The Girls of Murder City

The Girls of Murder City

Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago

Book - 2010
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Chicago, 1924. There was nothing surprising about men turning up dead in the Second City. Life was cheaper than a quart of bathtub gin in the gangland capital of the world. But a pair pf murders that spring had something special.

For intrepid 'girl reporter' Maurine Watkins, a minister's daughter from tiny Crawfordsville, Indiana, big city life offered unimagined excitement. Newspaperwomen were supposed to write about clubs, cooking and clothes, but within weeks of starting at the Chicago Tribune, Watkins found herself embroiled in two scandalous sex-fuelled murder cases. The first involved Belva Gaertner, the witty, sophisticated millionaire divorcee who feared returning to the poverty of her childhood. Then there was Beulah Annan a Kentucky farm girl turned jazz baby whose wistful beauty obscured an ice-cold narcissism. Both had gunned down their lovers under mysterious circumstances.

In Chicago, Watkins learned, the all-male juries didn't convict women-especially beautiful women. The young reporter was determined to change that. She mocked 'Stylish Belva' and 'Beautiful Beulah' on the front page and made them the talk of the town. But the public reaction was not what she expected. Love-struck men sent flowers to the jail; newly emancipated women sent impassioned letters to the newspapers. Soon more than a dozen 'murderesses' preened and strutted in Cook Country Jail as they awaited trial, desperate for the same attention that wa being lavished on Watkins's 'favourites.' None of these women-nor the police, the reporters, or the public-could imagine the bizarre way it would all end

Douglas Perry vividly captures the sensationalized circus atmosphere that gave Chicago its most famous story. Fueled by rich period detail and a cast of characters who seemed destined for the stage. The Girls of Murder City is crackling social history that simultaneously presents the freewheeling spirit of the Jazz Age and its sober repercussions.

Publisher: New York : Viking, c2010.
ISBN: 9780670021970
Characteristics: xi, 304 p., [8] : ill., map ; 24 cm.


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Mirror, mirror on the wall...... Who was Chicago's fairest murderess of them all?

Well, if you happened to be living in the "Windy City" back in the 1920's, you just might be surprised to find out that, when it came to murderous crimes of passion, it wasn't always the guys who dominated the headlines. No. Often enough, it was the trigger-happy gals who held the monopoly in this deadly game of doing-in one's mate.

The Girls of Murder City is a detail-saturated social history (competently written and researched by author Douglas Perry) that gives the reader a real close-up look at the making of the celebrity criminal whose best publicity agent was, of course, the news-reporter.

And, in these particular cases of murder, it was the sometimes over-zealous and often relentless newspaperwoman, Maurine Watkins, who kept the insatiable public thirsting for more and more.

So, if you are someone who enjoys reading true crime stories from days gone by, then The Girls of Murder City will, most certainly, whet your whistle and keep you turning page after page to learn all about these brazen "Jazz Age" babes who, damned and defiant, threw all caution to the wind.

Oct 10, 2011

Nothing can compare to the facts about a fascinating time in Chicago history that inspired the play and musical "Chicago". I have been fascinated by the rise of this story since I viewed an obscure movie with Ginger Rogers in the title roll called "Roxie Hart". Definitely cleaned up for the code it still had a titillating premise - woman who get away with murder. And in real life, did they ever get away with it! Not so surprising considering the times - only male juries were allowed, and if you could look even a little pathetic and pretty at the same time you had it made. The shock value behind the story still makes for a book that kept me reading into the wee hours.

Oct 12, 2010

I saw the musical but I didn't realize it was based on a sharp, biting, satiric play about two women who got away with murder. The play was written by a journalist who did not fall for their feminine wiles when she was covering the trials for her newspaper.


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