Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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 divorcee, 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) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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 divorcee, 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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* Maurine Watkins, a girl reporter with the Chicago Tribune in the 1920s, was the first to cover the sensational story of two Jazz Age women who killed their men with the insouciance they gave to filing their nails or rolling their stockings. Decades later, Bob Fosse made the pair of stylish killers internationally famous through his hit musical Chicago. In this account, journalist Perry illuminates both the murderesses who held court at Cook County Jail and the newspapers writers who showcased them. This is as much a book about journalism and social history as it is about crime. Perry re-creates the world of Front Page with vivid details from the era, including the workings of the Linotype machine, which allowed papers to expand from only a few pages in the late nineteenth century to several multipage editions a day. In Chicago, six papers engaged in vicious competition. At the center of the fray were the headling-grabbing stories, often concerning crime and especially women committing murder, a phenomenon that increased 400 percent in 40 years. We follow shy Maurine Watkins, who left graduate school in classics at Radcliffe, as she is hired by the Tribune on a fluke and then goes on to get in-depth interviews and complete trial coverage of Beautiful Beulah Annan and Stylish Belva Gaertner, the models for Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. This is a well-researched, fast-paced story behind the story.--Fletcher, Connie Copyright 2010 Booklist


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Jazz Age Chicago was well known as a town where a pretty woman couldn't be convicted. In 1924, prim Maurine Watkins walked away from Radcliffe and into a job as the Chicago Tribune's police reporter just in time to observe the freak run of homicidal wives and girlfriends that made up Chicago's Murderess's Row. Her disgust at a system, in which all-male juries let beautiful women literally get away with murder, caused her to work tirelessly for justice and to write a viciously satirical play, which morphed into the musical, Chicago. VERDICT The real lives and crimes of these deadly women, as well as the story of Watkins's moral crusade, make for a spellbinding read for history, crime, and theater fans.-Deidre Bray Root, Middletown P.L., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.