Friday, October 31, 2014

Gary Krist's "Empire of Sin"

Before turning to narrative nonfiction with The White Cascade and City of Scoundrels, Gary Krist wrote three novels--Bad Chemistry, Chaos Theory, and Extravagance--and two short-story collections--The Garden State and Bone by Bone.

Krist applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Empire of Sin involves one of the more brutal episodes in the book, a citywide manhunt in July of 1900 that eventually escalates into a horrific race riot. The episode occurs in the middle of what I characterize as New Orleans’ other civil war – a decades-long effort by the city’s wealthy Anglo-American elite to suppress the “disruptive elements” in the notoriously unruly city. Part of this effort involved the imposition of Jim Crow laws on the city’s heterogeneous black population. This created great friction in New Orleans -- a place previously known for relatively fluid race relations – until finally, on one hot summer night, a young black man named Robert Charles is pushed too far. A scuffle with a New Orleans policeman turns violent, and soon Charles is on the run, leaving two dead policemen in his wake. For several days, he eludes one of the most extensive manhunts in New Orleans history. But page 99 finds him holed up with a rifle in the back annex of an uptown house, knowing that he is about to be found but determined not to surrender without a fight. "He didn't have many other options," as I write on that page. "Nor could he have any illusions about how this adventure would end. A black man who had killed two white policeman in the New Orleans of 1900, no matter what the circumstances, would never be allowed to explain himself in court."
Learn more about the book and author at Gary Krist's website.

The Page 69 Test: The White Cascade.

Writers Read: Gary Krist (May 2012).

The Page 99 Test: City of Scoundrels.

--Marshal Zeringue