Have you ever wondered how it was possible that something as crazy as outlawing the transport, sale, manufacture and consumption of alcohol came into effect? That the Constitution of the United States was actually amended to restrict human behaviour?
Seasoned journalist Daniel Okrent has all the answers in his newest book Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.
Beginning with the liquor-soaked country that the U.S. was in the nineteenth century, the book explains three things: How Prohibition happened, what life under Prohibition was like, and what it did to the country. The book is told largely through the stories of personalities in American history large and small, ranging from Susan B. Anthony to bootlegger Sam Bronfman to H.L. Mencken and even a glimpse of Joseph P. Kennedy.
It’s a book rich with stories from nearly all parts of the country. Okrent’s narrative runs through smoky Manhattan speakeasies, where relations between the sexes were changed forever; California vineyards busily producing “sacramental” wine; New England fishing communities that gave up fishing for the more lucrative rum-running business; and in Washington, the halls of Congress itself, where politicians who had voted for Prohibition drank openly and without apology.
Through it all, Americans kept drinking, going to remarkably creative lengths to smuggle, sell, conceal, and, sometimes fatally, imbibe their favorite intoxicants.
Last Call is authoritative, meticulous, and thrillingly told. It stands as the most complete history of Prohibition ever written and confirms Daniel Okrent’s rank as a major American writer.