A tale of murderous mayhem from the Queen of Burlesque
A whodunnit set in the demimonde of burlesque theater, The G-String Murders was penned in 1941 by the legendary queen of the strip-teasers—the witty and wise-cracking Gypsy Rose Lee. Narrating a twisted tale of a backstage double murder, Lee provides a fascinating look behind the scenes of burlesque, richly populated by the likes of strippers Lolita LaVerne and Gee Gee Graham, comic Biff Brannigan, and Siggy the g-string salesman. This is a world where women struggle to earn a living performing bumps and grinds, have gangster boyfriends, sip beer between acts, and pay their own way at dinner.
The story unfolds in a New York theater modeled on the legendary Minsky’s, prone to raids by corrupt city cops and fierce competition among strippers. When one performer is found strangled with a g-string, no one is above suspicion. But when a second murder follows, the trail – and the action – really heats up. In the police procedural that follows, a host of clueless coppers faces off against the theater’s tough-talking guys and dolls, and it’s clear that Gypsy and her cohorts will have to crack the case themselves.
The basis of the 1943 film Lady of Burlesque starring Barbara Stanwyck, The G-String Murders was the first of two murder mysteries written by Gypsy Rose Lee. A natural born raconteur, Lee also contributed short pieces to The New Yorker and hosted her own television talk show; even her unparalleled stardom in the burlesque world was attributed more to her witty banter than to her risque moves. It is this fabled wit, along with Gypsy’s brassy sociology, that make The G-String Murders a must-read primer of sex, commerce, and urban living.