William F. Deeck

GYPSY ROSE LEE The G-String Murder

GYPSY ROSE LEE – The G-String Murder. Hardcover edition: Simon & Schuster, 1941. Also published as: Lady of Burlesque, Tower, hardcover, 1942. Ppaperback reprints include: Pocket #425, 1947; Pop. Library Eagle A3635, 1954; Avon T258, 1958. Penguin, 1984; The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2005. Possibly ghost-written by Craig Rice. Film: United Artists, 1943, as Lady of Burlesque, with Barbara Stanwyck as Dixie Daisy & Michael O’Shea as Biff Brannigan.

   Burlesque impresario H. I. Moss brings Gypsy Rose Lee to the Old Opera Theater — “GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! Laffs! Laffs! Laffs! Boxing Thursday Nights” — and Lee brings her old friend and fellow stripper Gee Gee Graham with her. Soon after their arrival, one of the strippers is strangled with her own G-string, and later another stripper is strangled with yet another G-string.

   Biff Brannigan, the first comic and Lee’s boyfriend, is the unofficial detective in the novel. With his help the police unmask at least one murderer — or maybe a would-like-to-have-been murderer — meanwhile putting Lee’s life at risk.

GYPSY ROSE LEE The G-String Murder

   Most of the novel deals with the rather unpleasant backstage life of the performers, who aren’t a very mixed crew. Except for the one with a lisp, the strippers are hard to tell apart; they all sound alike in their dialogue, which is mostly puerile and self-centered.

   They aren’t even, if we can believe the rather cattish comments of their peers, attractive physically. Also, more should have been done with what occurred on the stage, certainly the most interesting aspect of burlesque from the customers’ viewpoint.

   Of interest, I would say, only to readers who enjoy show-business-type mysteries, who must be abundant or else there are still many doddering Lee-as-stripper fans around. As evidence, the recent Penguin Books reprint went into a second printing. The earlier Simon and Schuster edition went into printings of double figures, but Lee was still stripping strongly at the time and was in the movies.

   (It appears to be accepted in mystery circles that Craig Rice wrote The G-String Murders. J.R. Christopher’s article in The MYSTERY FANcier 8:3, “Who Really Wrote the G-String Murders?” raises a question about this acceptance.

GYPSY ROSE LEE The G-String Murder

   In a postscript to the Simon and Schuster edition, Lee is given full credit for the novel. It is said that she did all three drafts by herself, although for the final draft she had the aid of a thesaurus.

   In Erik Lee Preminger’s Gypsy & Me, he mentions The G-String Murders several times, with no indication that anyone other than his mother wrote the book. Responding to a letter I wrote him, he said:

    “The question of Craig Rice’s contribution to The G-String Murders was settled shortly after the book was published. Success has many fathers… Mother’s friend George Davis also claimed credit for G-String.

    “I wasn’t around when Mother wrote the book. Georgia Sothern swore Mother wrote every word, as did Mother. And I saw her write every word of Gypsy.”

   I don’t know what Mr. Preminger meant by Rice’s contribution having been settled, but he is obviously convinced that his mother did indeed write The G-String Murders. My conclusion, for what it’s worth, is that the novel does not have the Rice flair and reads as if Lee were the author — that is, that it is an amateurish effort.)

From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 10, No. 2, Spring 1988.

Editorial Comment:   My own review of this book immediately precedes this one; or in other words, right here.