Posts tagged ‘queenpin’

March 7, 2011

la reina ha muerto

by Megan Abbott

The main character in my third book, Queenpin, which is about to come out in Spain, was heavily inspired by the tumultuous life of  mob courier Virginia Hill, née Onie Hill, a.k.a. Virginia Norma Hall, a.k.a. Virginia Herman, a.k.a. Virginia Oney d’Algy, a.k.a. Virginia Gonzalez, a.k.a. the Flamingo.

I wrote the book exactly four years ago and somehow never came upon this terrific glamour shot that Cultura Impopular located for this interview:

virginia hillFour years after I wrote the book, she still intrigues me.  One of ten children born, as legend has it, to an drunken marble carver and mule salesmen, she left home at 17 and moved to Chicago, where she made some very dangerous friends.

If remembered at all now, it’s as a gang moll, Bugsy Siegel’s girl, the one for whom he named the Flamingo Hotel. But she was more than that (and nothing like the Annette Bening character in Warren Beatty’s heavily sanitized Bugsy). An extremely powerful mob courier for what used to be called “the syndicate,” she shuttled hundreds of thousands of dollars in the 1940s and early 50s, to Swiss bank accounts and back.

It was a dangerous business too, and her end was not pretty. (A case of questionable suicide at age 49.)

You can see her testifying at the Kefauver hearings here, at 0:43 (omerta, indeed):

She was also highly quotable, declaring to an eager press corps at one point that she had more fur coats than any woman in the country.

Gloria, the mob courier in my book, is in many ways much softer than Hill. When reporters tracked her down in Paris to give her the news that her lover Bugsy Siegel had been murdered in the home he bought for her, Hill reportedly replied:

“It looks so bad to have a thing like that happen in your house.”

December 8, 2010

adieu, adieu

by Megan Abbott

One of my books, Queenpin, will be coming out in France in a few months. The title, alas, is untranslatable in many languages, the word itself an obscure bit of American slang. When it was published in Italy, the publisher, Edizioni BD, decided not to translate it at all.  The French publisher, Editions du Masque, has gone with Adieu, Gloria, which is kind of a great title, I think (“Gloria” is the name of the queenpin in question).

It’s funny that there really isn’t a common word for a female crime lord (crimelady?), because, of course, even in English, “queenpin” is mostly an invention (in fact, it was the wonderful writer Al Guthrie who gifted me with the title).

I was happy, though, to see that the word is in fact in Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, my favorite slang dictionary ever:

queen pin n. [1960s+] The female equivalent of kingpin, i.e., a woman who heads an institution or arranges an event.

Which is kind of a funny definition (arranges an event?), but one that’s hard to argue with. The World Book Dictionary, in turn, defines it as “the most important woman in a group” …

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