August 2010 Indie Next List
“Chicago during Prohibition in the year 1924 was a dangerous place to be an adulterer and a great place to be a killer. A lady killer. Just ask Belva Gaertner and Beulah Annan, two murderesses who became media sensations thanks to Maurine Watkins, a lowly 'girl reporter' for the Chicago Tribune. With detailed accounts of Jazz Age Chicago and 'Murderess Row' in Cook County Jail, Perry highlights a time when newspapers clamored over these killers, giving birth to the celebrity criminal and the power behind the manipulations of the mighty press.”
— Kristin Bates, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI
With a thrilling, fast-paced narrative, award-winning journalist Douglas Perry vividly captures the sensationalized circus atmosphere that gave rise to the concept of the celebrity criminal- and gave Chicago its most famous story. The Girls of Murder City recounts two scandalous, sex-fueled murder cases and how an intrepid "girl reporter" named Maurine Watkins turned the beautiful, media-savvy suspects-"Stylish Belva" and "Beautiful Beulah"-into the talk of the town. Fueled by rich period detail and a cast of characters who seemed destined for the stage, The Girls of Murder City is a crackling tale that simultaneously presents the freewheeling spirit of the Jazz Age and its sober repercussions.
About the Author
DOUGLAS PERRY is an award-winning writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, The San Jose Mercury News, Details, and The Oregonian. He is the online features editor at The Oregonian and the co-author of The Sixteenth Minute: Life in the Aftermath of Fame. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
"The recounting of the murders is gripping stuff, but where Perry shows a particularly gifted touch is in the sights and smells of a 1920s newsroom."
-The Portland Oregonian
"The Girls of Murder City spans several categories-true-crime, comedy, social history. It turns out that behind "Chicago" there was a sexy, swaggering, historical tale in no need of a soundtrack. Liked the movie. Loved the book."
-The Wall Street Journal
"Fans of true crime and popular history will enjoy the book's oversized female characters and its hardboiled background of crime and no punishment."
-The Boston Globe
"For true crime buffs, history fans or anyone interested in the roaring 1920s, this one's a sure-fire hit."
-Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Perry takes a sturdy foundation of murder, sex and Chicago's scandal-happy newspapers and builds a nonfiction marvel. His bouncy, exuberant prose perfectly complements the theatricality of the proceedings, and he deftly maneuvers away from the main story without ever losing momentum...The Girls of Murder City not only illustrates the origins of a new media monster, but reminds us that we've never been that innocent."
"A jazzy reprise of a time when the criminal justice system in Chicago let good- looking killers off the hook and newspapers exploited every lurid detail of dalliances turned fatal for their front pages."
"As entertaining as Chicago (on stage or screen), and far more informative, The Girls of Murder City recaptures a moment in which the Victorian feminine ideal was (and wasn't) giving way to the "churning change" of the flapper lifestyle - and ebulliently elucidates the emergence of the criminal as celebrity. It's this summer's "not guilty" pleasure."
-NPR, Books We Like
"Consistently entertaining...A chronicle of the wild spring and summer of 1924, when Chicago was afflicted with a seeming epidemic of female murderers."
"[A] well-researched, fast-paced story behind the story."