Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans” as Want to Read:
Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  3,004 ratings  ·  434 reviews
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 l
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published October 28th 2014 by Crown
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,004 ratings  ·  434 reviews

Sort order
Dec 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder and the Battle for Modern New Orleans by Gary Krist is a a 2014 Crown publishing release. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher, edelweiss, and blogging for books in exchange for an honest review.

New Orleans- What a city! We all know the reputation this city has for being steeped in rich history and of course wild and crazy parties every single night on Bourbon street. Gambling, prostitution, corruption, and crime are still as synonymous
Sep 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Subtitled “A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder and the Battle for Modern New Orleans,” this is a history of the city from 1890 – 1920. However, this is certainly not a dry book of facts; it is as vibrant and fascinating at the city itself. Acting very much as a link, the book begins with the murders, in 1918, of Italian grocers Joseph and Catherine Maggio. These were the work of the infamous Axman and, in order to explain what led up to these events, we are then taken back to the beginning of 1890.

Therin Knite
[NOTE: First time reviewing nonfiction.]

When I first read the synopsis of this book, I thought it would make for a good departure from my usual read -- some creative nonfiction. And while Empire of Sin definitely delivered on that front, I thought it had a few weaknesses that really hampered how effective it was as an interesting history of New Orleans.

But let's start with the good: the variety of content.

Krist manages to cover a significant number of topics key to the development of New Orleans
Oct 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime, culture, history
I had a hard time with this book. It's really 3 books in one. A brief history of the birth of jazz. A series of murders. And the politics of New Orleans in the early 20th century. The author tries to connect those three arenas, but in the end the only connection I felt was that they all occurred during the same time period. The information was interesting, but the attempt to weave it all together fell flat.
Darcia Helle
New Orleans has a fascinating history and Gary Krist captures much of it here. In just 30 years, from 1890 to 1920, New Orleans attempted to and almost succeeded in transitioning from a city of vice to a city of virtue. A once racially diverse and tolerant city was turned into a racist, intolerant city. Storyville was created, music floated in the air, and jazz was born.

This book is an easy and enjoyable read. I have never been to New Orleans and was not around in the early 1900s, yet I felt li
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Oh man, New Orleans has a crazy past. I knew it was called the city of sin, but when we went there we just had food, shopped, and visited historical sites. We didn't go to any bars therefore managing to avoid most of that stuff (we also went back to our hotel before 10pm every night). This book was really interesting. I listened to the audiobook.
I've been completely and utterly spoiled by Erik Larson when it comes to narrative nonfiction. Well, and then there's Steve Sheinkin, who does the same thing for kids and teen nonfiction. For some odd reason, the only nonfiction I really enjoy reading is about crime, but it has to be historical crime. Or some sort of disaster. But yes: morbid, I know. I swear I'm not a degenerate. It just looks that way when you see my nonfiction shelf.

I especially like books that discuss the nastiness of the pa
Bob Schnell
Sep 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Advanced Reading Copy review

Gary Krist's limited history of the city of New Orleans really only spans from about 1890 to the end of prohibition. There are brief nods to the city's early history and current post-Katrina rebuilding, but the emphasis is on the era of that neighborhood of vice known as Storyville. Much like red-light districts throughout the world, New Orleans progressive reformers thought that by limiting certain "sinful" activities to a defined area, the rest of the city would be
Feb 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read The Axeman's Jazz earlier this year and when I first opened this, I had a moment of deja vu, but it didn't last long. This book was lengthy, though it didn't feel that way, and compelling. Each part of the story is interconnected in such a way you don't really feel as if the book is divided into parts. Enjoyable read.
Oct 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
I am automatically interested in any book about my favorite city in the U.S. This one focuses on the years 1890 through 1920, at which time reformers declared war on lawless and immoral behavior and, after 30 years, it looked like they had succeeded.

The mayhem started in the 1890's after Police Chief Hennessy was assassinated by The Black Hand, a loosely organized group of Italian gangsters. The acquittal of the killers ignited mob violence against all Italians for several years. Around the same
Julie Suzanne
I purchased this in a cute little bookstore in the Garden District in New Orleans, and it took FOREVER to read. The print was tiny and kept giving me headaches and/or putting me to sleep (I now have a prescription for reading glasses). I can't help but think that if this were more exciting, I'd have perservered. There were some chapters more interesting than others, particularly chapters about the lynching/mob freakouts and the earlier chapters about Storyville, but some chapters were tedious. O ...more
Jul 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
ok...really 3 1/2. It lost points with me because it ended rather abruptly after an exploration of the post Storyville era, but it was a very good history of the city and some of the more important things that occurred there. Thus we get a good picture of the changing sociology of the city, and excellent accounts of the 1891 lynchings, the development of the vice district "Storyville", the axman murders, early mafia and Black Hand activities, etc. The chapters on Jazz are rather generic and ther ...more
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I would rate it 3 1/2 stars.
Scott Rhee
Jan 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
New Orleans is a city with its fair share of tragedy and despair throughout its history, and yet it continues to stand back up, brush the dust off, and go on. We can learn a lot from New Orleans.

Historian Gary Krist’s fascinating book “Empire of Sin” is a rollicking, exciting, and moving account of the Crescent City, a colorful history summed up in Krist’s subtitle: “A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for New Orleans”.

“Empire of Sin” highlights the years 1890 to 1920 and focuses on the
Leo Walsh
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow. "Empire of Sin" by Gary Krist is a super-cool and well-written evocation of New Orleans and it's often seedy nightlife between the free, open, racially diverse 1880's to the Jim Crow 1920's. It ties myriad narrative strands. The first strand traces a series of unsolved ax murders attributed, perhaps incorrectly, to the Italian mob. Which leads to an interesting subtext that illustrates that early nativists were as intolerant of their Italian population as they are against Latinos today. Whi ...more
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
A better title would have been "Three New Orleans Stories under One Cover: Murder, Reform and Some Jazz Players," as the book begins with a sensational and gory crime, skips into an almost entirely related account of legalized prostitution, tell us in way more detail that I needed to know about a vice reform movement, and finally throws in some anecdotes about jazz players, including Buddy Bolden, Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong. Yes, there are some threads to tie these subjects together -- the m ...more
Lisa B.
Nov 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My Thoughts

This story starts in the 1890s, when a decision was made to create a legalized vice district. The idea was to sequester things like prostitution, gambling, alcohol and music into one area, with the intent that this would make the rest of New Orleans safe and appealing to Northern investors. As you can imagine, there was alot of politics involved, both for and against the concept. In its heyday, this vice district was the place to go for anyone looking for action. It saw the beginning
J Tea
Jun 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads, own, on-loan
Thank you to First Reads for a fantastic book that was devoured as quickly as time allowed
The key to appreciating this book, I believe, is in the part of the subtitle that says "and the battle for modern New Orleans". Gary Krist performs something of a tightrope act by weaving together a wide variety of subjects to tell the tale of a city through a half century of tremendous growing pains. Through the stories of some of the cities most colorful characters and happenings Krist deftly tells the t
New Orleans is a place that can draw you in like no other, and having lived and worked there for a brief stint anchored my fascination with my former home-away-from-home. This book weaves together the social and political elements of life from reconstruction through post-prohibition highlighting the forces of politics, vice, crime, and the development of jazz, all of which shaped the foundation for The Crescent City we know and love today. The inhabitants with a thousand contrasts actually seeme ...more
Mackie Welch
Oct 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Having picked this up primarily for the serial killer story (hey, I like what I like) I was a bit disappointed as that was a very small part of the book, and imo could have been left out entirely. I agree with other reviewers who thought this was a really disjointed book. The three stories just never came together, except for having taken place in the same geographical area.

That being said, taken separately, I liked the stories. Even the history of jazz, which is far from anything I would usuall
Thanks to Blogging For Books, I now have a wonderful copy of Empire of Sin to add to my bookshelves. I am a Louisiana native who has long had a love affair with New Orleans. Krist has written a well researched tale that, to me, is as good as sucking crawfish heads. Juicy, spicy, and HOT!! Covering a thirty year period, from the Gilded Age to Prohibition, Empire of Sin is a raucous romp through the Crescent City that the devil himself would love. Good versus Evil. Politicians versus a corrupt Und ...more
Nov 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
EMPIRE OF SIN: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder and the Battle for Modern New Orleans. (2014). Gary Krist. ***.
Beware of books that have titles as long as a short chapter, unless, of course, they were written in the 18th century. This book is an example. The author has obviously done a lot of research, and he has made sure that every last bit of it appears in his book. It would have been nice if he had done a little filtering. In any event, if you want to know about the politics and intrigues that w
Sep 19, 2014 rated it liked it
I can't really explain it because while this was good, I was expecting more than what I got. For a book containing all the things I find interesting, it was kind of boring at times and it was not what i was expecting at all. I also felt the narrator was not quite right. I wonder if it would have been better if it was read by a woman or at least dual narrated.

Maybe I hyped myself up too much for this. Oh well.
Oct 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very entertaining. Even though Krist could have written a book on each of his main threads (Vice in NOLA, the Axeman, birth of Jazz, and Jim Crow), he weaved them together in an exciting and compelling way.
A Reader's Heaven
(I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.)

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 onslaught
Gaylord Dold
Jan 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Krist, Gary. Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder and the Battle for Modern New Orleans, Crown Publishers, New York, 2014 (414pp.$26).

New Orleans was always a polyglot city in which prosperous Anglo-American planters and merchants built entire neighborhoods of capacious mansions in the “American” part of the town called the Garden District, upriver from Canal Street, setting themselves apart from Creole neighborhoods downtown as well as from the Africans, some descendants of former slaves
Peter Krevenets
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Where else can you learn so much about this marvelous city? There is indeed a lot about jazz, notorious murders, and political as well as moral battles. Now I need to visit New Orleans in person.
Apr 30, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
This book fell flat for me, much to my surprise. I love New Orleans. I love books set in New Orleans. I've enjoyed another of Gary Krist's books immensely (City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago). And I generally enjoy this genre--call it serialized historical drama, where the author highlights and weaves together the threads of several stories to evoke a particular time and place. Think Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, ...more
The virtuous reforming of New Orleans over the course of thirty years is chronicled through the lives of a few reformers, but mostly through the lives of the purveyors of vice in Gary Krist’s “Empire of Sin”. The book is a riveting history of the colorful life of the Crescent City that was, and still is, unique in both Southern and American cultural history.

Krist brings New Orleans of the 1890s into clear focus at the beginning of the moral crusade, detailing the how the city’s French and Spanis
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting journey of a series of murders; the resident's response and the birth of jazz.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The French Quarter: An Informal History of the New Orleans Underworld
  • The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law, and Justice in the Reconstruction Era
  • Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas
  • The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans
  • Bourbon Street: A History
  • Shots on the Bridge: Police Violence and Cover-Up in the Wake of Katrina
  • The Rush: America's Fevered Quest for Fortune, 1848-1853
  • Storyville, New Orleans: Being an Authentic, Illustrated Account of the Notorious Red Light District
  • The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square
  • Five Points: The Nineteenth-Century New York City Neighborhood That Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections and Became the World's Most Notorious Slum
  • Tom Fitzmorris's Hungry Town: A Culinary History of New Orleans, the City Where Food Is Almost Everything
  • Beautiful Crescent: A History of New Orleans
  • Katrina: After the Flood
  • Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America's Whiskey
  • Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood
  • Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation
  • Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table
  • A Pickpocket's Tale: The Underworld of Nineteenth-Century New York
“This was, after all, New Orleans in 1890- the Crescent City of the Gilded Age, where aliases of convenience and unconventional living arrangements were anything but out of the ordinary, at least in certain parts of town. Identities were fluid here, and names and appearances weren't always the best guide to telling who was who.” 2 likes
“It is no easy matter to go to heaven by way of New Orleans.” 2 likes
More quotes…