New from Debby Applegate – Madam: The Biography of Polly Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Most Famous Man in America, comes the rollicking story of Polly Adler, Manhattan’s most notorious madam, whose decadent parties made the Jazz Age roar

Meet the woman crime reporters called the ‘Female Al Capone’

“Sometimes notoriety has it all over fame.  I lost count of the aliases, the addresses, and the arrests.  You can’t lose sight of Polly Adler:  Whether charming Robert Benchley, discussing abortionists with Tallulah Bankhead, or comping Desi Arnaz, she nearly leaps—116 pounds of hard-boiled chutzpah—from these pages.  Adler knew about first-class treatment and gets it in this splendid biography, rich with color, exhaustively researched, and bursting with energy.”
Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Witches and Cleopatra

Book Info and Purchasing

Madam: The Biography of Polly Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age

madam book cover

In Roaring Twenties New York City, when the nightclubs closed down, the in- crowd didn’t go home. Everyone went to Polly’s place, the “speakeasy with a harem” run by “The Queen of Tarts,” as Time magazine dubbed her. Polly Adler (1900-1962) was a diminutive dynamo whose Manhattan brothels were more than oases of illicit sex, they were also swinging salons where high society partied with the elite of showbiz, politics and organized crime.

The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher

beecher book cover

No one predicted success for Henry Ward Beecher at his birth in 1813. The blithe, boisterous son of the last great Puritan minister, he seemed destined to be overshadowed by his brilliant siblings—especially his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, who penned the century’s bestselling book Uncle Tom’s Cabin. But when pushed into the ministry, Beecher found international fame and became a founding father of modern American Christianity. 

Praise for Madam: The Biography of Polly Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age

Madam, Debby Applegate’s tour de force about Jazz Age icon Polly Adler, will seize you by the lapels, buy you a drink, and keep you reading until the very last page. Applegate’s brilliant research and cinematic prose made me feel I was peering over Adler’s shoulder, watching her drift through the parlor of her brownstone establishment, wisecracking with the Mob and paying off the cops. Madam is a judicious exploration of the dark side of the American Dream, and Applegate is a lively and knowledgeable guide. A treat for fiction and nonfiction fans alike.”
– Abbott Kahler, New York Times bestselling author (as Karen Abbott) of Sin in the Second City

“In a time when young women were victimized at every turn, Polly Adler told herself she was improving their odds–and she knew she was improving her own. At last, America’s most notorious madam has found the hard-boiled biographer she deserves. Brilliant, witty,
meticulously researched, Debby Applegate’s Madam is a delicious, beautifully written ride through the nocturnal netherworld of jazz-age Manhattan, right into the heart of what we still call, despite everything, the American dream.”

– Tom Reiss, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Black Count and The Orientalist

Madam is an astonishing book, a stunning achievement by Debby Applegate who takes the life of Polly Adler, a nice Jewish girl from the Pale of Russia, and uses it to craft a wholly new history of New York in the Jazz Age. Everyone who was anyone seems to have floated through Adler’s high-class bordello—mobsters, corrupt police, powerful Wall Street financiers, blue book Ivy Leaguers, Broadway producers, judges and politicians—and the witty and gracious Adler is always there to grease the deal-making with plenty of boot-legged liquor, live music and desirable women. I am shocked—shocked—by the wanton lust. Applegate names the names, but her thoughtful narrative is not mere exposé but serious history, examining the ‘dreary mechanics’ of the American Dream. Applegate’s Madam is a formidable work in both scholarship and just good writing.”

– Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of The Outlier: The Unfinished
Presidency of Jimmy Carter

“What was a nice girl from an East European shtetl doing running an elite Manhattan
bordello for more than three decades? Read this book, a stunning blend of scholarship and non-stop sex, to find out!”

– William Taubman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Khrushchev: The Man and His Era,
and of Gorbachev: His Life and Times