Author Guest Post
The Wicked Wives is a noir suspense thriller of historical fiction: murder, betrayal, court room drama, love and lust based on the true story of the 1938 poison scandals in Philadelphia.
When I was eight years old, I overheard adults in our South Philadelphia neighborhood discussing seventeen disenchanted and unfaithful neighborhood wives who allegedly murdered their husbands for insurance money. This was a fascinating topic for an eight year old boy eavesdropping on adult conversation. People were discussing the true story of Philadelphia's infamous 1938 poison murder conspiracy scandals. My fascination led to obsession as I grew older, and I knew that I had to write about these women, their lovers and their husbands.
The setting of The Wicked Wives takes place when the times were marred by the Great Depression and the prelude to World War II, and is largely confined to the City of Philadelphia. At 293 pages, the novel is equal parts murder, suspense, love, lust, corruption, treachery and intriguing court room suspense leading to a dynamic ending.
The protagonist, First Assistant D.A., Tom Rossi is placed on the horns of a dilemma. He wants the party's nomination for District Attorney but powerful Deputy Mayor Bill Evans refuses to back him; unless Tom prevents the arrest of the deputy's niece, Lillian Stoner, for the homicide of her husband, Reggie. Evans demands that Tom not order an autopsy on the body. He give Tom 24 hours to decide or threatens to have him disbarred, defeated in his campaign to win the nomination for D.A. and to have his girl, Hope, fired as a nurse from her city job. Hope is part African American, but can pass for white.
Tom's anger at Evans outweighs his logic. Before an autopsy confirms a homicide, he orders arrests of Lillian and her lover, Giorgio DiSipio, for the murder of Reggie Stoner. Their arrests make headline news. Homicide is deluged with phone tipsters accusing Giorgio of being involved in many other similar suspicious deaths involving adulterous wives and insurance. Many of the wives live within a few blocks of Giorgio's tailor shop. But, the medical examiner concludes that pneumonia caused the death, not homicide. Infuriated, Evans has Hope fired, damages Tom's political future, begins disbarment proceedings against him and causes a breakup of his love affair with Hope. The Globe Newspaper headline reads: "D.A. Candidate's Girlfriend Fired From PGH For Lying About Colored Background."
A fascinating conspiracy unfolds. the poison gang's colorful and hilarious characters help to deep-six a minimum of twenty husbands. The supporting cast includes Giorgio, "The Don Juan of Passyunk Avenue." Aside from Lillian, "the society wife," the wives include Rose, the "Kiss of Death Widow," Eva "the nymphomaniac" and the "hopelessly in love" Joanna.
The gang's ring leaders, the mysterious Lady in Black and her companion, the Giant, continually elude arrest and systematically execute state witnesses prior to the wives' trials.
After many comical episodes, intriguing detective work and two suspense filled high profile trials, ten wives plead or are found guilty of murdering their husbands. Tom concludes that a life without the love of his girlfriend is a life without pleasure. He goes to her with hat in hand to propose marriage. But Hope coldly rejects him.
The Wicked Wives is a story made for Hollywood, combining murder, corruption, treachery, lust and phenomenal detail as it vividly captures Depression-era Philadelphia.
I'm a practicing trial lawyer with offices in center city Philadelphia. I began my law career as a criminal lawyer, and have more than forty-seven years of criminal and civil court room trial experience. It is from this experience and personal interviews with judges, lawyers, and witnesses that were involved in these cases, that the novel is based upon.
About The Author:
Gus was born and raised within blocks of the main conspirator’s tailor shop and the homes of many of the wives convicted of murdering their husbands.
His latest book is The Wicked Wives.
Gus Pelagatti's The Wicked Wives Virtual Book Tour Page On Pump Up Your Book!
The Wicked Wives Book Trailer
The Wicked Wives by Gus Pelagatti
Published By: Mill City Press, Inc.
Release Date: June 20, 2011
Format: Paperback - 304 pages / Kindle - 408 KB / Nook - 408 KB
Genre: Historical Fiction / Murder - Mystery - Suspense - Thriller
BUY THE BOOK: The Wicked Wives
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours.
After I became a trial lawyer in 1964, I researched the poison murder cases in the law library and obtained newspaper accounts of the scandals dating back to October, 1938. Thereafter I conducted interviews with judges, lawyers, police, witnesses, sheriff deputies and neighbors who knew the defendants.
One of the chief conspirators was a tailor who seduced, then persuaded at least twelve wives to poison their husbands for insurance. The setting for his seductions was the couch in the rear of his tailor shop, located two blocks from our family home.
A fascinating conspiracy unfolded in these murder cases. The poison gang’s colorful and hilarious characters helped to deep-six a minimum of 20 husbands. The supporting cast includes Giorgio, “The Don Juan of Passyunk Avenue. ” Aside from scheming Lillian, “the society wife”, the wives include Rose, the “Kiss of Death Widow, ” Eva “the nymphomaniac” and the “hopelessly in love, ” Joanna.
After many comical episodes, intriguing detective work and two suspense filled high profile trials, 12 wives plead or are found guilty of murdering their husbands. Two male conspirators were executed in the electric chair.
The Wicked Wives gleefully explores the sins of lust and greed, and the disappointments that love often brings. The characters, although they commit murder and adultery, are extremely likable, and often amusing. Writing The Wicked Wives was a true labor of love.
My Book Review:
"Oh, what a tangled web we weave ... when first we practice to deceive" ...
Philadelphia in 1938 ... in the shadow of the Great Depression and the prelude to World War II is a murder conspiracy scandal that would rock the nation's birthplace of the Declaration of Independence. Seventeen dissatisfied, unfaithful, greedy wives and their male conspirators use poison to murder their husbands for the insurance money.
Based on a true story, author Gus Pelagatti weaves a tale of deceit, lust, adultery, conspiracy and murder in a highly publicized sensational poison murder scandal involving seventeen Wicked Wives, with a sizzling courtroom drama that rocked the citizens of Philadelphia!
Assistant D.A. Tom Rossi investigates the suspicious murder of Reggie Stoner, despite opposition and threats to his political career. What starts out as a murder investigation quickly spirals into one that uncovers an elaborate plan that included adultery, drugs, murder, blackmail and insurance fraud. Seventeen disgruntled wives are manipulated by a charismatic womanizing tailor, Giorgio DiSipio, who seduces the women and convinces them to take out life insurance policies on their husbands, and poison them for the insurance money. Giorgio is aided in the murder plot by a "friend" who is an undertaker, who performs autopsies on the victims, claiming that they all died from various forms of pneumonia. Can Assistant D.A. Rossi bring these devious murderers to justice, or will The Wicked Wives and their conspirators get away with the perfect murder?
The Wicked Wives is an intriguing historical fiction based on a true story of the scandalous 1938 poison murder case in Philadelphia. The author has cleverly weaved a fascinating tale of deceit, lust, conspiracy and murder that keeps the reader sitting on the edge of their seat. The reader is transported back to the Depression era of 1938 Philadelphia, a time period of flappers, gangsters, corruption and hard times. Rich in detail and vivid descriptions, the reader goes along for a captivating thrill ride as the scandalous conspiracy unfolds and what could have been a perfect murder culminates in a riveting courtroom drama that will keep you guessing and holding your breath until the conclusion.
The author has created an intriguingly complex cast of characters who are a fascinating study of different personalities. The interweaving of the characters is seamless with clever dialogue and interactions that make this a powerful and compelling story. I have to admit that I was fascinated by these clever women and by the mastermind, Giorgio, but I absolutely loved following Assistant D.A. Rossi's investigation. As a diehard fan of legal thrillers, I think that the author's professional experience as a trial attorney enabled him to masterfully weave a tale that packs a powerful punch.
The Wicked Wives is a fascinating story that is a must read for true crime fans. This tangled web of deceit, conspiracy, adultery, murder and courtroom drama would make one hell of a Hollywood movie!
RATING: 5 STARS *****