Accessibility Tools

Hell's Belles

Prostitution, Vice, and Crime in Early Denver, with a Biography of Sam Howe, Frontier Lawman

Revised Edition

by Clark Secrest

Paperback Price $39.95

Buy Now

Named among the 100 Best Books on Colorado History by the Colorado Historical Society

"[L]oaded with spicy information . . . engaging, lively and informative, highly professional but written for popular consumption."
Boulder Daily Camera

"[The book's] greatest contribution is in publicizing a unique source [the Sam Howe Scrapbooks] for studying crime, law enforcement, and prostitution in late ninteenth- and early twentieth-century Denver and the American West. Secrest does a commendable job. . . . Hell's Belles is a rich source and helpful reference that incites curiosity."

Western Historical Quarterly

"Early Denver comes alive in Clark Secrest's new book, Hell's Belles. Engagingly written and well illustrated . . . Hell's Belles is a significant contribution to Western historiography and should be a publication of interest to anyone studying Western American urban or social history."

—Journal of the West

"Clark Secret has assembled a mountain of material and has reproduced many original documents in Hell's Belles. The book is a storehouse of information and an excellent tool for research. In a way it is like reading Herodotus."

—Roger D. McGrath, UCLA

"Hell's Belles is filled with stories, extraordinary photographs, and enlightening quotations. The author has combined detailed research and scholarly documentation with illuminating images and expressive writing of the times."

—Historic Denver News

"[T]he definitive work on prostitution in the West, not to mention one of the best-written, most enjoyable reads in Western history."
—The Denver Post

"The most comprehensive book ever compiled on Denver's seamy side, a book that is scholarly but at the same time lots of fun to read. It's a historical mother lode of evil doings in Denver."

—The Denver Post

"A mother lode of lore about Denver's most-famous ladies of the night. [Author] Secrest says his mother didn't approve of the [book] project, but we think he struck it rich."

—Rocky Mountain News

"This handsome collectors' book by a veteran Denver writer should be a treat for anyone interested in Denver's darker side."

—Thomas J. Noel, University of Colorado at Denver


This updated and revised edition of Hell's Belles takes the reader on a soundly researched, well-documented, and amusing journey back to the early days of Denver. Clark Secrest details the evolution of Denver's prostitution, the gambling, the drug addicts, and the corrupt politicians and police who, palms outstretched, allowed it all to happen. Also included in Hell's Belles is a biography of one of Denver's original police officers, Sam Howe, upon whose crime studies the book is based.

The popular veneer of Denver's present-day Market Street—its fancy bars, posh restaurants, and Coors Field—is stripped away to reveal the street's former incarnation: a mecca of loose morals entrenched in prostitution, liquor, and money. Hell's Belles examines the neglected topics of vice and crime in Denver and utilizes a unique and invaluable historic source—the scrapbooks of Detective Sam Howe.


Clark Secrest retired in 2001 as an editor with the Colorado Historical Society. There he researched and wrote numerous articles for the society's quarterly journal Colorado Heritage.

University Press of Colorado Logo


  • Paperback Price: $39.95
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-87081-633-8
  • Publication Year: 2002
  • Pages: 392
  • Illustrations: 67 b&w
  • Discount Type: Trade
  • Author: by Clark Secrest
  • ECommerce Code: 978-0-87081-633-8
  • Get Permissions: Get Permission

Related Titles

Browse Related Titles Tagged Under:

University Press of Colorado University of Alaska Press Utah State University Press University of Wyoming Press