Murder City: The Bloody History of Chicago in the Twenties
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Michael Lesy's portrait of a gruesome era could be fiction but it's not.
"Things began as they usually did: Someone shot someone else." So begins a chapter of Michael Lesy's disturbingly satisfying account of Chicago in the 1920s, the epicenter of murder in America. A city where daily newspapers fell over each other to cover the latest mayhem. A city where professionals and amateurs alike snuffed one another out, and often for the most banal of reasons, such as wanting a Packard twin-six. Men killing men, men killing women, women killing mencrimes of loot and love. Just as Lesy's first book, Wisconsin Death Trip, subverted the accepted notion of the Gay Nineties, so Murder City gives us the dark side of the Jazz Age. Lesy's sharp, fearless storytelling makes a compelling case that this collection of criminals may be the progenitors of our modern age. 60 illustrations
Harvey and Daugherty to Harvey’s house. He offered Daugherty a drink. “I never say no to a drink,” Daugherty said. Harvey headed for the basement. Daugherty followed. Harvey picked up a handgun. (Police said they’d found the gun in a drawer in Harvey’s bedroom.) “Is this the gun?” Newmark asked Harvey. Harvey said it was. The weapon was a cheap .32 caliber, “dresser drawer”/“pocket revolver” called a “bulldog.” (“British bulldogs,” made by reputable British and Belgian firms, were used as
He’d broken his hand a few days before in a fight. . . . Duffy said he had to meet some guys downtown. . . . We got a cab . . . down to North Clark. Duffy . . . went to Richardson’s poolroom. . . . “He brought a stranger back with him—he called him ‘Harry.’ . . . We all got into Harry’s Cadillac and drove back to Carmen Avenue. . . . “Duffy was boiling over mad . . . about Jack Horton . . . Jack Horton had run away with his car and his money. . . . Duffy said he wanted to get another car and
“Curly” Brown, the manager of the Gingham Café, testified that Walter and Belva had come in around ten o’clock, ordered three eleven-ounce “family size” bottles of ginger ale, then spent the next two hours there—presumably mixing the Gingham’s ginger ale with the gin that Belva had carried in, hidden in her coat. That gin, according to a chemist employed by the city, had been a mixture of water, juniper juice, and alcohol. “Fortytwo and twenty-six hundredths percent alcohol.”10 The Gingham’s Mr.
priest who’d known O’Banion as a boy delivered a eulogy; another priest read from the liturgy, then recited a Hail Mary and the Lord’s Prayer. The cardinal of Chicago refused to let O’Banion be buried in consecrated ground. Five months passed. As soon as the ground thawed, O’Banion’s friends had him dug up and moved: his new grave was eighty feet from the tomb of a bishop.10 PART TWO The war of revenge that Merlo and Eisen feared began less than two months after O’Banion was shot. It lasted
businessman; he’d been out of town; he’d never met the dead man. The coroner’s jury ventured a guess: the dead man had died because he’d been shot. End of story. Except, Capone and McSwiggin met. They took a good look at each other. They were both on their way up. Capone would inherit Torrio’s world; McSwiggin would inherit Crowe’s. Why not live and let live? Maybe even do business. McSwiggin’s body was still warm when it was found. The O’Donnells had emptied McSwiggin’s pockets, ripped the