Making Monte Carlo: A History of Speculation and Spectacle (Paperback)
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“A brisk historical tour of the marketing and selling of the small principality of Monaco and its famous city…A well-researched, dramatic rags-to-riches urban tale” (Kirkus Reviews) of Monte Carlo’s rise from small principality to prosperous resort town of the 1920s.
Monte Carlo has long been known as a dazzling playground for the rich and famous. The “vivid, entertaining” (The Wall Street Journal) Making Monte Carlo traces a narrative history of the world’s first modern casino-resort, from the legalization of gambling in Monaco in 1855—passed as a desperate bid to stave off bankruptcy—through the resort’s improbable emergence as a glamorous gambling destination of to its decline in the wake of WWI and its subsequent reinvention in the 1920s until the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix in 1929, on the eve of the Wall Street crash that would largely spell the end of the freewheeling era.
Along the way, we encounter a colorful cast of characters, including Francois Blanc (a professional gambler and cheat and eventual founder of Monte Carlo); Basil Zaharoff (notorious munitions dealer and probable secret owner of the casino for some years in the 1920s); Elsa Maxwell (hired as the casino’s publicist in the late 1920s); Réné Léon (a visionary Jewish businessman with murky origins); Serge Diaghilev, Jean Cocteau, Coco Chanel, Pablo Picasso, and other satellite members of the Ballet Russes dance company; as well as Gerald and Sara Murphy and other American expats, such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
“An engrossing examination of how politics, personality, and publicity coalesced to transform a sleepy village into a luxurious playground populated with casinos and beautiful people” (Publishers Weekly), Making Monte Carlo is a classic rags-to-riches tale set in the most scenic of European settings.
About the Author
Mark Braude teaches history and urban studies at Stanford University. He holds a PhD in History from the University of Southern California and a Master’s in French Studies from New York University. He has been a columnist for The Globe and Mail and has written for The Daily Beast and other publications. Mark was born in Vancouver and lives in San Francisco with his wife. Making Monte Carlo is his first book.
"Lurid tales of crime and aristocratic extravagance ... Braude describes how savvy impresarios actualized an illusion of their own devising: Monaco as a glamorous oasis in which 'sun-kissed lives played out on clay courts and under canvas sails.' ... The primary pleasure in Making Monte Carlo comes from watching the various eccentrics, lowlifes, high-rollers, and famous artists stroll in to take a seat at the table."
— The Millions
“It’s half the size of Central Park — and one of the wealthiest places on the planet. Now Braude tells how a Victorian-era gambling impresario transformed a sleepy village in resource-free Monaco into a glittering, casino-filled playground for the rich and famous — long before Las Vegas was even a dream.”
— New York Post
“An engrossing examination of how politics, personality, and publicity coalesced to transform a sleepy village into a luxurious playground populated with casinos and beautiful people…Braude admirably balances the political machinations with the glamorous aspects of Monte Carlo in his story”
— Publishers Weekly
“In his first book, about 'how we create places largely through the stories we tell about them,' Braude (History and Urban Studies/Stanford Univ.) takes us on a brisk historical tour of the marketing and selling of the small principality of Monaco and its famous city… A well-researched, dramatic rags-to-riches urban tale.”
— Kirkus Reviews
"Braude takes an intriguing look at the creation of Monte Carlo through the people and their stories, sometimes true and sometimes exaggerated, which helped make the place what it is today. Those interested in the history of modern Europe, specifically the individuals involved in defining its most popular locales, will enjoy this book."
— Library Journal
"Monte Carlo is a place that lives at the edge of our collective imagination: the locus of sensational daring and spectacular wealth. Mark Braude's fluent, detailed account puts flesh on those bones, revealing a largely overlooked history as capacious and dramatic as a nineteenth-century thriller."
— Luc Sante, author of Low Life and The Other Paris
"Part thriller, part historical narrative, Braude's tale is a must-read for anyone interested in money, power and scandal, which is just about any of us. Writing with breezy prose and authoritative research, Braude delves into the seedy world behind Monte Carlo's glitter with gusto. In Making Monte Carlo, we learn not just of the fascinating tapestry of characters who made Monte Carlo a storied mecca for light and dark, but how the town set the stage for so many other recreational playgrounds through history and that we enjoy today."
— Mary Pilon, author of The Monopolists
“In Making Monte Carlo, Braude masterfully tells the story of how princes, profit-seekers, and press agents created luxurious Monte Carlo in resource-poor Monaco. Making expert use of source material, he builds a highly readable, engaging narrative that traces the resort's origins, its Belle Époque glory, and its adjustment to the tensions of the twentieth century. Connecting the rise and evolution of Monte Carlo with the larger social and cultural forces that shaped the era, Making Monte Carlo is a compelling, enlightening read.”
— David G. Schwartz, author of Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling
“Braude’s deftly written Making Monte Carlo is social and cultural history at its best. Above all, it is an object lesson in the modern art of promotion. Contrary to Sam Spade, Braude demonstrates that nothing quite pays off like the stuff that dreams are made of.”
— Kenneth E. Silver, author of Making Paradise: Art, Modernity, and the Myth of the French Riviera