Sunday, March 31, 2019

Karen Abbott

Karen Abbott is the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City, American Rose, and Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, named one of the best books of 2014 by Library Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, and Amazon.

Her new book, The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz- Age America, will be out in October.

From Abbott's Q&A with Pamela D. Toler, author of Women Warriors: An Unexpected History:

What was the most surprisingly thing you’ve found doing historical research for your work?

A great question–and this gets to the heart of why research is the best part of the job. You’re a detective on the hunt, hoping that the next box or folder or envelope will yield an important clue, or a psychological insight into one of your characters. I’ve had memorable and lucky finds for all of my books. For SIN IN THE SECOND CITY, I went through the papers of the Everleigh sisters’ rival madam, Vic Shaw. Among them I found a business card belonging to one “Lil Kowalski.” She looked like the headmistress of a private school, all Victorian ruffles and tight chignon, but she was actually a “whipper,” in charge of disciplining the prostitutes on staff. The card said: “Lil the Whipper: beat 1,000 harlots bloody.” It was surreal, and a reminder of the cruelties of that time and place. For AMERICAN ROSE, it was the sheer—sometimes frightening—intensity of my conversations with Gypsy’s sister, June Havoc. I was the last writer to speak with her before she died, and many of our conversations had the feel of a confession. For LIAR TEMPTRESS SOLDIER SPY, I found one of the death threats received by Union spy Elizabeth Van Lew. The message was scrawled in red pencil and said: “Old Maid, your house is on fire. Give us some of your blood to write with.” I shivered right there in the rare books room of the New York Public Library; it was genuinely upsetting. I can’t imagine how terrified Van Lew herself felt reading that message back in 1864. And for THE GHOSTS OF EDEN PARK, I found...[read on]
Visit Karen Abbott's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sin in the Second City.

The Page 99 Test: American Rose.

The Page 99 Test: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.

--Marshal Zeringue