Friday, May 14, 2010

Queen City Gothic

My latest book report....
Queen City Gothic, by J.T. Townsend, tells the stories of a number of unsolved murders in Cincinnati going back to a series of possibly related murders of young women in Cumminsville (Northside) in the early 1900s. The stories are told in chronological order up to the last case involving several murders in 1971. The author tells each story, gives a summary & then tells the story again as a sort of dramatization. I am only reading the stories. I am not thrilled with Townsend's writing style, tho easy to read & some of his locations don't seem exactly right - well, the ones in Northside at least. The really great thing about this book is the detailed bibliography. If you decide to go to the library & look up the newspaper articles, you are all set.
I am skipping some of the stories & only reading the ones that occur in neighborhoods I am interested in. I am probably screwing myself but the chapters are pretty short & it's real easy to just pick up & read for short periods of time. Not to be dismissive, but it might be a good bathroom book.
What Townsend does really well, however, is giving the reader an idea of people's attitudes, police attitudes & policies and a glimpse of the society of Cincinnati & it's neighborhoods at the time.
Brushing off safety issues because only "fallen" women were being targeted. How people are afraid when a white guy is suspected but people go totally berserk when a black guy is the suspect. The commonality of, if not pedophilia, the really obviously inappropriate behavior of adult men towards little girls & the fact that some of the little girls were actually promoting it. Descriptions of the old neighborhoods, like Mohawk & what is now called the Brewery District which was still very well populated & not destitute but still had the maze of tunnels under the streets & old breweries that would bedevil police investigators. Talking about a Cumminsville that still had a train going through the middle of the community. People ready to lynch one another & people leaving their houses & apartments unlocked if not wide open.
It's not a great book but it has some good shit in it. If you are into Cincinnati history, it's worth picking up.
& seriously, the bibliography is a goldmine.

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