Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid: America’s Original Gangster Couple

Glenn Stout. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-0-358-06777-1
Journalist Stout (Fenway 1912) puts the illicit exploits of jewel thieves Richard “Candy Kid” Whittemore and Margaret “Tiger Girl” Messler in the context of the Jazz Age in this rollicking true crime tale. Noting that the U.S. endured one of its sharpest economic downturns in the years after WWI, Stout describes the couple’s working-class childhoods in Baltimore and their 1921 marriage (“like so many of their age, all they wanted to be was something other than what they were”). A juvenile delinquent, Whittemore enlisted in the Coast Guard at age 16, was dishonorably discharged, and ended up in prison for breaking into a house eight days after his wedding to Margaret. When he got out, he formed a gang and robbed jewelry stores in New York City, netting upwards of $300,000 per heist. (Margaret often cased the places before the break-ins.) When they were caught and put on trial in 1926, Stout writes, thousands of flappers and wannabe gangsters gathered outside the courthouse to support the couple. Stout colorfully evokes the era’s political issues and cultural trends, and describes how Prohibition increased disrespect for the law across American society. This snappy page-turner informs and delights. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 12/04/2020
Release date: 03/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 978-0-358-06725-2
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