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

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  2,055 ratings  ·  280 reviews
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
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 5th 2010 by Viking Adult (first published January 1st 2010)
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The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFor the Thrill of It by Simon BaatzSin in the Second City by Karen AbbottThe Girls of Murder City by Douglas PerryThe Beast of Chicago by Rick Geary
Chicago Crime
4th out of 64 books — 10 voters
The Bean Trees by Barbara KingsolverHeaven is for Real by Todd BurpoCoraline by Neil GaimanAngry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna LandvikThe Girls of Murder City by Douglas Perry
TKDTC Book Club
5th out of 17 books — 1 voter

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Community Reviews

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Clif Hostetler
This book is nonfiction history that reports on a time in 1924-25 Chicago when the mutually reinforced interplay between news about several alleged murderesses and intense competition among the local newspapers combined to fire up public interest to an absurdly passionate level. The book then finishes the story by following Maurine Watkins, a reporter at the trials, as she goes on to write a satirical comic drama based on what she had witnessed. Her stage play was performed on Broadway and had a ...more
Paul Pessolano
The minute I finished this book I ran downstairs and put my DVD of the musical "Chicago" in and found new meaning and enjoyment of it.

"The Girls of Murder City" is the true story of the beautiful killers who inspired the Academy Award winning musical "Chicago".

The story is told through the eyes of Maurine Watkins who reported their stories and wrote the play.

Chicago, at this time, had all male juries, and all male juries did not convict women, especially beautiful women.

The Cook County Jail had
Tara Chevrestt
In Chicago, 1924, illegal booze was all the rave, jazz music played into the wee hours of the night, and the number of killings committed by women had jumped 400 percent in the last forty years... And no, I'm not saying there is a connection. I can drink some wine and listen to some jazz tunes and I don't shoot my husband dead..

These women did tho... read the full review by clicking the link below.
"Sure, I whipped my millionaire husband, but it was he who gave me the whip." --socialite murder suspect Belva Gaertner

"My God! What did they do?" --Katherine "Tiger Girl" Malm, on hearing of her murder conviction

"This is one time when my face was my fortune." --Chicago Tribune reporter Margery Currey, learning that the new no-women-in-the-newsroom ruling did not apply to her because she was so unattractive that her presence wasn't distracting

"No woman can love a man enough to kill him. There ar
I’ve seen the 2002 film of the musical Chicago, I’ve seen the live stage performance, but I never realized just how much of the story was based on fact. Perry tells the nonfiction tale of the actual murderesses, the crimes they committed and the media frenzy that followed in their wake. I thought the book was fascinating because the true story is even more intriguing than the fictionalized stage version.

In 1924 there were a surprising number of murders committed by women in Chicago. Two of the
Kelsey Hanson
This book has a slow start for me, but the second half of the book makes up for the slow start. This book tells the stories of the women in Chicago who inspired the characters in the famous play. It is told mostly from the persepective of Maurine Watkins, a journalist who would one day write the play based on her experiences as she covered the trials of these women. As a big fan of the play and musical I found this really interesting and I was able to pick up right away on the similarities betwe ...more
April Helms
Another good read for history fans, especially crime history buffs, as well as fans of the musical "Chicago." The story concentrates on Maurine Watkins, a young, conservative woman from Indiana who moves to Chicago to learn about life and to become a police and courts reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Her stage play, the Broadway hit "Chicago," was a result of her real-life experiences in covering several high-profile murder cases of that age. Fans of "Chicago" will easily see the inspirations b ...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
I'm a big musical fan (I can often be found belting out various Broadway tunes) and I love quirky history non-fiction books. I like books that focus in on some minute part of history that I've never known about before. The Girls of Murder City had been on my TBR list for awhile so when I got an opportunity to read the book through Unputdownables Early Reader group, I was ecstatic. This book tells the true story behind some of the women that inspired the musical, Chicago. For you all not in the B ...more
The Girls of Murder City is an interesting book I picked up since I am a fan of crime and saw the 2002 movie "Chicago," at least once. The book gives you the true back story of not only the murderesses but also the origins of the production "Chicago." I loved the glimpse the author gave you of the newspaper industry in such a historical period. The author placed portions of actual articles and headlines written at the time which were less straight forward like the ones we read today and more lik ...more
Not bad, although it got a little repetitive on some of the facts of the crimes toward the middle of the book. I wanted to know more about the backgrounds, the families, the childhoods of the murderers, but it's possible that that information is just not out there. Overall I was really interested in the background of the playwright who wrote Chicago and how covering these trials for the Tribune put her on that path. There was also a lot of interesting historical background on Chicago itself as w ...more
I loved this book. Perry has written an interesting/factual book about the murderous girls who inspired crime report Maurine Watkins to write the play "Chicago" during the 1920s. The tales of these women in Cook County Jail and their celebrity status and relationship with the media is fascinating but sickening at the same time. A really interesting look at crime reporting, justice and the media. I learned a lot from Perry through reading this and I am not sure how much society in general has cha ...more
Maurine Watkins, intrepid crime reporter for the Chicago Tribune, covers the infamous murder trials of Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner, both accused of killing their lovers. In 1924 murderesses, especially pretty ones, were considered glamorous. Maurine later turned to screenwriting and wrote the famous play "Chicago" based on these real life killers. Douglas Perry told these women's stories (and touched on three other cases) in such a way that I could literally picture things happening. Well re ...more
This was interesting and a quick read. I've seen the movie 'Chicago' and vaguely recall that it was based on a true story, but I had no idea of its real history. It was fascinating to read about Maurine Watkins, one-time classics scholar, as a beginning reporter covering the murder cases and then writing her play. I also didn't know that 'Chicago' was made into a silent movie and the 1942 film, 'Roxie Hart.' Will have to try to find those....

Newspaper crime coverage seems a bit more responsible
IQ "If it's one of those 'yes-or-no-and-stick-by-your-guns' affairs, it must be 'no', she wrote in another letter, 'for God alone knows where I'll be next Monday and He won't tell-I've asked Him" Maurine Watkins, pg. 254

The review opens with this quote because it shows Maurine Watkins (the playwright of Chicago) deadpan wit and her religiousness, two of her most defining characteristics. She wasn't super uptight though, she was extremely religious but this did not prevent her from going into Co
The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers who Inspired Chicago was an excellently written tale of the murderesses of Cook County Jail. This included Belva Gaertner and Beulah Annan, the inspiration of Velma Kelly and Roxy Hart. The author's goal of writing was to inform, and Perry delivered. He not only spoke of the girls in Cook County, but also spoke of the play's writer, Maurine Watkins, Prohibition, and the era of jazz and cabaret, making for a very interesting book.

I didn't realize how totally ripped from the headlines "Chicago" was, or that it had been ripped from those headlines by one of the reporters writing them. Maureen Watkins was among the pioneering women crime reporters at the Chicago Tribune. She reported on violent crime, a part of the celebrity culture without glorifying the murderesses in the Cook County Jail. From those experiences, she wrote the satirical play.

The real women who served time prove interesting enough to justify at least some
There are seven reviews excerpted on the back cover of this book, and four of them use the word "entertaining". That's it, basically. If you're interested in the subject matter (play or era) and want to be entertained, this is your book. I was pretty disappointed in it, although not for any reason I could really justify, because it does a good job with the facts and story (although the prose style is... not great). I consistently wanted more context and analysis for what happened; Perry constant ...more
Just okay for me. This book was just missing something. It was part biography of the playwright and part historical Chicago crime chronicle, but couldn't decide which it wanted to be. Perry knew he could get more money out of using the identifiable play as a headline to draw readers in, but his coverage of those stories and the trials wasn't all that interesting. Then he talked about the Leopold and Loeb case as well as a couple of other stories that weren't really part of the main story but whi ...more
This book totally blew my mind away! This is a true story which was recommended to me. I couldn't believe the story line without going into spoilers. It would have gotten 4 stars from me but I thought the story could have been tightened up some.
Lily Slifer
"The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers who Inspired Chicago" by Douglas Perry
3 out of 5 stars

"The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers who Inspired Chicago" by Douglas Perry is a nonfiction novel full of interesting history, and mystery. This novel tells a true story of Maurine Watkins, a female crime reporter for the Chicago Tribune, covering the infamous trial of Belva Gaertner as well as the trial of Beulah Annan in the 1920's. Both women were
Great book about the murderesses in Chicago in the 1920's. I didn't realize that the Chicago Tribune reporter that wrote about these women went on to write the play Chicago.
This was a wonderful read about the true events that inspired the play "Chicago." Exciting and enthralling!
This was a decent read. Made interesting in old time Chicago and the evolution of how America viewed Women who kill.

The book is well written and gives a good set of descriptions of the mindset, culture and ultimate acceptance of Women killers and their prosecution in the roaring 20s.

Has some interesting early crime stories in early Chicago.

Decent read, may be a little slow at times but overall enough content to make for an interesting read for a Chicago history buff.

Give this a solid 3 stars
The most beautiful women in the city were murderers.

In Chicago in 1924 there seemed to be an epidemic. Women, the fairer and weaker sex, were committing heinous murders of men. What made it worse was that the all-male juries seemed to be swayed by their beauty as the majority of them were acquitted. In this book, Perry tells the stories of these women, their crimes, and the journalist that covered these crimes. A journalist who would go on to write a play called Chicago.

I highly enjoyed this bo
I read this on the back of my "I'm going to read nothing but Chicago history" kick that I was on, which included The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. And having been an English major in college (albeit a terrible one...), I've also had an on-again-off-again interest in the development of journalism in the 19th and 20th century. So this was right up my alley.

The author did a great job of adding just enough flare that was found in the journalism
An example of the importance of historical understanding, and a monument to marketing.

The Girls of Murder City is an explicit attempt to cash in on the success of Chicago: The Musical by reprinting, at length and without attribution, period newspaper accounts with minimal framing.

Perry has no feel for Jazz Age Chicago or the Prohibition Era, so he can't expand the story beyond the limits of what he is given from by newspapers, and that also makes him their foil. Because Perry uncritically parro
I really loved the movie version of "Chicago", & I was obviously not the only one. It deserved the attention it got. The sad truth is, though, that this serious history nerd managed to enjoy the heck out of the musical while having no idea that it was more or less based on some actual historical events. Sad. But thanks to this equally entertaining book, I've got a reason to watch "Chicago" again, with a little relevant information this time.
Chicago really kind of deserved its infamous reputa
An interesting look at a part of American history that often gets overshadowed by the gangster wars of the Prohibition era. Well-researched, but it feels like there's something missing from Perry's prose - it occasionally feels thudding, and never quite reaches the fascination levels of that holotype of Chicago history books, The Devil in the White City . Additionally, aside from an occasional bit of moralizing about the loose-ness of the era (hardly new, and frankly distressing in a supposed hi ...more
What a refreshingly interesting read! I enjoyed this book about the women on Murderess Row quite a bit. It was intriguing from every angle--the gossipy stories of these women's crimes, the inside look into how trials worked in the 1920s, and the peek into the world of journalism.

It is absolutely amazing to me that newspapers of the time were so openly biased--writers seem to have even been encouraged to be writing in order to influence the outcomes of the trials.

I really enjoyed the look into t
The Girls of Murder City by Douglas Perry, a Kindle book I began reading on or about December 6th. Very much intrigued by the concept of the real women who inpired the 'Chicago' musical (and, later, movie) and that time period and location's history, I decided to give this one a whirl.

The way the chapters fluctuate between being about all the women at the prison together and then each of them individually is somewhat daunting the more you progress through the book. You start to forget pertinent
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Bright Young Things: July 2014 - "The Girls of Murder City" by Douglas Perry 42 22 Aug 13, 2014 01:30PM  
  • The Devil's Gentleman: Privilege, Poison, and the Trial That Ushered in the Twentieth Century
  • For the Thrill of It
  • The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder
  • Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern
  • The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars
  • American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood & the Crime of the Century
  • American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, the Birth of the "It" Girl and the Crime of the Century
  • The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science
  • Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul
  • London 1849: A Victorian Murder Story
  • The Fall of the House of Walworth: A Tale of Madness and Murder in Gilded Age America
  • Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties
  • The Italian Boy: A Tale of Murder and Body Snatching in 1830s London
  • The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft,  and Detection
  • Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34
  • The Outfit: The Role of Chicago's Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America
  • Satan's Circus: Murder, Vice, Police Corruption, and New York's Trial of the Century
  • The Road Out of Hell: Sanford Clark and the True Story of the Wineville Murders
Doug is the author of "Eliot Ness: The Rise and Fall of an American Hero" and "The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago."

An award-winning writer and editor, his work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, The Oregonian, Tennis, and many other publications.
More about Douglas Perry...
Eliot Ness: The Rise and Fall of an American Hero The Wolf Woman: The Short, Violent Life of Kitty Malm, Chicago's "Bandit Queen" The Fall and Rise of Roger Federer VHDL: Programming by Example VHDL: Programming by Example

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