Read The Devil's Tickets: A Vengeful Wife, a Fatal Hand, and a New American Age by Gary M. Pomerantz Online


Kansas City, 1929: Myrtle and Jack Bennett sit down with another couple for an evening of bridge. As the game intensifies, Myrtle complains that Jack is a “bum bridge player.” For such insubordination, he slaps her hard in front of their stunned guests and announces he is leaving. Moments later, sobbing, with a Colt .32 pistolin hand, Myrtle fires four shots, killing her hKansas City, 1929: Myrtle and Jack Bennett sit down with another couple for an evening of bridge. As the game intensifies, Myrtle complains that Jack is a “bum bridge player.” For such insubordination, he slaps her hard in front of their stunned guests and announces he is leaving. Moments later, sobbing, with a Colt .32 pistolin hand, Myrtle fires four shots, killing her husband.The Roaring 1920s inspired nationwide fads–flagpole sitting, marathon dancing, swimming-pool endurance floating. But of all the mad games that cheered Americans between the wars, the least likely was contract bridge. As the Barnum of the bridge craze, Ely Culbertson, a tuxedoed boulevardier with a Russian accent, used mystique, brilliance, and a certain madness to transform bridge from a social pastime into a cultural movement that made him rich and famous. In writings, in lectures, and on the radio, he used the Bennett killing to dramatize bridge as the battle of the sexes. Indeed, Myrtle Bennett’s murder trial became a sensation because it brought a beautiful housewife–and hints of her husband’s infidelity–from the bridge table into the national spotlight. James A. Reed, Myrtle’s high-powered lawyer and onetime Democratic presidential candidate, delivered soaring, tear-filled courtroom orations. As Reed waxed on about the sanctity of womanhood, he was secretly conducting an extramarital romance with a feminist trailblazer who lived next door.To the public, bridge symbolized tossing aside the ideals of the Puritans–who referred derisively to playing cards as “the Devil’s tickets”–and embracing the modern age. Ina time when such fearless women as Amelia Earhart, Dorothy Parker, and Marlene Dietrich were exalted for their boldness, Culbertson positioned his game as a challenge to all housebound women. At the bridge table, he insisted, a woman could be her husband’s equal, and more. In the gathering darkness of the Depression, Culbertson leveraged his own ballyhoo and naughty innuendo for all it was worth, maneuvering himself and his brilliant wife, Jo, his favorite bridge partner, into a media spectacle dubbed the Bridge Battle of the Century. Through these larger-than-life characters and the timeless partnership game they played, The Devil’s Tickets captures a uniquely colorful age and a tension in marriage that is eternal.From the Hardcover edition....

Title : The Devil's Tickets: A Vengeful Wife, a Fatal Hand, and a New American Age
Author :
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ISBN : 9781400051632
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 328 Pages
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The Devil's Tickets: A Vengeful Wife, a Fatal Hand, and a New American Age Reviews

  • David
    2019-01-20 15:44

    During my junior year the bridge virus infected our entire high school. Like a particularly contagious strain of bird flu, it spread like wildfire – 400 students, living in close quarters with lots of free time on their hands was the perfect niche. My regular partner was a guy called Seamus, now a practicing doctor in Bailieboro, County Cavan (the home of Henry James’s ancestors). I can still remember the particular hand he played that lost us the Christmas tournament – failure to make a small slam in hearts, by one trick, doubled and vulnerable. And I can still recall the murderous rage that his mistake provoked, as if it happened only yesterday. But hey, at least I wasn’t married to the guy.Murderous rage provoked by a partner’s mistake at bridge is one of two themes explored in Gary M. Pomerantz’s latest non-fiction effort, “The Devil’s Tickets”. By the end of the 1920s contract bridge had taken the U.S. by storm. Marriage, already a beleaguered institution, now had one more potential stress factor to contend with – the insidious deterioration in mutual respect that can result when spouses turn out to be bridge partners with greatly differing levels of ability. On a September evening in 1929 in Kansas City, Missouri, the marriage of Jack and Myrtle Bennett did not survive the strain: a heated altercation that broke out when Myrtle became infuriated by a blunder Jack made during play led to him slapping her before their guests and ended with Jack at the receiving end of two fatal shots. Not surprisingly, the “bridge murder” became a national cause celebre, and roughly half of “The Devil’s Tickets” is given over to Pomerantz’s account of events leading up to the “fatal hand”, and the trial that followed. At this point, you can almost see the gears turning in the author’s head. He figures out (correctly) that the Kansas City murder alone is too slight to peg an entire book on. (One can only wish that someone had warned him that trial narratives are notoriously tricky, almost always ending up dull and uninspired, a trap that Pomerantz doesn’t manage to avoid.)So he decides to add a second storyline, also revolving around a married couple – the famous bridge partnership of Josephine and Ely Culbertson. He tracks their rise to fame as bridge’s pre-eminent couple, Ely’s obsessive quest to prove his bidding method superior to all others, and to obtain complete domination in the area of teaching methods and punditry. This story also has a famous bridge game at its center – more specifically, a 5-week challenge tournament in which Ely and Jo took on (and trounced) the best of the bridge establishment, thereby sealing dominance of the Culbertson “brand”. Sadly, attaining the summit came at the cost of their marriage – Ely’s never-ending pathological need for adulation and ever-more outrageous delusions of grandeur proved too much for Jo, who began to develop a serious drinking problem. They divorced in 1937.Pomerantz’s account of these two couple’s stories is workmanlike, but no more than that. As I already mentioned, he is not successful in making the trial scenes interesting. Spreading the trial account over three separate chapters, with other material interspersed, seems like nothing more than a desperate attempt to generate some fake suspense. Gossipy digressions about the private life of the defending attorney add nothing to the overall story and are little more than padding. At about the three-quarter mark in the book I thought I had it figured – a somewhat pedestrian, but not completely uninteresting, account, organized around a central conceit that didn’t quite gel. But then things took a distinct turn for the worse, dropping the author several notches in my esteem. The final 50 pages of the book are given over to what the author grandiosely terms “The Search”, in which he takes it upon himself to track down what he appears to consider loose ends. In the process, he sheds any semblance of objective reporting and makes it clear that he has no qualms about violating the privacy of the dead, or engaging in posthumous speculation on the motives of those who can no longer speak for themselves. Thus, for instance, it takes no more than a walk through the apartment where Bennett died to inspire the following:“Now, walking through the apartment, I see and feel and know that Byrd Rice’s story about the explosive moment is the way it must have happened” (there follows a detailed two-page account of ‘events’, presented as truth, despite being nothing more than a highly selective interpretation of the evidence). This is the “appeal to divine revelation as source of reportorial authority” gambit, which Pomerantz appears to consider sufficient to overturn the trial decision and declare his own guilty verdict on Myrtle. Given this willingness to leap to judgement, I found his rummaging through the details of her life for the remaining 61 years after she was found not guilty by the jury, including poking into the details of her will and cheap speculation as to her motives, distinctly unsavory. What should one make, for instance, of the author’s obvious relish at tracking down, years after Myrtle’s death, one of her co-workers at New York’s Carlyle Hotel, a man who had worked with her for fifteen years without knowing her past, then feeding the man file folders with every salacious headline about the 70-year old scandal. It is obvious that Michael O’ Connell, the co-worker in question, did not appreciate this revealing of information that his friend had wanted to keep confidential. Truth is an elusive commodity, and expecting to find it in a work of non-fiction is probably the height of naivete. In the unsavory final section of this book, Gary M. Pomerantz reveals himself as a writer whose every sentence should be taken with a very large grain of salt. Though intermittently entertaining, this book left a very bad taste in my mouth. Give it a miss.

  • Steve Kettmann
    2019-01-30 20:47

    Nothing like a murder to sex up the topic of bridge, a card game that many of us associate with dreary suburban evenings with four couples arrayed around fold-out card tables in the living room, all the culmination of days of anxious preparation ("Don't forget to vacuum! And dust!"), topped off by the all-important ceremony of putting out cashews and chocolate kisses in little for-bridge-only dishes.So much more of a shock to discover then, thanks to Bay Area writer Gary Pomerantz's stylish sleuthing in "The Devil's Tickets," that murder and sexing up the topic of bridge played a prominent role in its history. In fact, thanks to a hustling, neurotic half-Russian visionary named Ely Culbertson, murder and sexing up helped vault contract bridge from newfangled cousin of the old game of whist to a national sensation so widespread that Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, the Marx Brothers and Winston Churchill were all in on it.Some of Pomerantz's best work here lies in his imaginative obsession with the fate of a woman named Myrtle Bennett, something of a blond bombshell with a Memphis accent and the kind of look in her eye that tells you she's used to getting what she wants. Myrtle as a young woman spotted a man she liked on a train, and decided then and there that he should marry her, then went to work on making it happen. Not to knock meeting people on trains, but: It didn't work out so well for Myrtle. The glam couple live in Kansas City. She's now married to Jack Bennett, the man on the train, a traveling salesman hawking (you can't make this stuff up) French perfume, and living in a somewhat ostentatious apartment in a chic neighborhood and playing lots of contract bridge. Based on the photograph reproduced here of Jack, he looks more Willy Loman than Don Juan - sad and a little ridiculous more than dashing and a hit with women everywhere, but Pomerantz makes him sound like quite the dude in his day. Myrtle gets more and more jealous, sitting at home and wondering what he's up to away from home, and finds letters that prove that he's cheating. Where the story gets really fascinating is when it becomes clear over a drink-fueled night of bridge at home with a neighbor couple that Jack pretty much is awful as a bridge player, at least compared with Myrtle, a solid player. He screws up a hand, she calls him on his stupidity - and he slaps her, hard. Then, in a twist that would seem hokey in a pulp fiction novel, only this is no novel, Jack demands that Myrtle go fetch his gun - because he's leaving for the night and wants to take it with him, and Myrtle and her mother can fend for themselves.So of course she shoots the guy. Bam, bam, you're dead. The murder becomes a sensation, and in New York the scheming, appalling Culbertson, editor of a new bridge publication, does his best to whip up the murder into a national sensation that highlights the sexual undercurrents that, he believed, made bridge so exciting. Pomerantz, whose work I've admired since coming across it in Daily Californian bound volumes a couple of decades ago, does a virtuoso job of evoking the era and the elite bridge circle ultimately shaken up by Culbertson and his wife-to-be, Josephine, again a better player than her husband and probably the most intriguing character in the book.Culbertson comes across as no one you would ever want to know, but he's fascinating in his bid to sell bridge and make millions by pitching it to women. "He would make three basic appeals: to the ego, to fear, and to sex," Pomerantz writes.Still, my favorite part came when Pomerantz puts himself into the story and reveals how deeply he was moved by this narrative - and to what lengths he went to try to track down Myrtle, who had basically gone underground, or so it seemed, not long after the trial. I won't give away how it all worked out, but Pomerantz fills in the blanks in a fascinating, even haunting, way and makes you glad you have gotten to know Myrtle. There are a lot of sad tales here, as the crazed Culbertson and his wife divorce and go on to years of unhappiness, but Myrtle somehow transcends her dark past, though never leaving it behind, as her final act makes clear.

  • Jan C
    2019-02-05 21:58

    Fascinating tale and a cautionary one for those who play bridge with their spouses.One night it got out of hand. One of the players was not quite as good at the game as his spouse. And the gun went off as guns are wont to do.There was apparently great analysis at the time of the actual bridge hand and what should have been bid and what should have been played.Interesting history of bridge.I actually started reading this in a hardcover, but then I thought that my mother might like to read it, being as she is an actual bridge player. So I gave her that copy and downloaded it on to my kindle. As of Christmas, she was still reading it. It is a book I know my father would have enjoyed, as he was a bridge player too and sometimes his partner was not quite holding up her end of the hand.I was actually thinking about 3 1/2 stars for this. The first part of the book (or maybe it is the first two parts) were really good. The story of bridge and what a craze it was in the post-World War I era and the story of the fatal hand and its aftermath. Where I felt the book went off kilter was in the last portion of the book where the author is putting himself in the story by tracking variouse people in the book down. I didn't need that. And I didn't want that. I didn't care what happened to them. They played their big scene and had left the stage. I don't care what they are doing in the wings as they are making their final exits from existence.Great way to ruin a book, dude. Okay, it wasn't ruined but it wasn't helped, either.

  • Jill Hutchinson
    2019-02-13 21:57

    This book reminded me of the style popularized by Erik Larson(Thunderstruck)..........the tying together of two discrete events and their effect on each other. In this case, it is the craze for contract bridge and a murder over the bridge table which became a cause celebre during the early 1930s. This is a gossipy book which delves into the lives of (1) the murderer/victim and (2) Ely and Jo Culbertson who developed the famous (at the time) "Culbertson system" of bidding a bridge hand. This is one of those books you take to the beach for a day and enjoy for what it is.........a slight, but interesting history of people who are forgotten today but were the center of public interest in their time.

  • David
    2019-01-28 18:44

    Despite laudatory comments from a few better-known authors (praise-for-hire, apparently), this was not actually "beautifully written" or "compelling". In fact is was a somewhat overblown, unnecessarily lengthy telling of a story with not nearly as much substance as promised. This writer's penchant for using exclamation points within parenthetical statements is alarming (it really is!). I finished it, appropriately enough, multi-tasking in my bathroom.

  • Jeannette
    2019-01-25 19:50

    This book gave me insights into an earlier America, along with one of its biggest passions. (Or was it all a giant fad?) Several of the characters were interesting, and provided decent fodder for last night's book group discussion. My biggest criticism was the writing, which I thought ranged from pedestrian to downright clumsy.

  • Kathleen
    2019-01-26 15:46

    In the Devil’s Ticket, author Gary Pomerantz follows two threads from the history of the bridge game. One is the life of Eli Culbertson, a popular promoter of himself and bridge, along with his wife Jo. The second is the murder of John Bennett by his wife Myrtle after a bridge game. The Culbertson and Bennett stories were big during the depression, a time when bridge was very popular. Culbertson was a shameless promoter. He created his own style of bridge bidding and challenged other high profile bridge players to competitions. He would usually win to prove that his system was best. These challenges received newspaper and radio attention and promoted Culbertson’s books which became best sellers. At about the same time, John and Myrtle Bennett got into an argument when John did not make a bridge contract while they were playing a presumably friendly game with neighbors. Myrtle said that John should have made his contract and he slapped her face. He left the table and began to pack his bag to either leave her or to leave for his sales trip early. She shot him. Her attorney said it was accidental and insisted that Myrtle was a battered wife. Major newspapers covered Myrtle’s trial. She was defended by James Reed, a former U. S. Senator who wanted to run for president.I was familiar with both of these stories, but this book provided detail that was new to me. For instance, Pomerantz introduces the reader to an in depth look at James Reed who is an interesting character. It was unusual for him to take on such a relatively minor case, but he understood the possibility of getting good press from it. Pomerantz follows both Bennett’s life after the trial and Culbertson’s after his bridge popularity fizzles. These extensions of the basic story that I remembered, added interesting depth to this book. I liked them.The two stories are hard to tie together. Pomerantz alternates between them. They occur during the same time period and Culbertson’s magazine, Bridge World, mentions the Bennett murder. Both Bennett and Culbertson were big names in bridge for a year and most everyday players were aware of them.Pomerantz tries to make the point that it is difficult for husbands and wives to be bridge partners. Eli always said that Jo was his favorite and best partner, but Jo was stressed by Eli’s antics and the pressure of the game. James Bennett might have lived a long life if he did not play bridge with his wife or if either partner was less aggressive with the other.According to Pomerantz, the puritans, who did not like playing cards, called them the devil’s tickets. Thus the book’s title.Truth be told, I play duplicate bridge with my husband. I agree that it can be tough to play with your spouse when the game does not go well. On the other hand, I understand my husband’s bidding much more than the bidding of other partners.My son gifted me with this book. Thank you.Rating: 4-

  • Jill Meyer
    2019-02-10 15:49

    Gary Pomerantz tries to tie a husband-killing in Kansas City by the wife to a badly bid hand at a "friendly" game of bridge in 1929. Pomerantz delves into the contract bridge rage that seemed to take over both the US and the UK in the 1920's. All segments of society took to the game and such bridge luminaries as Americans Ely and Josephine Culbertson (he was actually half-Russian), Sidney Lenz, Oswald Jacoby made themselves famous and prosperous by exploiting their knowledge of the game. Books, magazines, and newspaper articles were written by these experts in the 20's and 30's, as the bridge fashion went from auction to contract styles of play. (I'm a non-bridge player so a few of the terms are shaky.) Multi-day tournaments were held in NYC and London to determine the best players and systems.Back, though, to the Bennett murder case in Kansas City in 1929. Myrtle and Jack Bennett were playing bridge with their friends and neighbors, the Hofmans. Jack Bennett either bid or played his hand badly (Myrtle was "dummy"), they quarreled, and Myrtle shot him four times (two misses, two direct hits) with a hand gun kept in their apartment. The press turned the otherwise prosaic murder into "The Bridge Murder" and bridge mavens world-wide waded in with their ideas on the case. Ely Culbertson wrote extensively about the murder in his magazine. The ten day trial in Kansas City in 1931 was front-page news all over the US. (You'll have to read the book to see how the trial turned out.)BUT, did Mrs Bennett murder Mr Bennett over a misplayed hand at bridge? I don't really think so. Mr Bennett had not been the most loyal of husbands and, in addition, was known to slap the little lady around a bit. If she hadn't been motivated to shoot her errant hubby before the fatal bridge game, she probably would have shot him some time. The bridge hand may have been the catalyst at that point, but something, some handkerchief smelling of another woman's perfume found in hubby's pocket or the perennial favorite - lipstick on the collar - would have set Myrtle Bennett off.Anyway, Pomerantz writes an engaging book about the tenor of the times, filled with outsized personalities and situations.

  • Mary
    2019-02-07 16:52

    This book combined three great themes: the game of Bridge, history and a murder. Anyone who enjoys Bridge will certainly find this book intriguing. Keep in mind that it is non-fiction and a murder did take place because of a game of Bridge. Sadly, the game of Bridge is dying out. Hopefully, many will read this and arouse a new interest in learning to play the game.

  • Jeffrey Moore
    2019-02-17 15:45

    Interesting and well-written, giving a good overview of the Bridge craze of the 1920s, and some of the interesting players (Ely and Jo Culbertson, Sen. Sam Reed, Myrtle Bennett).Certainly not a must read, but it is an enjoyable read.

  • Doreen
    2019-01-22 19:48

    Wow! I really liked this book. The story is about bridge, murder, self-promotion, prohibition, marriage, 20's and 30's American history, philandering, our past court system, ... a dozen or more topics that caused me to take to the computer and search out particulars mentioned in this book.Picking up the book, I knew NOTHING about the game of bridge. The author does a fine job of describing the game, its origins and its rise in popularity. The first fifty pages or so is dedicated to laying out the groundwork for the key players, so it does start out slowly and rather dry at first. I'm glad I continued reading!I learned of events in history that I NEVER would have known about, save for this book! Yes, the story is about a killing committed during a game of bridge in September, 1929, in Kansas City, Missouri. And, it is about the bridge tournament touted as, "The Bridge Battle of the Century", begun in NYC in December, 1931, lasting more than 30 days. The characters involved are colorful, their lives are intriguing. The common denominator is the game of bridge, with all its variables. And, the story upholds the idea that 'the more things change, the more they stay the same'. Human flaws and weaknesses, as well as personal aggrandizement, continue through the decades...(think the OJ Simpson trial, reality TV, etc.)The author gives a special treat, more than 75 years later, by seeking out friends and relatives of these people, gathering information on them, following their 'claims to fame'. It was interesting, and surprising, to know how these people lived, and eventually died.

  • Mary Reinert
    2019-01-31 16:44

    My mother who was about the age of the central characters of this book dearly loved to play bridge and now I know why. I had no idea that bridge was such a involved craze during the 20's - 40's, and I never thought about it as a battlefield of the sexes, but it certainly was one place where a woman could exhibit intelligence and be in control. I truly enjoyed learning that kind of history about the game of bridge. And the personalities of Ely and Jo Culbertson are so interesting. And, as a huge fan of Kansas City, I truly enjoyed the story of the KC mayor and presidental candidate James A Reed, Nell Donnelly, the Pendergast influence, Harry Truman, and on and on. For those not familiar, the story of Nell Donnelly (one of the first successful business women in the fashion industry) is totally fascinating -- a blend of politics, fashion, mafia, love, and business. Do check out this DVD: Nelly Don: A Stitch In Time Now, blended with all those fascinating facts and tales is way too much about the technicalities of the game of bridge and for that matter the legal sparrings of Myrtle Bennett's trial. Sometimes I just had to "skim through" to get to the more interesting parts. I did appreciate, however, the ending of the book which explores the life after bridge and murder of the main characters. However, it almost felt voyeuristic as family members of the Culbertsons, Reeds, and Bennetts are still living. I wonder what their reaction is to this book. In short, if you are at all a bridge player, this is one you must read. If you love Kansas City, this is a must. If you just love interesting and rather obscure facts about the culture of the 30's, this is a must.

  • Michele Weiner
    2019-01-23 15:53

    This is another of those very clever books that take a specific murder and tie it to the larger culture. In this case, Myrtle murdered Jack after an argument over a bridge game in Kansas City around the same time that the megalomaniacal Ely Culbertson was dragging his wife, Jo, through hell and back building his bridge reputation and financial empire. Ely had the idea that bridge was sexy, though his idea of sexy evades me. He believed, for example, that his system of bidding, the Force-Approach system, had sexual overtones. Kinky. Ely was as big a hustler as ever lived, and climbed and clawed his way to the top of the bridge world by being an ass.Meanwhile, back in Missouri, after a long day of golf and drinking, topped off by bridge, Myrtle bid game and Jack came up one trick short - isn't that always the way? She criticized his play, he smacked her around in front of their friends, then told her to get him his bag and his gun, he was leaving for St. Joseph, at which point Myrtle got the gun and shot him dead. The mystery is, of course, was the deed an accident or an on-purpose. The author takes a position, then tells what happened to Myrtle, who lived into her 90's. The trial is discussed, and sounds a lot like "Chicago." The bridge craze is chronicled, and then we find out what happened to all the characters. You might like it, but you've read it before, I'll bet. Or something a lot like it.

  • Cheryl
    2019-02-01 22:00

    I'm not sure exactly what I expected from The Devil's Tickets, but what I got was mostly a history of contract bridge with a dash of domestic dispute ending with murder, allegedly over a "Fatal Hand" of bridge. As a history book, it was fascinating -- I knew nothing of bridge going in, and one really didn't need to. The murder? That part of the book was far less interesting. There was a lot of lead up, a brief scene of the event itself, and then several chapters surrounding the trial (which from a modern perspective could have been thrown out a half dozen times). The last third of the book was curious. In it, the author picks up to tell what became of the major players in the first part of the book. As a historian myself, I found it self-indulgent for the author to tell this part in the first person, recounting his sleuthing. At least there were extensive references at the end of the book -- something many social history books like to omit -- and, if you are curious, a basic outline of how contract bridge is played.

  • james
    2019-02-17 18:54

    The Devil's Tickets of the title are playing cards. This book deals with the developement of Contract Bridge in America. The game was created on a long ocean crusie which went through the Panama Canal by Harold Vanderbilt, the great-grandson of the railroad magnate. He took the existing game of auction bridge and refined it by simply changing the scoring rules. Interwoven with all the colorful characters who comprised the bridge world of the day is the tale of one hand of bridge, which was played in a posh apartment in Kansas City about a month before the Stock Market collapse of 1929. Two couples were playing and the host husband made a bit of a mess of one hand. As a result his wife told him he was a bum player; then he slapped her several times; and finally she retrieved a pistol and shot him to death. She was defended by James A Reed, a highly visible lawyer who had been a US Senator and made a serious threat to capture the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1932.

  • Al
    2019-01-18 20:45

    A book about the Bennett bridge murder and trial in 1929, the concurrent emergence of contract bridge as a national pastime with Ely Culbertson as its high priest, and a leisurely look at the obscure latter years of Mrs. Bennett in the wake of her acquittal. Of the three narratives, I much preferred the story of the Culbertsons' (husband and wife) role in the popularization of contract bridge. One is aware of Culbertson's reputation as an innovator and expert, but his flamboyant personality and constant promoting were news to me. Really a fascinating story, not the least interesting part of which is the role played by his wife Josephine. Mrs. Bennett's later life, recounted at tedious length at the end of the book, seems oddly superfluous and can be skipped if you happen to read the book.

  • Nancy
    2019-01-21 20:46

    The Devil’s Tickets gives the history of the game of bridge in America. The game rose to popularity in the late 1920’s, becoming a favorite pastime as well as a showcase of women’s intellectual equality with men. The narrative focuses on two particular stories. The first is the life of Ely Culbertson, the PT Barnum of bridge, who worked tirelessly to popularize the game while making himself its leading authority. The second story is the shooting of Jack Bennett by his wife, Myrtle, and the subsequent murder trial that made headlines in Kansas City and across the nation. Was Jack really shot just because he misplayed a hand of bridge? As a bridge player, I was fascinated by the history of the game, but this book would be appreciated by anyone interested in American society in the 20s and 30s.

  • Dionisia
    2019-02-10 19:42

    I'm waffling between 2 and 3 stars. It doesn't help that when I read stories like this I'm reminded of The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. It simply pales in comparison to Erik Larson's book. Or maybe it's just that I felt like I've read this before and it no longer seems fresh. Two narratives and the connection merely incidental. Oh well, two stars it is then.Sidenote: I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

  • Scilla
    2019-01-26 22:51

    This book is about the game of bridge in the 1920's. It includes history of the rise of contract bridge, the story of Culbertson and his rise to a bridge guru, and the story of Myrtle Bennett, who shot her husband, Jack, after a game of bridge. Myrtle's husband opened one spade, and Mrytle rose to four spades, and their opponent doubled. When Jack went down by two tricks, they had a verbal quarrel about whether she overbid or he played the hand wrong. The facts are documented, and there is an extensive bibliography. It is written in a lively manner. I enjoyed the book, but it probably wouldn't be as interesting to someone who doesn't play bridge.

  • Gayla Bassham
    2019-01-29 22:52

    Interesting but ultimately trivial. Two main strands, both from the 1930s: the story of a woman who shot her husband over a bridge game, and the story of Ely and Jo Culbertson, a married couple who apparently revolutionized contract bridge. The murder strand was actually the less tragic of the two. All in all, reminded me forcefully of why I don't play card games that require partners. (Although as a child I used to watch my parents play a partnership game--not bridge, something else--with my mother's cousin and her husband. People don't seem to do that anymore. When we see our friends we mostly drink wine and gossip about the school and the synagogue.)

  • Cathy Doman
    2019-02-01 20:00

    I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. It was a very interesting book, but there was so much to absorb, that it took me longer than usual to read it. I never knew how big the game of bridge was during the time of the Great Depression. This book was very informative, I learned a great deal about our nation's history. The true story of Myrtle Bennett and how she shot her husband added to the intrigue. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like a clear glimpse into the past; I know what I learned will stick with me for a long time to come!

  • Beth Anne
    2019-01-28 23:53

    interesting story of the rise in popularity of Bridge, as well as the turmoils in family relationships in the 1920's. i thought that this would be dedicated mostly to the story of Myrtle and Jack and the "fateful" Bridge game that took his life...but it didn't bother me that it wasn't. i found the history of Bridge extremely interesting, the story of Ely and Jo Culbertson was good, and the characters that went along with both stories made for an engaging and interesting read.i don't know that i'd recommend this to anyone, but i'm not sorry that i read it.

  • Bob
    2019-01-24 23:53

    I won this book in a free book giveaway on Goodreads. It really isn't my sort of book, so it took me a good while to read it. It was nonetheless interesting. It is historical non-fiction. The author did a great job researching, documenting and interviewing -- it was clearly a lot of work. The book is well-written. I didn't find any proofing errors (which is unusual). It was, at least to me, a fascinating window into the late 1920's culture and lifestyle -- I have never paid much attention to that sort of thing. I recommend the book.

  • Gail
    2019-02-12 22:59

    I found this book really interesting. As a bridge player, I can almost understand murder over the playing of a hand. Although, when you read this, you realize that more was involved.An interesting look at life in the 30's and the bridge mania that the country had before and during the depression. As a former Kansan, I also found the history of life in Kansas City at that time, also interesting.

  • Jean
    2019-01-23 17:42

    I was drawn to this book for my desire to learn more about the individuals surrounding a sensational murder trial in 1929, involving the local "elite" in the city where I now reside. I found it very interesting, (more about the game of bridge than I cared to read), but otherwise, quite good. The author did an exceptional job following up with the characters, several of whom lived another 70 years after the event.

  • Kathleen
    2019-01-19 16:34

    I recommend this to all bridge players. It is about a famous murder case in Kansas City, MO, but also about the bridge craze of the last century. A husband criticizes his wife (she was the better player), and announces he is leaving. He orders her (alcohol is also involved) to get his gun. She certainly got it, and killed him. He was also having an affair. The jury let her go. Albert Einstein even tiptoes through the book!

  • Angela
    2019-01-27 22:35

    This was an interesting combination story, describing the history of the game of bridge craze that hit the U.S. mid-century and a murder that occurs partially as a result of a botched bridge game. The structure reminds me of The Devil in the White City, although I don't think it is done quite as well. Overall, I would say this story was interesting enough to keep me reading, but not enough that I will likely remember much about it in a year.

  • Squirrel Circus
    2019-02-17 18:51

    I really enjoyed this book, once I accepted the fact that I didn't need to know how to play bridge to understand the social commentary and the events therein. I thought that the interweaving and back and forth between the rise of bridge and its stars and the 'bridge table murder' was very well done.

  • MK Brunskill-Cowen
    2019-01-30 16:49

    I found this book interesting, especially since my parents are bridge fanatics. It captures the feeling of the 1920's when bridge took on a whole new dimension in society, and I particularly enjoyed the end when the author documents his attempts to talk with those people who were touched by those 2 fateful bridge games.

  • Naomi Blackburn
    2019-01-28 22:51

    This has to be one of the quirkiest true crime novels that I have ever read for multiple reasons. Until the very end of the book, I questioned even the purpose of writing the book, but then it kind of smacked me in the face. At times, the occurrances going on in the US at the time of the crime were actually more interesting than the crime itself.