Woman of Ill Fame

By

Nora Simms, a prostitute, sails to San Francisco in 1849, hoping to do well for herself during the gold rush. Nora mostly enjoys her work and its benefits, even compared to marriage, in which a woman loses her freedom to her husband. From the minute Nora walks off the ship after her long journey and begins narrating this book, we get a sense of the rough and tumble nature of the city. Nora begins as a “crib” girl, one who rents a very small room in which to conduct business. She meets a variety of types of clients, including Abe, a simple but kind man, the first with whom Nora has an orgasm, and the professor, who seems a cut above. Nora arrives without her trunk of belongings, for her trunk has been switched for a similar-looking one filled with useless items. When “fallen doves” begin to be murdered, each found with an article of her clothing from that trunk, Nora, now a more highly regarded “parlor girl,” determines to do what she can to find the murderer, since the police, all volunteers, don’t seem motivated. We get a glimpse of a growing city, where prices are high due to the influx of gold, and where buildings are prone to fire. Nora is an engaging character, and the story is riveting. Heyday “is dedicated to producing high-quality, accessible books about California”—and they have succeeded admirably in Woman of Ill Fame.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award

Details

Publisher

Published

Genre
,

Century

Price
(US) $13.95

ISBN
(US) 1597140511

Format
Paperback

Pages
256

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