The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired 'Chicago’

Douglas Perry, Author Viking $25.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-670-02197-0

This jaunty retrospective of two Jazz Age trials introduces us to the real-life originals of the killer ladies of the musical Chicago —and to the society that adored them. Journalist Perry (The Sixteenth Minute: Life in the Aftermath of Fame ) revisits the 1924 cases of Belva Gaertner, a swanky divorcée, and Beulah Annan, a beautiful married woman, both accused of shooting their lovers to death. They were the most photogenic on Cook County jail’s “Murderess’ Row” of defendants in a spate of woman-on-man killings that inflamed the press and captivated a public grown bored with gangland murders. (Perry’s third heroine is skeptical female reporter Maurine Watkins, who bemoaned the inability of all-male Chicago juries to convict killers with pretty faces.) The author gives an entertaining, wised-up rundown of the cases and the surrounding media hoopla, which the defendants and their lawyers cannily manipulated. (Annan hired a fashion consultant for court appearances and falsely declared herself pregnant to win sympathy.) Beneath the sensationalism, Perry finds anxieties about changing sex roles as feisty flappers and aggressive career women barged into public consciousness; his savvy, flamboyant social history illuminates a dawning age of celebrity culture. Photos. (Aug. 9)

Reviewed on: 04/12/2010
Release date: 08/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 585 pages - 978-1-4104-3335-0
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