Synopses & Reviews
In Chasing the White Dog, journalist Max Watman traces the historical roots and contemporary story of hooch. He takes us to the backwoods of Appalachia and the gritty nip joints of Philadelphia, from a federal courthouse to Pocono Speedway, profiling the colorful characters who make up white whiskey's lore. Along the way, Watman chronicles his hilarious attempts to distill his own moonshine -- the essential ingredients and the many ways it can all go wrong -- from his initial ill-fated batch to his first successful jar of 'shine.
It begins in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, where drunk and armed outlaws gathered in the summer of 1794. George Washington mustered 13,000 troops to quell the rebellion, but by the time they arrived, the rebels had vanished; America's first moonshiners had packed up their stills and moved on.
From these moonshiners who protested the Whiskey Tax of 1791, to the bathtub gin runners of the 1920s, to today's booming bootleg businessmen, white lightning has played a surprisingly large role in American history. It touched the election of Thomas Jefferson, the invention of the IRS, and the origins of NASCAR. It is a story of tommy guns, hot rods, and shot houses, and the story is far from over.
Infiltrating every aspect of small-scale distilling in America, from the backyard hobbyists to the growing popularity of microdistilleries, Chasing the White Dog provides a fascinating, centuries-long history of illicit booze from an unrepentant lover of moonshine.
"Journalist Watman chronicles America's longstanding love affair with distilled spirits, a love that he shares. As long as people have been making booze, the government has wanted to control it, and Watman colorfully illustrates a conflict that stretches from the Whiskey Rebellion through Prohibition. Watman travels from Colorado to Virginia to cover the current battles between moonshine producers and government agents, a journey that takes him from 'nip houses' to NASCAR events. Watman also details his own complicated, and comical, attempts to manufacture hard liquor at home. He is a capable journalist and has an impressive grasp of the craft of distillation and the science behind it. His historical writing is lively as well, and he profiles fascinating, little-known characters and events like Johnny McDonald and the Whiskey Ring scandal during the Grant administration. Despite Watman's talents, however, his narrative meanders, in large part because Watman doesn't write as well about himself as he does about other people. Yet even though the parts don't add up to a satisfying whole, they remain entertaining enough to keep the pages turning." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Chasing the White Dog offers an intoxicating look at the inner workings of the moonshine business.
Max Watman, the horse racing correspondent for the New York Sun, is author of Race Day: A Spot on the Rail with Max Watman, an editors' choice in the New York Times Book Review. A regular contributor to the New York Times' Arts and Letters pages, he has covered books, music, food, and drink, and for six years, wrote the semi-annual Fiction Chronicle — an omnibus review of important novels and short story collections — for The New Criterion. His work has also appeared The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, Forbes FYI, Parnassus, and Fortune Small Business. Watman was raised in the mountains of Virginia and earned a BA at Virginia Commonwealth University and an MFA at Columbia University. He lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife and young son.
About the Author
Max Watman is the author of Race Day, which was an editors’ choice in the New York Times Book Review. He was the horse racing correspondent for the New York Sun and has written for various publications on books, music, food, and drink. He lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife and son.