NOIR NOW: THE WICKED WIVES!
AUTHOR GUS PELAGATTI GIVES US THE WORD . . .
When I was an eight year old boy I overheard adults in my South Philadelphia neighborhood discussing 17 disenchanted and unfaithful neighborhood wives who murdered their husbands for insurance money, love and lust. This was a fascinating topic for an eight year old boy eavesdropping on adult conversation. The adults were discussing the true story of Philadelphia’s infamous 1938 murder scandals. My fascination led to obsession. I knew that I had to write about these wicked wives someday.
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.