Synopses & Reviews
A brilliant, authoritative, and fascinating history of Americaand#8217;s most puzzling era, the years 1920 to 1933, when the US Constitution was amended to restrict one of Americaand#8217;s favorite pastimes: drinking alcoholic beverages.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;From its start, America has been awash in drink. The sailing vessel that brought John Winthrop to the shores of the New World in 1630 carried more beer than water. By the 1820s, liquor flowed so plentifully it was cheaper than tea. That Americans would andlt;Iandgt;ever andlt;/Iandgt;agree to relinquish their booze was as improbable as it was astonishing.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Yet we did, and andlt;Iandgt;Last Call andlt;/Iandgt;is Daniel Okrentand#8217;s dazzling explanation of why we did it, what life under Prohibition was like, and how such an unprecedented degree of government interference in the private lives of Americans changed the country forever.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Writing with both wit and historical acuity, Okrent reveals how Prohibition marked a confluence of diverse forces: the growing political power of the womenand#8217;s suffrage movement, which allied itself with the antiliquor campaign; the fear of small-town, native-stock Protestants that they were losing control of their country to the immigrants of the large cities; the anti-German sentiment stoked by World War I; and a variety of other unlikely factors, ranging from the rise of the automobile to the advent of the income tax.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Through it all, Americans kept drinking, going to remarkably creative lengths to smuggle, sell, conceal, and convivially (and sometimes fatally) imbibe their favorite intoxicants. andlt;Iandgt;Last Call andlt;/Iandgt;is peopled with vivid characters of an astonishing variety: Susan B. Anthony and Billy Sunday, William Jennings Bryan and bootlegger Sam Bronfman, Pierre S. du Pont and H. L. Mencken, Meyer Lansky and the incredibleand#8212;if long-forgottenand#8212;federal official Mabel Walker Willebrandt, who throughout the twenties was the most powerful woman in the country. (Perhaps most surprising of all is Okrentand#8217;s account of Joseph P. Kennedyand#8217;s legendary, and long-misunderstood, role in the liquor business.)andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Itand#8217;s a book rich with stories from nearly all parts of the country. Okrentand#8217;s narrative runs through smoky Manhattan speakeasies, where relations between the sexes were changed forever; California vineyards busily producing and#8220;sacramentaland#8221; 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.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;Last Call andlt;/Iandgt;is capacious, meticulous, and thrillingly told. It stands as the most complete history of Prohibition ever written and confirms Daniel Okrentand#8217;s rank as a major American writer.
About the Author
andlt;bandgt;Daniel Okrentandlt;/bandgt; was the first public editor of andlt;iandgt;The New York Timesandlt;/iandgt;, editor-at-large of Time, Inc., and managing editor of andlt;iandgt;Lifeandlt;/iandgt; magazine. He worked in book publishing as an editor at Knopf and Viking, and was editor-in-chief of general books at Harcourt Brace. He was also a featured commentator on Ken Burnsand#8217;s PBS series, andlt;iandgt;Baseballandlt;/iandgt;, and is author of four books, one of which, andlt;iandgt;Great Fortuneandlt;/iandgt;, was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in history. Okrent was also a fellow at the Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where he remains an Associate. He lives in Manhattan and on Cape Cod with his wife, poet Rebecca Okrent. They have two children.