Want brothels? Buy J.R.

April 01, 2008 7:00 PM
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Book Reviews by Howard Schwartz| J.R. Schwartz (no relation to this reviewer) has updated an all-time best-seller. It is now called The Official Brothel Guide to the Best Cat Houses in Nevada (181 pages, paperbound, $12.95). Schwartz, who lives in Idaho (his address is in the book and he refers readers to a website for periodic updates), lists names, phone numbers, addresses, offers maps, history, an index of establishments, definitions of terms used in the industry, plus selected "menus" of what’s available, sample ads and some history of the occupation. In many cases, owners are listed, the hours the brothels are open, and even "etiquette guidelines" are included in this unique, up-front guidebook.

Jane Haigh has written the first full biography of notorious con man Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith. Titled King Con (119 pages, paperbound, $9.95), it is illustrated, indexed and contains a valuable bibliography along with additional references for future researchers. Smith only lived 38 years (he died in 1898), but what a legacy of cons, scams and hustles he left behind.

He associated with grifters, fleeced "marks" in Colorado and Alaska (he centered much of his activities in Skagway), using well-wrapped bars of soap (hence his nickname) as prizes for those who mastered (or thought they had mastered) the "shell game."

This is a fast-moving, colorful book about the wild 19th Century.