The Last Madam:

lstmadamThe Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld
by Chris Wiltz
2001/ 288 pages
rating 7 / biography – US

This was a “freebie” from Kindle Unlimited and that’s what got me to read it.  It was worth it – lol – worth the monthly price of the Unlimited, that is.  It’s a pretty good book, especially if you’re interested in the topic or enjoy biography/memoirs.  (This is largely based on the subject’s taped memoirs but Wiltz did a commendable amount of extra research.)

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Norma Wallace – 1950s?

Norma Wallace was one of the notorious madams of New Orleans, although her times were a bit after the infamous Storyville era.  She moved to the city in 1917, set up her houses, fell in love with various men, marrying some of them and associated with the political and criminal element including the corrupt city administrations and the police.  She loved the life and the atmosphere of  New Orleans when it was the “Big Easy,”  and “wide open.”

Unfortunately, and the reason for the rating, a huge chunk of the book is simply a series of chronological and overly detailed accounts of Norma’s various “adventures” with her girls and the law – this got a bit boring – probably from Norma’s taped memoirs, though.

Wiltz seems to want to connect Norma to the NO underworld and its political corruption more than is evidenced and it is never really convincing – not to me, anyway. Much of Witz’s material is from extra interviews with the other folks involved in Norma’s life and conventional research, newspapers, magazines, etc.  I would very much have appreciated some source notes.   One interesting part is about Jim Garrison who made his name a household word in 1966 by investigating his conspiracy theory of the Kennedy assassination.  Also kind of more interesting is how she finally got busted and then left the business – the whole last quarter of the book is excellent.

The Last Madam is probably of most interest to those folks who know New Orleans and the Big Easy’s systemic corruption and links to crime.  Also readers who are interested in Norma’s profession might enjoy it.

http://www.1026contistreet.com

http://www.nola.com/nolavie/index.ssf/2011/11/opening_new_doors_to_the_last.html

And a far less positive piece on the book: http://www.popmatters.com/review/last-madam/

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