While the 1920s roared with speakeasies full of illegal liquor and short skirts, New York City was carved up into fiefdoms by the grasping political bosses of Tammany Hall. Bugliosi (Helter Skelter) and Stadiem (Passport to Pleasure) meticulously color in the outlines of a scandalous murder case from that time. Emily Stanton was a beautiful 17-year-old chorus girl when Warren Matthews first spotted her. After their marriage, the up-and-coming Tammany businessman forbade her return to the stage, violently squelching her attempts to disobey. When Emily left him, Warren had her jailed as a prostitute, in one swift stroke gaining custody of their daughter and grounds for a divorce, while Emily's reputation was utterly ruined. After serving time, she became a hostess at a raucous, glittering speakeasy and worked as a high-priced call girl who ``dated'' many of the men who ran New York. The case she built against Tammany Hall backfired when Warren was murdered and she was set up to take the fall, but in a trial that rocked New York, she found a grandstand for her inside knowledge of corruption. Regrettably stiff overtones mar both dialogue and narrative, taking away from the enchantment of the era the authors work hard to create. The book is engrossing and entertaining nonetheless, and the salacious details of this ``true sex scandal'' should keep many readers turning pages. 75,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo; movie rights to Lorimar; author tour. (November 20)
In this melange of fiction and 1920s American history Emily Stanton, would-be starlet, is victimized by her vindictive husband until she finds refuge as a ``hostess'' for Polly Adler, New York's foremost Prohibition-era madam. Emily's off-again, on-again romance with an aspiring playwright and her struggle for custody of her daughter are the background for courtroom strategies which lead to reforms in New York criminal law. Real-life characters and institutions brighten the otherwise static pages of this tale. Libraries owning Adler's memoir, A House Is Not a Home , will find similar events described with more spirit. Pass on this. Elsa Pendleton, M . L . S . , Computer Sciences Corp., Ridgecrest, Cal.