In my high school days I was a theatre kid. Being a part of a theatre program, even if it’s for a short while, means you will, inevitably, discover other musicals and spend a lot of time in front of your mirror belting out your favorite show tunes. Chicago is one of the musicals I discovered and love love loved. I am, in fact, listening to the soundtrack while writing this. So, when one of my friends told me she was reading a book about the real life events that inspired the play that inspired the musical, I signed up to be first on the list to borrow it from her when she was done.
This was a fascinating book. Having seen the movie many times over, I recognized the characters being described, and even some of the lines said in court. It adds to the absurdity of the plot (women murders not getting convicted because of the media circus around the case and their beauty, of course) when it’s understood that it was all based on true events. The spectacle that the musical presents, the court drama, and the media coverage seems to have been accurately, minus occasionally breaking out in song, represented in the musical.
The tone of the book was often that of a story teller, I imagine this was mimicking the newspapers of the time, which made it easier to read, but it sometimes took away from the credibility of the book. The “facts” of the case were often coming directly from the newspapers of the time, which we had just been told dramatized things and sometimes blatantly lied. It may be a sign of the times that I read this book with such skepticism.
I read with the understanding that the author is trying to sell a story, the reporters back then were also trying to sell a story, and the only people that knew what happened were dead or trying to avoid death, thus, not entirely reliable, honesty wise. I imagine most people today would read the story with the same understanding. In this day and age we’ve been inundated with “news” stories blown out of proportion and dramatized to try and convince us it’s worth our time to spend money on the story. They take a side and try to convince us to agree with them. The Girls of Murder City depicts this happening for one of the first times, and the whole country bought into to it.
To be completely honest I knew the murderesses stories already. They didn’t stop being interesting, but it was not new information. What was new, was the reporters side of the story. They were swaying the whole country’s way of thinking about these ladies. How much was intentional? How much did the readers misinterpret? What effect did this have on the reporters? The newspapers? The answers to these questions are what I took away from this book.
Read on with caution, I know you probably know this but it’s all a show, and there is always a seedy backstage that we may not be allowed to see. I’ll leave you in court to be razzle dazzled…