My friend John tossed me this book to review for monthly arts and politics journal The Brooklyn Rail about one of the 20th century’s first women playwrights, crime reporter turned dramatist Maurine Watkins, author of Chicago, which was a biting, satirical straight play long before it was a Kander, Ebb & Fosse musical. Enjoy the review, or, more importantly, enjoy the book.
The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired ‘Chicago’
Close on the heels of Deborah Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York (Penguin, 2010), comes Douglas Perry’s true crime history The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago, which turned out to be a welcome companion piece.
The former is a dissection of New York City’s use and rapid improvement of nascent forensic medical techniques during the Prohibition era. Murder after murder is lovingly recreated—especially those involving poisons—and then deconstructed by über CSI experts. The latter book takes us to Prohibition-era Chi-town, where the weapon of choice wasn’t poison but pistols, and the bad guys were bad gals. **cont’d at the Brooklyn Rail>>