The vivid history of Beale Street - a lost world of swaggering musicians, glamorous madams, and ruthless politicians - and the battle for the soul of Memphis.
Following the Civil War, Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, thrived as a cauldron of sex and song, violence and passion. But out of this turmoil emerged a center of black progress, optimism, and cultural ferment. Preston Lauterbach tells this vivid, fascinating story through the multigenerational saga of a family whose ambition, race pride, and moral complexity indelibly shaped the city that would loom so large in American life.
Robert Church, who would become "the South's first black millionaire," was a mulatto slave owned by his white father. Having survived a deadly race riot in 1866, Church constructed an empire of vice in the booming river town. He made a fortune with saloons, gambling, and - shockingly - white prostitution. But he also nurtured the militant journalism of Ida B. Wells and helped revolutionize American music through the work of composer W. C. Handy, the man who claimed to have invented the blues.
In the face of Jim Crow, the Church fortune helped fashion the most powerful black political organization of the early 20th century. Robert and his son, Bob, Jr., bought and sold property, founded a bank, and created a park and auditorium for their people finer than the places whites had forbidden them to attend.
However, the Church family operated through a tense arrangement with the Democrat machine run by the notorious E. H. "Boss" Crump, who stole elections and controlled city hall. The battle between this black dynasty and the white political machine would define the future of Memphis.
Brilliantly researched and swiftly plotted, Beale Street Dynasty offers a captivating account of one of America's iconic cities - by one of our most talented narrative historians.
©2015 Preston Lauterbach (P)2015 Audible Inc.
First of all, let me say that if you make it to the end, congratulations! It is a good story about the history of downtown Memphis in the area surrounding the now touristy Beale Street. The book sheds a lot of light on why parts of the city have developed they way they have and the politics involved in the shaping of a black river town into a major metropolitan city.
Stay with me... the story IS a good one, but it took a sheer force of will to get going on this book. Having lived in and around Memphis most of my life, but having been away for the past almost 20 years, I was really looking forward to this historical glimpse into the city where I grew up. But the narration. is. painful... The narrator over-pronounces most words, pauses in bizarre places in the sentence, and even mispronounced at least 10 commonplace words (not proper names or place names, just common words) before I lost count. The first time I tried to listen, I gave up and couldn't do it. But two or three audiobooks later, I decided to give it another go. The print versions of the book have solid reviews so I knew that the story was in there somewhere.
This tale unfolds after the Civil War, beginning with Robert Church, the first black millionaire from the South and leads to a political battle for control of the city between the blacks of downtown sponsored by the Church family and fortune, and the whites of uptown, sponsored by E.H. 'The Boss' Crump and his fortune, right up to the race riots in the 60's. Having grown up in the city just after the race riots, this book was a bit of a prequel to my childhood. It was fun to hear street names and businesses that I remember from my youth.
Now... for the solution to the problem of the narrator. About an hour into my second go at trying to listen to this book, it dawned on me that I was feeling a constant urge to yell "get on with it!" So that's exactly what I did. I hit that little icon on my device that says "1.0 Speed". I opted instead for "1.5 Speed". Lo and behold, things suddenly got a lot more tolerable. I don't think any amount of tweaking could ever make it "good". But tolerable was sufficient. I finally felt I could listen to the story without cringing or having my mind wander between words. That is, until the narrator mispronounced a word. Those were like mental speed bumps that you never saw coming. My ears would hit one of those and BAM! Brain fell off the track. I'd spend several seconds trying get my head around the weird pronunciation and then have to run to catch back up to the storyline, that was clipping along at 1.5x the normal rate. About mid-story, I put the narration speed back to 1.0 and it was fine for the rest of the book. Either the narrator found his groove, or I just got used to listening to him. I'll never know because I doubt I will put myself through the pain of listening to him again.
If you find this book in print, or done by another narrator, I'd certainly recommend it. As it is with this version, have a fourth grader read you his history book. It will sound better.
I have this book in e-book format but prefer audio versions of books so I was thrilled when I saw this was available. This is the worst narrator I have ever heard. Words mispronounced - not cities and streets unique to this city but basic English language.
Different narrator. Good lord, any narrator would be an improvement. I can not believe that this narrator makes a living at this.
This version should be pulled from Audible and replaced with something completely new.
I've lived in Memphis for the majority of my five decades and never heard many of the stories nor known some of the characters. Hard to fathom that Robert Church - the "South's first black millionaire" - is relatively unknown.
Great read but didn't care for the narrator.
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