into her life story. Norma really embodied so much of what the French Quarter and life in the fast lane of the Big Easy was all about. I'd recommend this to anyone who wants to dive into the New Orleans underworld from the 1920s through the 1960s and read a ...more
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've been putting off reviewing this ever since I gave up on it because I don't really know what to say. Somehow Wiltz took a fascinating subject set in an incredible location and managed to turn out something antiseptic and lifeless. Around the 3/4 mark I realized that it wasn't going to pick up speed or get any better so I let it drift.
Sandy Rogers
Nov 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed the book and a visit to New Orleans! it really happened like that!
Kitty Tomlinson
Story of one of the last “landladies” in a bordello in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Based on the audio tapes of Norma Wallace. Poorly written.
Jun 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
She was in the business for 40 years. She did Phil Harris. She said Don Ameche was the most pussy eatingest man alive.
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld is a biography of Norma Wallace. She was a proprietor of brothels in New Orleans for several decades, beginning her career after the heyday of Storyville, spanning the 1920s all the way through to the early 1970s. The primary source for this biography are the memories Norma Wallace recorded after she had retired (or mostly retired) from being a Landlady (madam) and I think this is a major factor in how the biography reads, getting better and m ...more
Kelli Paugh
Aug 27, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
I have been meaning to start a Did Not Finish shelf for a while... this book reminded me to do that. There are more books I should have put on this list, maybe if I run across them I will add them later.

But, back to this book. I did not think this book was very well written. It would jump around from one time frame or story line to another, sometimes even in the same sentence or paragraph. I found myself rereading a lot because I couldn't figure out what was going on when. The writer also used e
May 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Norma Wallace was a successful madam well into the 1950's and 60's in New Orleans. This is the true story of her life and it's almost as much about New Orleans as it is about Norma. She found a way to not only survive in her city, but to thrive and to take care of herself, her girls, her family, and the people she loved. It was a different time- the book quotes her in a discussion about marriage that women got married for security and in exchange, they had babies and kept the house. There weren' ...more
Turns out to be good but it takes until about a third of the way into it before it's worth it. The writing is good for the most part but it's a confusing sort of linear progression as some events are brought up clearly out of time. Other than sorting through that it is fairly clear. A second read would probably clear it all up. A third of the way into the story, the connection to the city police becomes a bigger part of the story as the city was trying to reform. It reminds of New York City's re ...more
Uncle  Dave Avis
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an unusual read! Not since the classic Madam book "Pauline's" have I read an indepth account of the life of a notorious Madam. To have lasted 40 years in the French Quarter required determination , business skills, and a network of friends.
This is a really good read! Yes, there are a few gross scenes of sexual depravity, but only a few.
It was really cool, how the police were breaking down the front door, and the girls and their tricks were either hiding in a secret place, boogie ing out the
Jan 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is both a biography of Norma Wallace and a 20th century history of the French Quarter in New Orleans. Overall I enjoyed the book but it's not without it's weaknesses. I loved the modern history of New Orleans, one of the great cities of the Americas, and Norma Wallace is an incredible character with a tragic ending and the book is especially strong when it quotes Wallace talking about herself. But, there's virtually no narrative structure in the book; it mostly jumps from event to even ...more
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Very Interesting to read about the rise of this Madame. Starting as young as 14 in this business she worked her way up to command her own house that was frequented by famous people. Now I know reading about a 14 young starting in this line of work is disgusting and upsetting, but from what it sounded like, this was a common thing that happened. Not very nice to read about, but thankfully those kinds of details were omitted. She was a very smart woman who used what she could to move up in a mans ...more
Nicole P
Wow! This was riveting! I've always been fascinated by New Orleans and thats in part due to the vivid descriptions by authors like Sandra Brown and Nora Roberts used in some of their books set there. So a book about the underworld of New Orleans that involves beautiful women, powerful men, sex and everything in between sounded like something I would enjoy. Norma Wallace was an ambitious and smart woman. Christine Wiltz did a great job weaving a tale that was so realistic and true, I felt that I ...more
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Also writes under the name, Chris Wiltz.
“The tango, by 1914, had been officially declared immoral, and dancers went through its showy steps under threat of being dragged off the floor to jail unless light was visible between the partners and they refrained from doing any demoralizing dance steps, like “snake-wiggling” at the shoulders.” 0 likes
“Norma Wallace stood on a bed of pine needles deep in the Mississippi woods,” 0 likes
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