City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago

City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago - Gary Krist From July 21st through August 1st, 1919 Chicago was a city of turmoil. This non-fiction account of that time reads like a good historical fiction novel, but as the author states in the forward all the events are factual and no dialogue is invented. Mr. Krist draws from public record, newspaper accounts and personal diaries to piece together what happened during those 12 days. On a calm and comfortable Monday afternoon the Wingfoot Express blimp exploded over the city sending burning debris (and bodies) crashing into a bank. While the city mourns the 13 tragic deaths from the explosion a 6-year-old girl goes missing starting the hunt for a dangerous pedophile. Already reeling, Chicagoans also witness the very public suicide of a judge, suffer through a transit strike and endure the infamous race riots.

Mr. Krist chronicles these events in order and intersperses the narrative with excerpts from political documents outlining the conflict between mayor “Big Bill” Thompson and Governor Lowden, readings from the diary of a debutante in love with an unsuitable young man and various other personal and public documents. This allows the reader a glimpse into the gritty politics and racial tensions of the city and the feelings of citizens affected by what was going on around them.

Mr. Krist’s writing is never dry and the book moves along without a hitch to make it an enjoyable read. If textbooks were written in this manner, students would be lining up to take history classes. While it may be a positive for other readers, if I had to make a negative comment I would be that, for this reader, the narrative was a little heavy on the politics.