Customer Reviews for

The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
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  • Posted August 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Informative, Interesting, and Great Conversation Piece

    Type: {Impress Your Friends Read: notable; prize-winner or all around intelligent crowd conversation piece.}
    Rating: {Me Likey: Enjoyable! Particularly for fans of this genre.}

    Why You're Reading It:

    - You love history.
    - 1920's Chicago, prohibition, jazz-age really gets you going.
    - You love the play Chicago.
    - You're a true crime junkie.

    What I Thought:

    Whoa nelly! I love anything having to do with the jazz and art deco age - the 1920's/ 1930's are my bag, baby. Especially if it has anything to do with Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, or Paris during that time. But wow - what a completely different time in the way of what was acceptable and what wasn't. Murder was nothing new - not even in nice areas like the old Hyde Park of Chicago, and murders by women were actually fashionable; imagine! What started as a possible wave of feminism (women starting to stick up for themselves after decades/centuries of being their husband's property) took a new turn as women started popping off husbands and lovers. Many of these were somewhat crazy - but in 1920's Chicago womanhood was still synonymous with virtue. And if virtue could kill, then the man had it coming. On top of it all, juries were made up of men only, so if a woman came in on trial and she was beautiful. fah-get-abboud-it; all the evidence went out the window.

    Throughout Douglas Perry's The Girls of Murder City we follow Maurine Watkins, new reporter who wanted to get some experience writing before she started her real career (which would prove to be playwriting, maybe you've heard of the musical Chicago?). She covered the crime beat in the early twenties and was a keen observer of the absurdities that surrounded these women as they became celebrities through the publicity given to them while awaiting their trials in Cook County Jail. From her experiences she penned the now famous Chicago as a satirical look at what happened with the infamous Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner (who became Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly respectively in the stage version). Watkins pulled not only the story lines, but actual quotes straight from her articles and put them into her script.

    This thought provoking, very detailed account of the stories of the woman of Cook County Jail and the reporters who covered them, conjures up some questions about if and how much things have really changed. These trials were the inception of criminals becoming celebrities; a conundrum still relevant today. And one has to wonder if women are still considered virtuous with their style, beauty, and personal lives taken into account when charged for a crime. Regardless of how it relates to the murder trials of the 21st century, it will make the reader hurry to Netflix to add Chicago t0 their queue!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 4, 2011

    Vivid and engaging, even without the music

    I'm not sure when I learned that the musical CHICAGO was fact-based, but it was when I read Douglas Perry's The Girls of Murder City that I discovered just how "ripped from the headlines" - of 1924 - it really is. By the way, the word "Chicago" in the book's subtitle really is properly offset by quotation marks or a change in font, because it refers to Chicago the show, not Chicago the city; while the "merry murderesses of the Cook County Jail" certainly did captivate the city, I'm not sure how truly inspiring they were. Having said that, Perry's book is also concerned with another woman - reporter Maurine Watkins, who indeed was inspired to base her first stage play on two of the sensational murder trials she covered for the Chicago Tribune. I think she was pretty inspiring, to be honest.

    Perry relies on both contemporary accounts and later works in his exhaustive research for The Girls of Murder City, but the last adjective that describes this work of narrative nonfiction is "dry." Its primary subject is the consecutive murder trials of "Beautiful Beulah" Annan and "Stylish Belva" Gaertner - the models for Chicago's Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly - both in court during the spring of 1924 to defend against charges of shooting and killing men who were not their husbands. Both cases were salacious and scandalous, and Chicago's many newspapers fed the public appetite for news about the glamorous defendants. Women were rarely convicted of murder by Chicago's all-male juries - especially if they were good-looking women - but following a couple of recent guilty verdicts, there was more at stake for Beulah and Belva.

    Within this framework, Perry also delves into the stories of several other Chicago murderesses of the time, the reporters - mostly women, including Watkins - who told those stories to the public, the way things operated and the challenges faced by women at the newspapers where those reporters worked, and the unrestrained climate of Prohibition-era Chicago, where underground jazz clubs flourished and illegal liquor flowed freely. (If you ask me, Prohibition is an object lesson in irony.) He's got great material to work with, and he crafts it into a page-turner with a firm sense of its time and place. The pace is brisk, and the writing is vivid and occasionally breathless, but Perry succeeds in putting the reader right in the midst of events, including Watkins' application of her satirical eye to shape them into a hit, prize-winning stage comedy (the musical adaptation came years later).

    The environment described in The Girls of Murder City seems to be the birthplace of the celebrity-obsessed, fame-for-its-own-sake mindset we know all too well these days, and it's fascinating in much the same way. Despite being almost a century old, the story here has a sense of immediacy and a contemporary feel, and its blend of true crime and modern history absolutely held my attention.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Read

    This book is a really interesting book. Full of history of Chicago and their outlook on female criminals.
    I highly recommend it for anyone interested in Chicago and crime stories!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2013

    Stupid

    I WOULD GIVE IT ZERO STARS!

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2012

    Yes

    For gangs free

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 5, 2011

    Chicago

    Now we know where the play/movie "Chicago" came from. A book of moderate interest, but much longer than it should have been, given the material.

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  • Posted August 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Good read

    A good read for those who enjoyed Chicago in musical and movie form. At times the details of the trials and testimony can be a bit tedious but it does serve to illustrate the mood in the courtroom. Overall, a very decent read.

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    Posted July 12, 2011

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
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