Classic Chicago Crime for Your Coffee Table

Likely StoriesThe 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.

Billie Murphy

Gertrude “Billie” Murphy, 22, is brought in for questioning in the murder case of Michael Stopec, who was shot and killed in an apartment hotel, circa July 1927. Murphy had been a friend of the married Stopec and his suspected killer Henry Guardino. The Tribune reported that Stopec and Guardino were “bitter rivals for the favor of Billie” and that Murphy had tired of Guardino and was going to stay with Stopec. Murphy was also married to a man in the Joliet penitentiary. (Chicago Tribune photograph for one-time use only in conjunction with reviews or coverage of Gangsters and Grifters by Agate Publishing and the Chicago Tribune.)

Gangsters and Grifters goes on sale tomorrow and is published by Midway, an imprint of Agate Publishing.

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

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