By Finn J.D. John
The History Press, $19.99, 144 pages
“…Portland’s reputation back east had changed little since the 1850s…a sober, hardworking frontier town full of brave pioneers.This made it a virtual Venus flytrap for suckers from back east.”
Imagine a frontier town full of prostitution, crooked law enforcement, shady politics, kidnapping, drug smuggling, murder, and mayhem. No, we are not talking about Deadwood or Dodge City. We are talking about Portland, Oregon, a town whose wild-west infancy wasn’t as sweet smellin’ as its Rose City inhabitants of today might think. In his book, Wicked Portland, syndicated columnist and author Finn J.D. John exposes the wild side of Stumptown, a city divided into areas where the rules were enforced, and where — for the right price — the rules were treated as friendly suggestions.
John also provides insight into how the inevitable convergence of different social classes in Portland (the New England business men; the Midwestern pioneer; the transient sailors, loggers, and miners; and the immigrant populations) allowed activities such as police-fixing, drug use in the opium dens, shanghaiing innocent saloon patrons, and the operation of harems to take place within the city limits.
In addition to the amusing stories and character profiles, the print copy of the book includes QR codes. These codes, when scanned, provide further information, pictures, maps, and video on the topic being discussed in a particular chapter. This clever use of technology is a bonus!
Reviewed by Cheri Woods-Edwin