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

The Barbary Coast by Herbert Asbury
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This book is filled to the brim with gritty stories of the San Francisco underworld that are sure to surprise anyone who thinks we have it bad in the present. From crooked politicians to lynch mobs, shanghaid sailors, evil dive managers, hooligan gangs, opium dens, pimps and prostitutes galore....there is not a vice unknown to San Francisco at one time or another in her history. What struck me most about this book was not the unbelievable way in which San Franciscans were regularly abused, but the few examples of when the citizenry organized into vigilante committees when government and politics failed to protect them. Not only did they orchestrate highly organized armed militias to meet their goals, but they arranged lengthy trials for the criminals they sought and managed to dispense greater justice with the power of the mob than the ineffectual court system at the time, and managed to do it all without anarchy. Even more amazing, in the height of their control over the city, they neatly disbanded once their task was completed and left their trust once again in the elected officials. Incredible! So much interesting history in this book!
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