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City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago
     

City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago

4.0 35
by Gary Krist
 

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ABOUT THIS BOOK...

The masterfully told story of twelve volatile days in the life of Chicago, when an aviation disaster, a race riot, a crippling transit strike, and a sensational child murder transfixed and roiled a city already on the brink of collapse.

When 1919 began, the city of Chicago seemed on the verge of transformation. Modernizers had an

Overview

ABOUT THIS BOOK...

The masterfully told story of twelve volatile days in the life of Chicago, when an aviation disaster, a race riot, a crippling transit strike, and a sensational child murder transfixed and roiled a city already on the brink of collapse.

When 1919 began, the city of Chicago seemed on the verge of transformation. Modernizers had an audacious, expensive plan to turn the city from a brawling, unglamorous place into "the Metropolis of the World." But just as the dream seemed within reach, pandemonium broke loose and the city's highest ambitions were suddenly under attack by the same unbridled energies that had given birth to them in the first place.

It began on a balmy Monday afternoon when a blimp in flames crashed through the roof of a busy downtown bank, incinerating those inside. Within days, a racial incident at a hot, crowded South Side beach spiraled into one of the worst urban riots in American history, followed by a transit strike that paralyzed the city. Then, when it seemed as if things could get no worse, police searching for a six-year-old girl discovered her body in a dark North Side basement.

Meticulously researched and expertly paced, City of Scoundrels captures the tumultuous birth of the modern American city, with all of its light and dark aspects in vivid relief.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Drawing readers in by focusing on the stories of individual Chicoans affected by a series of tragic events, Krist (The White Cascade) describes a Chicago that was “push… to the edge of civic disintegration” by 12 days of crises in the summer of 1919. On Monday, July 21, an experimental Goodyear blimp flying over the densely populated downtown Loop district to promote an amusement park suddenly burst into flames and crashed into the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank, injuring 27 and killing 13. The next day, the six-year-old daughter of Scottish immigrant grocers was snatched and choked to death by a neighbor who buried her body in the basement of their apartment building. On Saturday, July 26, a highly regarded municipal court judge committed suicide by jumping from his City Hall chambers, and on Sunday, a black youth’s death caused by a white bather at a whites’-only beach sparked a race riot on the South Side. As the rioting continued, a transit strike paralyzed Chicago on Tuesday, July 29, and endangering lives by playing politics, the controversial Mayor Big Bill Thompson dithered about calling in the National Guard to quell the violence. Krist serves up a solid, well-informed, and vibrant slice of urban history. Map. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
Think you've had a rough couple of weeks? The author of The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche (2007) returns with a tale of air disaster, race and ethnic riots, labor violence, child murder, political corruption and more--all in a Windy City fortnight in 1919. Employing a zigzag style throughout his entertaining, troubling narrative, Krist corrals several plot threads: the fiery, deadly crash of the blimp Wingfoot Express into a Loop bank building, the disappearance of and frantic search for a little (white) girl, a violent race riot that transformed the South Side into a war zone (it took the National Guard to restore order), a looming transit strike that threatened to put more angry people on the street, assorted ethnic clashes, the emergence of crisis-oriented journalism and the vicious political struggle between Chicago Major Big Bill Thompson and Illinois Gov. Frank Lowden. Krist also includes regular commentary by a young woman diarist, Emily Frankenstein (whose father, incredibly, was named Victor--and was a doctor), who pops up too often to offer banalities about her life. The blimp crash seemed to ignite kindling that was already smoldering, and soon the city blazed with riot and fury. Snipers and hooligans abounded; cops struggled (though not enough, claimed some aggrieved black residents); politicians lied, changed the subject and tried to cover their asses. A suspect in the abduction waxed arrogant--at first; Ring Lardner, Carl Sandburg, Edna Ferber, H.L. Mencken and others weighed in. A grim but eager narrative that delivers vivid reading.
The New York Times Book Review
…a lavishly intricate, well-paced account of a great city lashed to the breaking point by a political perfect storm…Above all, City of Scoundrels freshly illuminates how the riots of 1919 were a turning point for African-Americans.
—James McManus
The Washington Post
…a crisply focused affair that relates how a blimp disaster, a transit strike and a race riot made for a particularly hellish July of 1919…Krist shows an admirable ability to interweave so many threads while breathing life into a host of supporting characters…As a page-turner that offers resonant insights into the inflammatory political and racial dynamics of an earlier time, City of Scoundrels works just fine.
—Mark Caro
From the Publisher
"(An) eager narrative that delivers vivid reading."
Kirkus Reviews

"The most compelling adventure yarn, full of crashing dirigibles, bloody riots, and classic crooks. Loved it."
Scott Turow, author of Presumed Innocent

"A lavishly intricate, well-paced account of a great city lashed to the breaking point by a political perfect storm."
New York Times

 

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307454294
Publisher:
Crown/Archetype
Publication date:
04/17/2012
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
6.34(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.34(d)

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"(An) eager narrative that delivers vivid reading." — Kirkus Reviews

"The most compelling adventure yarn, full of crashing dirigibles, bloody riots, and classic crooks. Loved it." —Scott Turow, author of Presumed Innocent

"A lavishly intricate, well-paced account of a great city lashed to the breaking point by a political perfect storm." —New York Times

 

Meet the Author

Gary Krist has written for the New York Times, Esquire, Salon, Washington Post Book World, and elsewhere.  He is the author of the acclaimed The White Cascade as well as several works of fiction.

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City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
simple344 More than 1 year ago
very interesting book outline, so naturally had to get the this book. It did not disappoint!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In a review I just wrote (but doesn't yet appear) I complained about a lack of photos that appeared in the hardbound version. I was wrong. While the section appears several pages past where it is in the hardbound version, it is there. And it is even shown in the Table of Contents (which I am sure I'd checked earlier but apparently not -- or there are pesky gremlins that sneaked it in after I complained) So, consider my complaint withdrawn and I shall amend my initial review if possible (and when it appears) and add a star as I have done here.
anchorworm More than 1 year ago
This was an enjoyable, informative read. It is a look back at the city of Chicago in the first part of the last century. The book looks at a terrible time for the city, from a blimp crash into a bank in the loop, to a child's murder, to the worst race riot the city had seen. It also looks at the mayor's office and how glad handing and racial politics affected the response of the city to these problems.
RonnaL More than 1 year ago
Gary Krist has written an extremely detailed account of what he calls the twelve days in 1919 that changed and made the city of Chicago.  This involved a supposed "treat ride on the new Goodyear blimp" that was a disaster when it caught fire and fell ablaze into the center of a popular Chicago bank; a transit strike that turned into a political battleground; race riots between the blacks that were making a new life for themselves in the north, and the whites who didn't want them there; and the murder of a six year old girl by a disturbed man.  Krist tells this tale through detailed accounts of people's letters and journals, and accounts from newspapers and other first hand reports of the time.  For lovers of extensive histories of Chicago, I believe this book is a must read.  For historians of American politics, this reads like political battles of the present day.  But, perhaps for the casual reader, this was a bit long winded.  Some personal views of lovers or militia men, plus names of many of the victims from these different events were not truly necessary.  But, I believe this book was well done for exactly what it claims to be telling---the events that changed a city into the political being, and visual entity that it is today.
MickMurph More than 1 year ago
I was born and raised in Chicago, I absolutely love everything about this city, except the cubs and northsiders! haha.... Iam always interested in anything having to do with city's history. Gary Krist does an excellent job of explaining the early part of the twentieth century in Chicago. There have been many books Ive read relating to this city's history, but I found this book to be extremely informative and introduced a lot of facts about Chicago's past that I never knew before
Colinus More than 1 year ago
Extremely interesting account of events I'd never even heard of before reading the book. It reads like fiction, I couldn't put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book starts off strong but subject matter becomes less compelling as the book progresses.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book basically tells the story of several events which transpired during a short period of time in 1919 Chicago with Mr. Krist trying to tie them together. Although I applaud Mr. Krist's meticulous research, I found the book somewhat laborious and at times boring. I was originally attracted to this book because it covered the 1919 Wingfoot Dirigible disaster which I had never read anything about beyond newspaper accounts of the time. Although it did a fair job on this event, the book got bogged down talking extensively about Chicago Mayor William Thompson, his political career and battles with the governor of Illinois, and the city political scene. The coverage of the Chicago Race Riot was fairly done as well, but did not seem all that different from other sources I have read. I did find the inclusion of several eyewitness accounts from sources I did not know of to be interesting. If you want to read about the 1919 Chicago political landscape then you should find it of interest. It took me some time to get through it because of the detailed political information which caused me to put it down a few times while trying to read it. My overall rating, well, I would have to give this book a C+ and a so so recommendation for the reasons stated.
lincoln1865 More than 1 year ago
This book was very interesting. A little too much political stuff (which I usually like), but intriguing stories about the race riots, and blimp disaster.
HALRPH More than 1 year ago
Writing style can be a bit sensationalized - but its an interesting history of my most favorite and the best city in the Whole World - Sweet Home Chicago! well referenced
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent account of politics and events in Chicago
Tabi0 More than 1 year ago
Amazing! Gary Krist strikes again!!
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