Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition

Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition
By Karen Blumenthal
Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press, 2011. 154 pgs. Young Adult Nonfiction

Prohibition supporters thought that prohibiting the sale of alcohol would change life in the United States: fewer domestic problems, less drunkenness and fewer alcohol-related health problems. What they didn't anticipate was the rampant disregard for the law, as moonshine and speakeasies became common place, and the rise in gangs and Prohibition-related murders. Here, Blumenthal explains the efforts of the "dry" side (those in favor of Prohibition), using propaganda, speeches, and, in the case of Carrie Nation, a hatchet, to push for prohibition. However, when the Eighteenth Amendment was passed, the unexpected consequences soon made people think again about whether Prohibition was successful or not. With gangsters like Al Capone running cities, corruption in all aspects of law enforcement, and even the involvement of children in producing illegal alcohol, even some of the dry movements most devoted supporters found themselves switching over to the wet side, and eventually, Prohibition was repealed, through the passing of the Twenty-first Amendment.

This book is jam-packed with information but it's also a highly readable book. The author does a great job showing how the political and social climate changed in the U.S., leading first to Prohibition and then to its repeal. There are lots of great details: President Roosevelt was in the swimming pool when the when the final state needed to pass the Twenty-first Amendment--Utah--voted for it, many of the early car racers and NASCAR founders made their start trafficking alcohol, and Midwestern states called speakeasies "blind pigs". An excellent choice for nonfiction fans.


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