City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster that Gave Birth to Modern Chicago (Krist)

Having lived in Chicago for eight years, I’ll always have a soft spot for the place. Krist’s account of these 12 days does a great job of filling in a gap of my understanding of the city and its history. Perhaps because he focuses on a specific period of time and probably because he’s a better writer, I preferred this one to Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City. At times, Larson’s efforts to intertwine his two stories felt forced, contrived.

This is post-World War I Chicago. The soldiers are coming home, Big Bill Thompson is Mayor, Ring Lardner and Carl Sandburg are writing for local papers, and Ida B. Wells is active on the city’s south side. A series of events, both foreseeable and otherwise, throw the city into turmoil and its a test of all involved to see who can turn the city around. Krist recounts the conflicts between Thompson and, well, just about everyone else, with impressive and entertaining clarity – that out of these 12 days came modern Chicago would probably require a sequel to prove. The bridge opening that marks the end of Krist’s narrative is important, but not definitive.

A good read.


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