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

The Barbary Coast by Herbert Asbury
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I used this book purely for research so I skipped around and wasn't looking for something to draw me in. I offer that proviso because I had trouble with the book. For my purposes, there was too little detail in some areas and too much – WAY too much – in others. I also question the accuracy of some of the information based on other research.

Despite some of the other reviews that sing this book's praises, I don't think Asbury ever establishes himself as a particularly good storyteller. He had fantastic material - people and events almost leap off the pages without his help – and yet, he often gets in their way. He is always there as the commentator and, like one of those self-satisfied sports commentators, we wish he'd just shut up and let us concentrate on the on-field action. This problem is exacerbated by the rambling way in which Ashbury lets the various sections unfold.

I can't help feeling that the material would have been even more remarkable in more capable hands.

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