cover image Making Monte Carlo: A History of Speculation and Spectacle

Making Monte Carlo: A History of Speculation and Spectacle

Mark Braude. Simon & Schuster, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4767-0969-7

Braude expands his doctoral dissertation, which examined the evolution of Monaco from 1855 to 1956, into 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. This detailed evolution begins with the arrival of gambling impresarios François and Louis Blanc, twin brothers with a vision: capitalizing on the nascent spa trend and combining it with gambling to create a unique destination for hedonists. François spared no expense when it came to creating his resort, Bad Homburg, pouring all the profits back into raising its profile and creating an aura of exclusivity. Fawning press coverage and endorsements from well-known figures—such as painter Edvard Munch, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, artist Pablo Picasso, and, most surprisingly, philosopher Karl Marx—only added to the resort’s appeal, creating an almost mythical destination. Braude admirably balances the political machinations with the glamorous aspects of Monte Carlo in his story, but he seems winded by the book’s end. What could have been a triumphant and dramatic close—the inaugural Grand Prix—feels more like a wheeze as the book coasts to its conclusion. (May)