As a resident of the Great State of Texas, I am often reminded of the specters of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. A hotel in my parent’s town is well known for being one of their hideout spots. While we mostly hear about the exploits of gangsters and their “molls,” we rarely get a look inside the lives of women who were Gangsters in their own right. Author Susan McNicoll is here to change that. Her book, Gangster Women, is one of those delights that I found myself devouring on a plane trip.
Don’t expect this book just to be Bonnie Parker. Although she’s a big part of the book, there are many more fascinating- and less famous- women to read about. My personal favorite was Virginia Hill. Know best initially for being Bugsy Seigel’s girlfriend, Hill made a whole life of her own in the mob. She’s also the reason the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas has the name; Flamingo was her nickname from Bugsy. Her sassy nature landed her in hot water, but also let her hold her own as a queen among gangsters. Some of her statements are a bit out there, and probably not appropriate for younger readers. Many of the women in this book lead rough lives following their hearts. Some of the stories are fairly tragic, especially when their children are involved. Many children were left with grandparents for long periods of time, if their parents even returned at all.
My one complaint to this book is that I would have loved to see more women in here of different ethnicity. The book is mostly white-focused from the early 1900’s. I know there have to be more women that could be included in this book.
This is definitely one of those books that you will find yourself diving headlong into and finishing before you realize it. McNicoll also includes many sources so that readers can continue learning about the culture of the time.
Gangster Women by Susan McNicoll is now available from Arcturus.