Tonight I went to a book signing at Borders at Columbus Circle, with Karen Abbott, author of Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul. I missed Karen Abbott when her book was published in hardcover (her book party in New York was held at the Museum of Sex, which for some reason I missed), but now that her book's in paperback, I was excited to go see her read.
Actually, it wasn't a "reading" so much as Abbott talking about the book and the impetus behind it. I'm always interested in how authors are inspired to write, and Abbott's book began with some family history: one of her ancestors went to Chicago in 1905 and simply disappeared. While doing research, Abbott ran across the murder of Marshall Field, who was shot in the Everleigh club in the same year Abbott's ancestor disappeared. The resulting book, about a pair of sisters in turn-of-the-century Chicago who ran an upscale brothel and ran into adversity from reformers and rival madams alike, took three years to research and put together. Along the way, Abbott talked on the phone with the 80-year-old niece of the Everleigh sisters, who completely debunked the myth that the Everleighs were Southern debutantes from Kentucky. In all, it was a really entertaining talk (helped by the subject matter), and I think that Abbott's inscription to me in the front of my copy is one of the best I've ever gotten: "For Katherine, who would have been Everleigh Club material."