the harlots pen-2

Author: Claudia Long
Title: The Harlot’s Pen
Published On: Feb 1 2014
Publisher: Devine Destinies
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San Francisco in the roaring 20s-- After World War I, San Francisco is a wild town. Abandoned by her lover, Violetta is swept up in the new, freer ways and becomes America's first "embedded journalist." She joins a brothel that caters to San Francisco's most powerful men in order to write her epic story on the conditions of working women. But federal agents looking to clamp down on both vice and workers' rights don't take kindly to her modern views. Shorter dresses, fair pay for women, and the dark and frightening worlds of sex and politics teach Violetta the lessons of a lifetime.


Fremont Older threw his head back and laughed. I looked back down at the table, mortified. “No, no, don’t be upset! The idea is absurd, but not as bad as your first idea. There’s potential there, and if it’s original, it sells.”
“Papers, silly girl. That’s what we do, right?”
I nodded, dejected. That’s what the Argus had done, and it had cost me everything. I said so to Mr. Older.
“But everything is what counts. If you don’t give everything, you get nothing. But let us discus this. What whores do you know?”
I, of course, knew none. “And now I don’t even know how to find one.” I thought about the girl so long ago on the Oakland street.
“Well then, let me tell you how. There is a madam up in Sonoma who runs a most elegant house, and every influential man in California who is not impotent or a Mormon has frequented her establishment. She closed up her San Francisco shop when the getting was good and opened up in a place called El Verano. It is an extremely high class joint, the women are beautiful—and most prostitutes are not even pretty, legend to the contrary. The madam is gracious, intelligent, and well informed. She has a fine cook, an excellent liquor storehouse, and the best musical entertainment to be had. You could go to her, write about her girls…”
He stopped, this time it was he who stared into the distance. Then he banged his spoon on the table. “In fact, become one of her girls!”
I sat back, outraged. “You are joking.”
“No, I am not. I can see it now: the true story of a working girl, as told to The Call! You are quite pretty, though a bit on the tall side, and well spoken. You have had, shall we say, adventures, so you will not be shocked at the tasks to which you are appointed. You will gain access to the most influential men in California. And think about the goldmine of material you will have for your writing! If you write about your experiences, changing the names, obviously, so you don’t get us sued for libel, I will consider publishing it. Your story will reach the hearts and minds of the people who matter most.
“Meanwhile, I will back your expenses and await your report. Of course, you must not tell her I sent you. But write a brilliant series on your life as a high-class whore, and your literary future is assured.”
I was still horrified, but Mr. Older was already talking details. “You must send it all at once, not piecemeal, so I can review it in its entirety before making a decision. I know you can write, and I know you can think. And there’s nothing left for you here in San Francisco now. So, are you in?”
After about a minute I nodded. Fremont Older’s face split into a grin. “Now that’s my girl!” He shook my hand across the table. “You have signed on for a great adventure!”
I shook his hand, glorying in his approval, my head buzzing with confusion.
Only now, in the quiet, empty house, I wondered what on earth had I agreed to?


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