Last Madam

( 5 )

Overview

In 1916, at age fifteen, Norma Wallace arrived in New Orleans. Sexy and shrewd, she quickly went from streetwalker to madam and by 1920 had opened what became a legendary house of prostitution. There she entertained a steady stream of governors, gangsters, and movie stars until she was arrested at last in 1962. Shortly before she died in 1974, she tape—recorded her memories-the scandalous stories of a powerful woman who had the city's politicians in her pocket and whose lovers included the twenty-five-year-old ...

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Overview

In 1916, at age fifteen, Norma Wallace arrived in New Orleans. Sexy and shrewd, she quickly went from streetwalker to madam and by 1920 had opened what became a legendary house of prostitution. There she entertained a steady stream of governors, gangsters, and movie stars until she was arrested at last in 1962. Shortly before she died in 1974, she tape—recorded her memories-the scandalous stories of a powerful woman who had the city's politicians in her pocket and whose lovers included the twenty-five-year-old boy next door, whom she married when she was sixty-four. Combining those tapes with original research, Christine Wiltz chronicles not just Norma's rise and fall but also the social history of New Orleans, thick with the vice and corruption that flourished there—and, like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Philistines at the Hedgerow, resurrects a vanished secret world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mystery and nonfiction writer Wiltz (Glass House, etc.) offers an affecting portrayal of the woman who for 40 years ran the last successful high-class brothel in New Orleans, and of her vanished demimonde. Born into poverty in 1901, Norma Wallace became a streetwalker in her teens, but by the early 1920s had decided that a more comfortable, profitable living lay in being a "landlady"--running a discreet, lavish, politically protected house of prostitution. Shrewd and ambitious--and a strict madam--she quickly became an underworld force within the wide-open New Orleans of the 1920s-1940s, enjoying numerous romances along the way with a Capone-linked gangster, then-blind champion bantamweight Pete Herman and entertainer Phil Harris, among others. Norma's first serious arrest came only in 1962, and it sped her retirement a few years later. Wiltz, who makes excellent use of Norma's tape-recorded, unpublished memoirs (Norma died in 1974), understands that this tale is necessarily one of corruption and acquiescence in mid-century urban America: Norma could not have prospered without the ritualized, baroque corruption of local law enforcement as well as the town's leading economic lights and political figures, who often checked their pious selves at Norma's door. Wiltz thus elevates a sometimes impeccably assembled historical narrative above its elementary bawdy elements into something more elegant and fragile: the resurrection of a secret world, like those uncovered by Luc Sante and James Ellroy. (Jan.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Michael Lewis
The book tells the wonderful story of Norma Wallace, who for more than 40 years ran the best-known whorehouse in town. In so doing she apparently became not merely a great French Quarter character but a kind of power broker. Mayors, governors, gangsters, prizefighters, movie stars and an endless parade of prominent New Orleans gentlemen came through her doors. Wiltz reports that when Wallace was asked in the late 1950's if there was any important man she didn't have in her pocket, she had to think about it. ''The president,'' she finally said....In this world there are great characters who have no idea that they are great characters, and great characters who are fully aware of their greatness. Wallace must be counted among the latter. She had the wit of Dorothy Parker and the instinct for self-dramatization of Tallulah Bankhead.
The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306810121
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2000
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 186,852
  • Product dimensions: 5.87 (w) x 8.99 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Christine Wiltz is the author of four novels. She lives in her native New Orleans.

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Customer Reviews

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( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    only in new orleans

    wow i didnt even know it would turn out like this. i found it 2 b so interesting that iwen thru it sooner than i expected.

    i am amazed that the main character was alive when this book was published. guess u can be poplular in more ways than 1 & thats by havin a book written bout their self. Madame i look up 2 u 4 what u have done in all those yrs as a madam.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2005

    You can Live through her....

    This story was very informative (how brothels were back in the day). How can you not like her..naming names? it takes you through her marriages, her lonesome older years, even a romance w/ a notorious gangster. The best part: It's allll real. If I had 10 lives to live, and a hand in picking those experiences one would be a madam. I liked Norma, she was a Leo like myself very strong-willed, not the subserviant type of the 50's and so on. The woman was about her business, and had fun too. I'd have to say I did not care for how the book ended...but it was what really happened.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2002

    Enjoyable

    A very interesting and fast read about Norma Wallace and New Orleans. Makes me want to go to New Orleans and walk by all the addresses of her houses and see what remains.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2001

    Wow!

    This story tells of the life of a New Orleans madam and how her youth shaped her whole life, from leaving a less-than-ideal family to set out on her own to build her own fortune and fame. Always adhering to strict rules to provide the highest class of service to her clients, Norma is on a constant search for true love, often finding that she couldn't give up her work to stay home and be a traditional wife and mother. In the end, Norma gets the guy, until her obsession with beauty and youth becomes more than even she can handle and her world slowly starts to fall apart. The only criticism is that this book is less like a story and more a historical account of her life. Nonetheless, a very interesting read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews

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