March 19, 2012
City of Scoundrels by Gary Krist
This book was compared to Devil in the White City. And while they were both about Chicago, I do have to say that I think Devil in the White City is the better book. It was more engaging. But it was still a very interesting book and had its moments.
City of Scoundrels details twelve very tumultuous days in Chicago's history. Starting with a blimp crash of one of Goodyear's first blimps, to a kidnapping and murder, to rampaging race riots, these days in history would change the politics and mood of Chicago forever. The politicians who ran the town reacted to these events in ways that would be criticized and questioned as the years passed. Amidst the major events were the smaller stories too, of people who lived during these days in Chicago and who felt the direct impact of what was happening.
The biggest "character" in this book would probably be Big Bill Thompson, the mayor during the twelve disastrous days. It explained his running campaigns, politics, and a little bit about his personality in general. He was supposedly a likable guy, but I really didn't care much about him either way. The other people didn't focus as heavily in the book, but a few had interesting stories. Like a couple of the men involved in the blimp crash. You're introduced to them and then WHAM, tragedy strikes. Very compelling anyway. On a polar opposite though was the small running story of a woman who was secretly engaged to be married, but to be honest I couldn't stand her and wish she wasn't in the book. She just seemed pretty self centered what with everything else that was going on in Chicago at the time, even right down the street from her. That and her story was just kind of frivolous, no meaning in a book full of meaning.
The plot drug on. I had a hard time finished this book. It was chock full of interesting facts about events I had never heard about. But it was tedious to read and wasn't very smooth or engaging. I did learn a lot, especially about the race riots and the blimp crash. I actually had never even heard of a blimp crash outside of the Hindenburg before so I found that incredibly informative. And I liked the list of resources and notes at the end. The book was definitely well researched.
A smoother writing style and this might have been right up there with Devil in the White City. I would probably still read another book from this author though, despite not being able to fully immerse myself in this one.
City of Scoundrels