“Gatsby-era noir at its best.” – Erik Larson

Abbott Kahler (previously writing as Karen Abbott) is the author of four New York Times bestselling works of narrative nonfiction. A search for an ancestor who went missing in 1905 led her to write SIN IN THE SECOND CITY, which tells the true story of two sisters who ran the world’s most famous brothel and the nationwide battle to shut them down. Her interest in Gypsy Rose Lee, the subject of AMERICAN ROSE, stems from stories her grandmother shared about the legendary ecdysiast’s performances. LIAR TEMPTRESS SOLDIER SPY was inspired by a six-year stint in Atlanta, where the ghosts of the Civil War still seem omnipresent. The HBO show Boardwalk Empire introduced her to bootlegger George Remus, the subject of THE GHOSTS OF EDEN PARK and a character much more fascinating than Al Capone. Her forthcoming nonfiction book, EDEN UNDONE: A TRUE STORY OF SEX, MURDER, AND UTOPIA AT THE DAWN OF WORLD WAR II, will be published in the fall 2024. Set in the 1930s, it tells the story of a disparate (and scheming) group of people who hoped to create a Utopia on the remote Galapagos island of Floreana. As one might imagine, things do not go as planned…

Abbott’s debut novel, WHERE YOU END, is inspired by a true story of identical twins and a strange case of amnesia. Described as “exquisitely written” by the New York Times Book Review, WHERE YOU END was a Good Morning America Buzz Pick, a CBS Book Club pick, a People magazine pick, and was featured on the cover of Publishers Weekly. Abbott’s books have been chosen as Indie Next picks, Amazon’s best books of the year, Library Journal’s best books of the year, and Smithsonian Magazine’s best history books of the year. She has also been a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime, the Goodreads book award for history, and the Ohioana Book Awards, the second oldest state literary prize in the country. She has written for newyorker.com, New York Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and Smithsonian Magazine. She is the host of an iHeartRadio podcast, REMUS: THE MAD BOOTLEG KING, about bootlegger George Remus.

Abbott is a native of Philadelphia, where she spent six years as a journalist, covering crime, advocating for abused women, and hanging out with mafia bosses and baseball wives. She lives in New York City and in Greenport, New York, where she’s convinced her little bungalow is haunted. She appreciates a good poker hand, an old bottle of wine, and the never-ending hunt for new stories to tell.

Abbott's Featured Titles

Eden Undone: A True Story of Sex, Murder, and Utopia at the Dawn of World War II

Crown |
Women in History

An incredible true story of murder in a utopian community established on a remote Galápagos island by European refugees, and the American industrialist who became embroiled in the investigation—from the New York Times bestselling author of The Ghosts of Eden Park.

At the height of the Great Depression, Los Angeles oil mogul George Allan Hancock and his crew of Smithsonian scientists came upon a gruesome scene: two bodies, mummified by the searing heat, on the shore of a remote Galápagos island. For the past four years Hancock and other American elites had traveled the South Seas to collect specimens for scientific research. On one trip to the Galápagos, Hancock was surprised to discover an equally exotic group of humans: European exiles who had fled political and economic unrest, hoping to create a utopian paradise. One was so devoted to a life of isolation that he’d had his teeth extracted and replaced with a set of steel dentures.

As Hancock and his fellow American explorers would witness, paradise had turned into chaos. The three sets of exiles—a Berlin doctor and his lover, a traumatized World War I veteran and his young family, and an Austrian Baroness with two adoring paramours—were riven by conflict. Petty slights led to angry confrontations. The Baroness, wielding a riding crop and pearl-handled revolver, staged physical fights between her two lovers and unabashedly seduced American tourists. The conclusion was deadly: with two exiles missing and three others dead, the survivors hurled accusations of murder.

Using never-before-published archives, Abbott Kahler weaves a chilling, stranger-than-fiction tale worthy of Agatha Christie. Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the march to World War II, with a mystery as alluring and curious as the Galápagos itself, Eden Undone explores the universal and timeless desire to seek utopia—and lays bare the human fallibility that, inevitably, renders such a quest doomed.

Where You End

Henry Holt and Co. |
Psychological Thriller

Welcome to the intricate, disquieting world of the Bird twins, where one sister’s lies send the other back into their dangerous past.

When Kat Bird wakes up from a coma, she sees her mirror image: Jude, her twin sister. Kat remembers nothing except Jude, who must take on the momentous task of rebuilding their past block by block. But as the months progress, Kat begins to fear that, maybe, their childhood wasn’t nearly as idyllic as Jude wants her to believe―a realization that threatens their bond, their safety, and even their lives.

The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America

Crown |
Nonfiction

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The epic true crime story of the most successful bootlegger in American history and the murder that shocked the nation, from the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy

“Gatsby-era noir at its best.”—Erik Larson

An ID Book Club Selection • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST HISTORY BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SMITHSONIAN

In the early days of Prohibition, long before Al Capone became a household name, a German immigrant named George Remus quits practicing law and starts trafficking whiskey. Within two years he’s a multi-millionaire. The press calls him “King of the Bootleggers,” writing breathless stories about the Gatsby-esque events he and his glamorous second wife, Imogene, host at their Cincinnati mansion, with party favors ranging from diamond jewelry for the men to brand-new cars for the women. By the summer of 1921, Remus owns 35 percent of all the liquor in the United States.

Pioneering prosecutor Mabel Walker Willebrandt is determined to bring him down. Willebrandt’s bosses at the Justice Department hired her right out of law school, assuming she’d pose no real threat to the cozy relationship they maintain with Remus. Eager to prove them wrong, she dispatches her best investigator, Franklin Dodge, to look into his empire. It’s a decision with deadly consequences. With the fledgling FBI on the case, Remus is quickly imprisoned for violating the Volstead Act. Her husband behind bars, Imogene begins an affair with Dodge. Together, they plot to ruin Remus, sparking a bitter feud that soon reaches the highest levels of government–and that can only end in murder.

Combining deep historical research with novelistic flair, The Ghosts of Eden Park is the unforgettable, stranger-than-fiction story of a rags-to-riches entrepreneur and a long-forgotten heroine, of the excesses and absurdities of the Jazz Age, and of the infinite human capacity to deceive.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War

Harper |
Nonfiction

Karen Abbott, the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and “pioneer of sizzle history” (USA Today), tells the spellbinding true story of four women who risked everything to become spies during the Civil War.

Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women—a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow—who were spies.

After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O’Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives.

Using a wealth of primary source material and interviews with the spies’ descendants, Abbott seamlessly weaves the adventures of these four heroines throughout the tumultuous years of the war. With a cast of real-life characters including Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, detective Allan Pinkerton, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor Napoleon III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy draws you into the war as these daring women lived it.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy contains 39 black & photos and 3 maps.

American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee

Random House Trade Paperbacks |
Nonfiction

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

America was flying high in the Roaring Twenties. Then, almost overnight, the Great Depression brought it crashing down. When the dust settled, people were primed for a star who could distract them from reality. Enter Gypsy Rose Lee, a strutting, bawdy, erudite stripper who possessed a gift for delivering exactly what America needed. With her superb narrative skills and eye for detail, Karen Abbott brings to life an era of ambition, glamour, struggle, and survival. Using exclusive interviews and never-before-published material, she vividly delves into Gypsy’s world, including her intense triangle relationship with her sister, actress June Havoc, and their formidable mother, Rose, a petite but ferocious woman who literally killed to get her daughters on the stage. Weaving in the compelling saga of the Minskys—four scrappy brothers from New York City who would pave the way for Gypsy Rose Lee’s brand of burlesque and transform the entertainment landscape—Karen Abbott creates a rich account of a legend whose sensational tale of tragedy and triumph embodies the American Dream.

Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul

Random House Trade Paperbacks |
Nonfiction

Step into the perfumed parlors of the Everleigh Club, the most famous brothel in American history–and the catalyst for a culture war that rocked the nation. Operating in Chicago’s notorious Levee district at the dawn of the last century, the Club’s proprietors, two aristocratic sisters named Minna and Ada Everleigh, welcomed moguls and actors, senators and athletes, foreign dignitaries and literary icons, into their stately double mansion, where thirty stunning Everleigh “butterflies” awaited their arrival. Courtesans named Doll, Suzy Poon Tang, and Brick Top devoured raw meat to the delight of Prince Henry of Prussia and recited poetry for Theodore Dreiser. Whereas lesser madams pocketed most of a harlot’s earnings and kept a “whipper” on staff to mete out discipline, the Everleighs made sure their girls dined on gourmet food, were examined by an honest physician, and even tutored in the literature of Balzac.

Not everyone appreciated the sisters’ attempts to elevate the industry. Rival Levee madams hatched numerous schemes to ruin the Everleighs, including an attempt to frame them for the death of department store heir Marshall Field, Jr. But the sisters’ most daunting foes were the Progressive Era reformers, who sent the entire country into a frenzy with lurid tales of “white slavery”——the allegedly rampant practice of kidnapping young girls and forcing them into brothels. This furor shaped America’s sexual culture and had repercussions all the way to the White House, including the formation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

With a cast of characters that includes Jack Johnson, John Barrymore, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., William Howard Taft, “Hinky Dink” Kenna, and Al Capone, Sin in the Second City is Karen Abbott’s colorful, nuanced portrait of the iconic Everleigh sisters, their world-famous Club, and the perennial clash between our nation’s hedonistic impulses and Puritanical roots. Culminating in a dramatic last stand between brothel keepers and crusading reformers, Sin in the Second City offers a vivid snapshot of America’s journey from Victorian-era propriety to twentieth-century modernity.

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Women's History

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History of Prostitution, Burlesque, Bootlegging, Women’s role in the Civil War

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Parallels between Prohibition and the Fight to Legalize Marijuana

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Narrative Nonfiction: Proposal Writing, Research, Constructing a Narrative, Finding an Agent, etc.

Book Club Reading Guides

The Story Behind the Name: From Karen Abbott to Abbott Kahler

Abbott’s News and Events Link

Honors, Awards & Recognition

NYT Best Seller
Indiebound Next List
Amazon Best Seller

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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