In The Audacity of Inez Burns, Stephen G. Bloom, reveals a jagged slice of lost American history. From Inez’s riveting tale of glamour and tragedy, he has created a brilliant, compulsively readable portrait of an unforgettable woman during a moment when America’s pendulum swung from compassion to criminality by punishing those who permitted women to control their own destinies.
A reader gets the sense that Bloom spent years — perhaps even decades — researching Burns’s life ... Bloom is at his best when he takes us through the San Francisco of the early 20th century, painting a vivid picture of the city as an embarkation point for sailors during World War II ... The only problem with The Audacity of Inez Burns is that it is at times repetitive — Bloom often reminds the reader of what she should already know ... Bloom’s adroit narrative brings this forgotten San Francisco story to light.
Bloom tells a captivating story of Burns’ ascent, presented alongside San Francisco’s breathtaking transformation in the first decades of the 20th century. To compensate for a lack of sources, he re-creates scenes and invents dialogue, a practice that will irk those who prefer their nonfiction unembellished.
Bloom’s exhaustive new biography is cinematic in scope as well as feel; each turn of the page reveals another finely-wrought revelation or flummoxing plot twist ... The book reads like a love letter to not only the irrepressible Mrs. Burns, but to the city of San Francisco itself, with especial attention lavished upon the gilded excess and savage grotesqueries of its lawless prewar years ... Lisa Riggin’s book on Inez came out a year before Bloom’s, but Bloom’s is the far more satisfactory read, in terms of pacing, storytelling, and research; he spent over 25 years reconstructing Burns’ world, and it shows.