Like a cookie full of arsenic, this is a flinty bon-bon of a read. A curiosity from one of America’s cheekiest sweethearts, Gypsy Rose Lee wrote this murder mystery set in the backstage world of NYC’s burlesque scene. It’s packed full of stripper slang, sass, and sequins, and was quite the shocker back in 1941.
Short and sweet, it’s a brisk read with a labyrinthine plot I didn’t bother trying to follow. Narrated by ‘Gypsy Rose Lee’, she introduces us to Gee Gee, Dolly, Jannine, and the rest of the troupe at the Opera Theatre where they ply their shimmying trade. Soon enough, a stripper gets knocked off – yes, a g-string is involved (Lee’s novel probably helped popularise the once-scandalous item), and paranoia reigns.
Witty and sharp, like Lee herself, this is a fun bit of nonsense that’s aged very well. The edition I read was from the Feminist Press and had some fun extras, including a chin-stroking po-faced scholarly essay about the writing of the book, and the letters to the editor from Lee that were used as promotional copy. Next, I’m going to watch the movie based on the novel – Lady of Burlesque with the immortal Barbara Stanwyck.