Murder City: The Bloody History of Chicago in the Twenties

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Things began as they usually did: Someone shot someone else. So begins a chapter of Michael Lesy's disturbingly satisfying account of Chicago in the 1920s, the epicenter of murder in America. Just as Lesy's first book, Wisconsin Death Trip, subverted the accepted notion of the Gay Nineties, so Murder City gives us the dark side of the Jazz Age. Lesy's sharp, fearless storytelling makes a compelling case that ...
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Overview

Things began as they usually did: Someone shot someone else. So begins a chapter of Michael Lesy's disturbingly satisfying account of Chicago in the 1920s, the epicenter of murder in America. Just as Lesy's first book, Wisconsin Death Trip, subverted the accepted notion of the Gay Nineties, so Murder City gives us the dark side of the Jazz Age. Lesy's sharp, fearless storytelling makes a compelling case that this collection of criminals may be progenitors of our modern age.

About the Author:
Michael Lesy is a professor of literary journalism at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Many murders, a ravenous press, villains ordinary and extraordinary, cops intrepid, cops corrupt-all mingled in bland retellings of sensational cases from 1920s Chicago. Lesy (Literary Journalism/Hampshire Coll.) revisits 17 cases. He begins in 1920 with the case of Carl Wanderer, hanged for killing his wife and another man. From there, the author takes readers on a bleak journey featuring sad little people with big guns and no conscience. Harvey Church killed guys for a new Packard. Thomas Catherwood offed a woman for $50. A banker faced with financial ruin, thanks to an embezzling partner, blew out his brains in his car. Other sterling characters include a cross-dresser, a couple of hit men who apparently stepped from the pages of Hemingway's "The Killers," a guy who decided to compete with Capone (not a good plan) and a Wisconsin farmer named Christ who dreamed of his daughter's death. The creepiest, most Byzantine case involves the disappearance and death of Northwestern student Leighton Mount. Was it murder? A hazing gone wrong? A massive cover-up by the university? Fans of the musical Chicago will enjoy reading the chapter about the actual cases it was based on, but all this sordidness has a sad, eye-glazing sameness that Lesy's narcotic narration deepens rather than relieves. Bodies drained of vital fluids, prose drained of affect.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393060300
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/26/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Lesy’s books include Angel’s World and Long Time Coming. In 2006 he was named one of the first United States Artists Fellowship recipients, and in 2013 was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. A professor of literary journalism at Hampshire College; he lives in Massachusetts.

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Table of Contents

Carl Wanderer     9
Cora Isabelle Orthwein     29
Harvey Church     49
Catherwood     77
Roach and Mosby     83
Arthur, Eleanor, and Kate     89
The Banker     109
Leighton Mount     121
Fred-Frances     151
Duffy Double Murder     169
Belva and Beulah     195
Assassins     207
Hymie Weiss     233
Christ's Dream     247
Diamond Joe     261
Pearl     279
Three Murders     287
Afterword     303
Notes     311
List of Illustrations     323
Acknowledgments     327
Index     333
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