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

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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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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2013

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  • Posted February 5, 2011


    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 January 28, 2011

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    Posted October 25, 2011

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    Posted January 10, 2011

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    Posted March 9, 2011

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