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Powell's Books Presents Debby Applegate in Conversation With Abbott Kahler
Madam (Doubleday) — the new book from Debby Applegate, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Most Famous Man in America — is the compulsively readable and sometimes jaw-dropping story of the life of a notorious madam who played hostess to every gangster, politician, writer, sports star, and Cafe Society swell worth knowing, and who as much as any single figure helped make the twenties roar. Simply put: Everybody came to Polly’s. Pearl “Polly” Adler (1900-1962) was a diminutive dynamo whose Manhattan brothels in the Roaring Twenties became places not just for men to have the company of women but were key gathering places where the culturati and celebrity elite mingled with high society and with violent figures of the underworld — and had a good time doing it. As a Jewish immigrant from eastern Europe, Polly Adler’s life is a classic American story of success and assimilation that starts like a novel by Henry Roth and then turns into a glittering real-life tale straight out of F. Scott Fitzgerald. She declared her ambition to be “the best goddam madam in all America” and succeeded wildly. Applegate uses Polly’s story as the key to unpacking just what made the 1920s the appallingly corrupt yet glamorous and transformational era that it was and how the collision between high and low is the unique ingredient that fuels American culture. Applegate will be joined in conversation by Abbott Kahler, author (as Karen Abbott) of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy and The Ghosts of Eden Park.

Nov 16, 2021 05:00 PM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

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Debby Applegate
Debby Applegate is a historian and biographer based in New Haven, CT. Her first book, The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher, won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for biography and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Book Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography. She is a graduate of Amherst College and was a Sterling Fellow in American Studies at Yale University where she received her Ph.D.
Abbott Kahler
Abbott Kahler is the New York Times bestselling author (as Karen Abbott) of Sin in the Second City, American Rose, and Liar, Temptress, Solider, Spy, named one of the best books of the year by Library Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, and Amazon. She has written for newyorker.com, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Smithsonian Magazine, and other publications. Her latest book, The Ghosts of Eden Park, is an instant New York Times bestseller, an Edgar Award finalist for best fact crime, an Indie Next pick, an Amazon best book of 2019, a finalist for the Ohioana Book Award, and a Smithsonian Magazine top ten history book of 2019. The Wall Street Journal calls The Ghosts of Eden Park “vibrant and enormously readable,” and names Abbott “one of the masters of the art” of narrative nonfiction.