Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid: America’s Original Gangster Couple

Houghton Harcourt. Mar. 2021. 384p. ISBN 9780358067771. $27. LAW
Stout (Young Women and the Sea) explores the dark underbelly of the Jazz Age through the lens of America’s first gangster couple, Margaret and Richard Whittemore. The press deemed Margaret “Tiger Girl” for her criminal participation (considered unusual for a woman) and ferocity in defending her husband; Richard’s smooth-talking reputation garnered him the nickname “Candy Kid.” Through newspaper research, Stout tells the story of the criminal couple time forgot and fashions them as the original Bonnie and Clyde. Born in Baltimore, the young and poor Whittemores quickly learned vast wealth did not often come legally. They teamed up with figures Whittemore met during stints in prison to create one of the first and most successful criminal syndicates of the 1920s, committing jewel heists, robberies, burglaries, and eventually murder in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Buffalo, and Cleveland until they were finally caught and tried in the mid-1920s. At times, Stout’s writing suffers from purple prose and focuses much more on the Candy Kid than the Tiger Girl. Despite a slow start, however, the narrative picks up around the middle and ends with a flourish.
VERDICT Those interested in tales of white-collar crime and 20th-century history will be pleased.
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