The Girls of Murder City

The Girls of Murder City

Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago

Book - 2010
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Penguin Putnam

The true story of the murderesses who became media sensations and inspired the musical Chicago

Chicago, 1924.

There was nothing surprising about men turning up dead in the Second City. Life was cheaper than a quart of illicit gin in the gangland capital of the world. But two murders that spring were special - worthy of celebration. So believed Maurine Watkins, a wanna-be playwright and a "girl reporter" for the Chicago Tribune, the city's "hanging paper." Newspaperwomen were supposed to write about clubs, cooking and clothes, but the intrepid Miss Watkins, a minister's daughter from a small town, zeroed in on murderers instead. Looking for subjects to turn into a play, she would make "Stylish Belva" Gaertner and "Beautiful Beulah" Annan - both of whom had brazenly shot down their lovers - the talk of the town. Love-struck men sent flowers to the jail and newly emancipated women sent impassioned letters to the newspapers. Soon more than a dozen women preened and strutted on "Murderesses' Row" as they awaited trial, desperate for the same attention that was being lavished on Maurine Watkins's favorites.

In the tradition of Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City and Karen Abbott's Sin in the Second City, Douglas Perry vividly captures Jazz Age Chicago and the sensationalized circus atmosphere that gave rise to the concept of the celebrity criminal. Fueled by rich period detail and enlivened by a cast of characters who seemed destined for the stage, The Girls of Murder City is crackling social history that simultaneously presents the freewheeling spirit of the age and its sober repercussions.



Baker & Taylor
The true story of the murderesses who became media sensations and inspired the musical Chicago. There was nothing surprising about men turning up dead in Jazz Age Chicago. Life was cheaper than a quart of illicit gin in the gangland capital of the world.But two murders that spring were special, or so believed Maurine Watkins, a "girl reporter" for the Chicago Tribune, the city's "hanging paper." Newspaperwomen were supposed to write about clubs, cooking and clothes, but the intrepid Miss Watkins zeroed in on murderers instead. She made "Stylish Belva" Gaertner and "Beautiful Beulah" Annan--both of whom had brazenly shot down their lovers--the talk of the town. Soon more than a dozen women preened and strutted on "Murderesses' Row" as they awaited trial,desperate for the same attention that was being lavished on Maurine Watkins's favorites.--From publisher description.

Baker
& Taylor

Documents the true stories of Belva Gaertner and Beulah Annan, the women whose sensational murder trials inspired the musical "Chicago," and traces the contributions of fledgling reporter Maurine Watkins against a backdrop of Chicago's Jazz Age culture.
Documents the true stories of the women whose sensational murder trials inspired the musical characters Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, tracing the contributions of fledgling reporter Maurine Watkins against a backdrop of Chicago's Prohibition Era and Jazz Age culture.

Publisher: New York : Viking, 2010
ISBN: 9780670021970
0670021970
Branch Call Number: 364.1523 P429g
Characteristics: xi, 304 p. , [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm

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Fuzzy_Wuzzy
Mar 01, 2016

Mirror, mirror on the wall...... Who was Chicago's fairest murderess of them all?

Well, if you happened to be living in the "Windy City" back in the 1920's, you just might be surprised to find out that, when it came to murderous crimes of passion, it wasn't always the guys who dominated the headlines. No. Often enough, it was the trigger-happy gals who held the monopoly in this deadly game of doing-in one's mate.

The Girls of Murder City is a detail-saturated social history (competently written and researched by author Douglas Perry) that gives the reader a real close-up look at the making of the celebrity criminal whose best publicity agent was, of course, the news-reporter.

And, in these particular cases of murder, it was the sometimes over-zealous and often relentless newspaperwoman, Maurine Watkins, who kept the insatiable public thirsting for more and more.

So, if you are someone who enjoys reading true crime stories from days gone by, then The Girls of Murder City will, most certainly, whet your whistle and keep you turning page after page to learn all about these brazen "Jazz Age" babes who, damned and defiant, threw all caution to the wind.

k
KarenW
Oct 10, 2011

Nothing can compare to the facts about a fascinating time in Chicago history that inspired the play and musical "Chicago". I have been fascinated by the rise of this story since I viewed an obscure movie with Ginger Rogers in the title roll called "Roxie Hart". Definitely cleaned up for the code it still had a titillating premise - woman who get away with murder. And in real life, did they ever get away with it! Not so surprising considering the times - only male juries were allowed, and if you could look even a little pathetic and pretty at the same time you had it made. The shock value behind the story still makes for a book that kept me reading into the wee hours.

m
michael12
Oct 12, 2010

I saw the musical but I didn't realize it was based on a sharp, biting, satiric play about two women who got away with murder. The play was written by a journalist who did not fall for their feminine wiles when she was covering the trials for her newspaper.

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