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

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3.65  ·  Rating details ·  3,580 Ratings  ·  405 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
...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 5th 2010 by Viking (first published January 1st 2010)
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Clif Hostetler
Apr 13, 2013 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
Amy
Jun 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating look at the women killers, journalists, and even (to a slight extent) lawyers of prohibition Chicago. At the end, the author focuses on the creation of the musical "Chicago." Similar to something Erik Larson would write but more holistically interesting. I particularly enjoyed the description and feel of the courtroom. The author uses the engaging language of the newspapers of the time to describe the murderesses and their crimes and it spices up the story.
Definitely one of those
...more
Paul Pessolano
Feb 19, 2011 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
...more
Tara Chevrestt
Apr 28, 2010 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.

http://wwwbookbabe.blogspot.com/2010/...
ambyr
Sometimes, you need to stop and ask yourself: Do I actually want to be a historian, or am I instead a frustrated romance writer? Around the moment that you pen the sentence "Maybe he would take her now, right here on the couch. Yank her underthings off and split her open, with the breeze from the window rolling over them" is probably one of those times.

I wanted, as promised in the jacket blurb, a "crackling social history," something that would set in historical perspective the tumultuous events
...more
Melissa
Aug 10, 2012 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
...more
Kirsti
"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
...more
George
Aug 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ipad, nook-st, non-fiction
INTERESTING, INFORMATIVE AND ENTERTAINING.

”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
...more
Natalie
May 06, 2014 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
April
Mar 18, 2016 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
May
Jan 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
What a disappointing first book of the year.

This is an uninspired retelling that parrots the newspapers without context framing, except spending paragraphs upon paragraphs describing in fine detail just how beautiful or ugly every single woman mentioned was.

I think that the author was trying to forward a thesis that what the events boiled down to was that a beautiful woman can get away with anything, including murder. While this is honestly just a reiteration of the thesis in Chicago: the Musi
...more
Leigh
Mar 13, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was okay. I enjoyed hearing about the murderesses and the period details about Chicago in the early 20th century, but during the first half of the book I kept thinking, “I’d like to hear more about Maurine Watkins!” I googled to see if there’s a published biography about her—none that I could find. I found the young, female Chicago Tribune crime reporter in a male-dominated profession fascinating. Then the focus of the book shifted and Maurine came into the spotlight, and either she’s ...more
Mrs. Palmer
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this one! I learned a lot about the real life murderesses and also the woman reporter who went on to write the play Chicago, which was then adapted to the famous musical (and one of my favorites) many years later.
Chrissy
Mar 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Solidly 2.5 stars. Historically heavy, but interesting!

This is the same story Chicago is based on, so if you're a fan of that, it's interesting!
Sesana
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Fast paced and fascinating, perhaps even more so because I love the Chicago musical.
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
Rachel
Jul 22, 2015 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 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
Ambrosia
Oct 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Kelsey Hanson
Nov 29, 2014 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
Penny
Jun 17, 2012 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
Jodi
Jan 20, 2012 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
Meagan
Aug 15, 2010 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
Jennifer
Aug 06, 2013 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
Melinda
Feb 23, 2012 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
Carmen
Nov 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in Chicago
A book about the murderesses in Cook County during the roaring twenties and the (female) reporter who wrote about them and later wrote the musical Chicago. Shows what life was like in the Jazz Age in Chicago. Shows some ideas of feminism. I like the pictures. As non-fiction, it is a little hard to get into, but then it is pretty fun.
Melissa
Interesting book, the only problem I had was I wish the author had stayed focused a little more. He seemed to meander around a lot from woman to woman and reporter to reporter rather than focusing on each woman's story individually.
Naomi Blackburn
Aug 16, 2010 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.
April
Aug 30, 2010 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.
KellyWells
Jan 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was a wonderful read about the true events that inspired the play "Chicago." Exciting and enthralling!
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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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  • The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Nineteenth-Century New York
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  • Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34
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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.” 3 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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