The Magazine Reader

The Newspaperman Who Put the Rhyme in Crime

By Peter Carlson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Back in the day, in certain parts of St. Louis, people used to say goodbye in a fashion never heard anywhere else on Earth: "All right, now, we don't want to read about you in the Whirl."

They were kidding but they weren't kidding. You did not want to read about yourself in the Evening Whirl, a rude, crude, lewd eight-page weekly newspaper that specialized in crime, sin and scandal in the black community of St. Louis. The Whirl told its stories in gloriously garish headlines and sometimes in rhyming verse.

When a local lawyer was caught with another man's wife, for instance, the Whirl's headline read:

PROMINENT ATTORNEY CAUGHT

IN BED IN HOTEL WITH HIS LOVER;

AS HER HUSBAND ENTERS WITH

GUN, HE KNEELS AND PRAYS

Below that came a poem that told the lurid tale in the voice of the adulterous attorney's paramour:

I'll quit my husband if you quit your wife,

And I'll be your woman the rest of my life;

I'm a good rocking mama night and day,

We will have only the devil to pay.


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