The passage of time helps make even the most gruesome crimes less horrible and more interesting to contemplate. (Heaven knows, we in Chicago could use a thick pair of rose-colored glasses.) In Gangsters and Grifters: Classic Crime Photos from the Chicago Tribune, more than 120 photos from the newspaper’s archives offer a glimpse of a Chicago that was, in some ways, just as violent as today’s—but, thanks to the fascinating period details, less troubling than this morning’s headlines. Still, the astonishingly crisp photos, printed from 4×5 glass negatives, bring an arresting immediacy that allows readers to picture themselves in the frame. If not, perhaps, behind bars.
Yes, you’ll find John Dillinger and Al Capone in these pages, but it’s the forgotten figures, such as Billie Murphy, pictured below, that held the most fascination for me.
Gangsters and Grifters goes on sale tomorrow and is published by Midway, an imprint of Agate Publishing.