And all that jazz!
The Girls of Murder City by Douglas Perry, my most recent read, is subtitled Fame, Lust and the Beautiful Killers who inspired Chicago. (Disclaimer: There is no version of Cell Block Tango in the book.)
Perry uses newspaper accounts and trial transcripts from the cases of several of the highly publicized occupants of Murderess’ Row in the Cook County Jail. If you’ve ever seen Chicago, Roxie and Velma are featured prominently in the book.
What I did not know, and learned through the book, is one of the reporters who covered these cases at the time is the woman who wrote the play Chicago. She was adamant it would not be a musical, and her family sold the rights to the play after her death, leaving us with Cell Block Tango and All That Jazz etc.
What’s also surprising is the obvious prejudice the reporters used at the time. I work as a reporter and I cover court cases from time to time. My boss would fire me on the spot if I used sarcasm to describe the attire of a defendant or their testimony on the stand.
This book was really fun to read and very informative. Perry does a great job of using true accounts to paint a picture of what Chicago in the era of Prohibition (before the gangsters took over the headlines) was like.
There has not been a era of women murder suspects in the same way since. It was truly a one time phenomenon and Perry does a great job illustrating it with the players’ own words.
And if all else fails, reading this book gives you a reason to go around singing All That Jazz…