Justin's Reviews > The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld

The Barbary Coast by Herbert Asbury
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really liked it

As he does in Gangs of New York, Asbury's urban folklore (gathered in the early 20th century about the mid-to-late 19th) recollects the nightmare fantasy world of early San Francisco when naked greed ran riot in the city. Australian and Chinese gangs, kidnapped sailors, opium dens, labyrinthine brothels, human trafficking and other sordid histories are here captured in lurid detail. Halfway between a history text and an exploitation flick, a book like this definitely puts the present in perspective by shattering any romantic notion of frontier life, and captures the anything-goes spirit of early San Francisco and the chaotic development of a city that grew out of warring factions struggling for resources.

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