Thursday, April 26, 2012


The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco UnderworldThe Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld by Herbert Asbury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BARBARY COAST - Enter the seedy underworld of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast, circa 1849; at the height of the Gold Rush. The Barbary Coast by Herbert Asbury is filled with scandalous salacious details - a hedonistic city falling off the edge of civilization- with money to burn. The red light district was bordered Montgomery, Washington, Stockton and Broadway. Particularly notorious was Pacific Avenue leading directly from the wharf to Portsmouth Square. There are tales of government officials on the take: from opium dens, brothels run by pimps, pick-pocket street urchins, coalitions of the wealthy and vigilante lynch mobs. With a less than flattering early history- social, economic and racial tensions between the Chinese, Italian and Irish - the very working class immigrants responsible for California infrastructure; transforming it into the economic powerhouse it is today. Asbury finds his voice as a crime historian in Barbary Coast along with other titles; Gangs of New York, Gangs of Chicago and French Quarter. This is a reprint from the original 1930’s version. One might think it dry or old fashioned. However, I didn’t find that to be true at all. This is a great book taking you deeper into the colorful history of an iconic city.

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