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

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  2,826 Ratings  ·  344 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-b
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 5th 2010 by Viking (first published January 1st 2010)
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Clif Hostetler
Aug 06, 2016 Clif Hostetler rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Feb 19, 2011 Paul Pessolano rated it really liked it
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
Aug 01, 2010 Tara Chevrestt rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 10, 2012 Melissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
"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
Jun 05, 2015 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nook-st, non-fiction, ipad

”Chicago was Bedlam: debauched, violent, unimaginable—and full of exciting opportunities”—page 29

The stories behind the stories that inspired the successful play, and award winning musical—stage and movie— Chicago, THE GIRLS OF MURDER CITY: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago, by Douglas Perry; just keeps getting better and better.

Young, bright, (and a bit self-righteous) Maureen Watkins, wannabe playwright fresh from academia, lan
Mar 24, 2016 April rated it really liked it
It would seem I am on quite a roll with all these murder-themed non-fiction books as of late. Read my review here
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
Jan 14, 2016 Rachel rated it liked it
3.5 for this book. I can't really say I loved it because well some of the women were frustrating!!! While reading this book I had to write notes to make myself less mad. One I wrote was, 'Impressive and disgusting at the same time. One of the benefits of living in a man's world is not only will they buy you nice furniture, a fur coat, jewels, work overtime to give you a comfortable life, take you back when you cuckold them but give them a wistful sad smile with tears in your eyes you can (litera ...more
April Helms
Oct 11, 2010 April Helms rated it really liked it
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
Kelsey Hanson
Dec 19, 2014 Kelsey Hanson rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Mar 10, 2013 Laura rated it liked it
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
May 15, 2014 Natalie rated it it was ok
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
Dec 24, 2013 Jodi rated it liked it
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
Jun 07, 2015 Meagan rated it liked it
This was a really interesting look into the Murderess' Row of Jazz Age Chicago, and the reporter who adapted their stories into the musical Chicago. It seemed pretty well researched, and I learned a lot specifically about Maurine Watkins, Ione Quinby, and Helen Cirese. Fans of musical theater shouldn't miss it, although I would say that I felt like the author played a little fast and loose with descriptions sometimes. Thoughts and actions are attributed to people even when no one was around to s ...more
Aug 09, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it
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
Apr 30, 2012 Melinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 26, 2010 Naomi rated it liked it
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.
Oct 25, 2010 April rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 15, 2012 KellyWells rated it it was amazing
This was a wonderful read about the true events that inspired the play "Chicago." Exciting and enthralling!
Barbara Nutting
Oct 13, 2016 Barbara Nutting rated it it was ok
As a huge fan of "Chicago" I can't figure out why this book was written??? It is so after the fact!! It's like Perry saw the musical/movie and then wrote from the facts that Maurine Watkins had already written from?? The only good part was the epilogue! Again Google had a more comprehensive account than this book!
Mar 30, 2012 Florinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am much fonder of the musical Chicago than I probably should be. I/ve never seen it on stage, but the movie version came out at a time when...well, lets just say that a story about thwarted women who killed their men wasn't all that far-fetched to me, and I loved The Cell Block Tango (still do). I'm not sure when I learned that the show was fact-based, but it was when I read Douglas Perrys The Girls of Murder City that I discovered just how ripped from the headlines - of 1924 - it really is. B ...more
Oct 01, 2016 Megan rated it liked it
I appreciated that the author wanted to tie several stories together, but the book frequently dragged and I found myself putting it down more than I had anticipated.
Lily Slifer
Nov 23, 2014 Lily Slifer rated it liked it
"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
Aug 30, 2016 Kelly rated it it was amazing
I fell in love with the movie Chicago - the music, dancing, outfits and characters were spectacular. I never once thought that it was based on real life and couldn't have been more excited to have stumbled on this book while in NYC at the Mysterious bookshop.

Women seemed to have caught up to men during the prohibition days in Chicago when it came to crime. The number of killings committed by women jumped 400% in 40 years.

The book mainly followed Beulah Annan case, the most prettiest murderess in
Feb 03, 2013 Brett rated it really liked it
Shelves: nf-hist-american
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
Aug 11, 2011 Wallace rated it liked it
Recommended to Wallace by: Sent to me by the publisher
Type: {Impress Your Friends Read: notable; prize-winner or all around intelligent crowd conversation piece.}
Rating: {Me Likey: Enjoyable! Particularly for fans of this genre.}

Why You’re Reading It:
- You love history.
- 1920′s Chicago, prohibition, jazz-age really gets you going.
- You love the play Chicago.
- You’re a true crime junkie.

What I Thought:

Whoa nelly! I love anything having to do with the jazz and art deco age — the 1920′s/ 1930′s are my bag, baby. Especially if it has anything to do wit
The Girls of Murder City is a twofold history, telling both the story of the infamous girl gunners who captured Chicago’s attention in the 1920s and of the intrepid girl reporter who covered their trials and turned her experiences into the Broadway phenomenon Chicago. In presenting the sensation that was Chicago’s lady murderesses, Perry focuses his attention on two in particular that captivated the citizens of Chicago and stood out on Cook County’s Murderess Row -- “Beautiful Beulah” Annan and ...more
Jan 14, 2014 Madeleine rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, reviewed
Review posted on

The Girls of Murder City is an account of the real life events that led to the inspiration behind Chicago, one of the most popular musicals in Broadway history. Although the book features the murderesses who became famous during a particularly troublesome time in Chicago history, the timeline is built around Maurine Watkins, a bold young woman who comes to Chicago chasing a dream: to become a field reporter. As Maurine makes her way into the chaotic
Nov 01, 2012 Rach rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2012
A fascinating book not only about the women who got away with murder in 1920s Chicago, but also about the female reporters who covered their stories, particularly Maurine Watkins, who went on to write the play "Chicago" based on the lives of Beulah Annan, Belva Gaertner, and the other women of Murderess' Row. It's shocking how true Maurine's play was to the real life events. I loved hearing about the murders and trials from both sides. Part of you gets caught up in the sensationalism of the time ...more
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Bright Young Things: July 2014 - "The Girls of Murder City" by Douglas Perry 43 28 Feb 05, 2016 07:59PM  
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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...

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“Being guided by your own thoughts and abilities, living out there on the high wire and being rewarded for it: That was the Chicago way. Nothing else counted. If it were sensational enough, whether a scientific breakthrough, a rousing new style of music, or an underworld murder, it would be celebrated.” 2 likes
“Her play would not only make no distinction between traditional comedy and farce, it also would make no distinction between comedy and tragedy. They were all one and the same in a superficial modern world of mass communication and overpopulated, spirit-crushing cities, a world that produced anonymous men and women seized by insecurity and a frantic desire for money, status, and attention.” 0 likes
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