NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The epic true crime story of the most successful bootlegger in American history and the murder that shocked the nation, from the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy
“Gatsby-era noir at its best.”—Erik Larson
An ID Book Club Selection • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST HISTORY BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SMITHSONIAN
In the early days of Prohibition, long before Al Capone became a household name, a German immigrant named George Remus quits practicing law and starts trafficking whiskey. Within two years he's a multi-millionaire. The press calls him "King of the Bootleggers," writing breathless stories about the Gatsby-esque events he and his glamorous second wife, Imogene, host at their Cincinnati mansion, with party favors ranging from diamond jewelry for the men to brand-new cars for the women. By the summer of 1921, Remus owns 35 percent of all the liquor in the United States.
Pioneering prosecutor Mabel Walker Willebrandt is determined to bring him down. Willebrandt's bosses at the Justice Department hired her right out of law school, assuming she'd pose no real threat to the cozy relationship they maintain with Remus. Eager to prove them wrong, she dispatches her best investigator, Franklin Dodge, to look into his empire. It's a decision with deadly consequences. With the fledgling FBI on the case, Remus is quickly imprisoned for violating the Volstead Act. Her husband behind bars, Imogene begins an affair with Dodge. Together, they plot to ruin Remus, sparking a bitter feud that soon reaches the highest levels of government--and that can only end in murder.
Combining deep historical research with novelistic flair, The Ghosts of Eden Park is the unforgettable, stranger-than-fiction story of a rags-to-riches entrepreneur and a long-forgotten heroine, of the excesses and absurdities of the Jazz Age, and of the infinite human capacity to deceive.
Praise for The Ghosts of Eden Park
“An exhaustively researched, hugely entertaining work of popular history that . . . exhumes a colorful crew of once-celebrated characters and restores them to full-blooded life. . . . [Abbott’s] métier is narrative nonfiction and—as this vibrant, enormously readable book makes clear—she is one of the masters of the art.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Satisfyingly sensational and thoroughly researched.”—The Columbus Dispatch
“Absorbing . . . a Prohibition-era page-turner.”—Chicago Tribune
Bestseller Abbott (Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War) revives an obscure cause c l bre in this engrossing true crime narrative. Relying heavily on primary sources, including trial transcripts, Abbott asserts in an author's note that she "accurately depict detailed scenes and entire conversations and reveal characters' thoughts, gestures, personalities, and histories." That approach pays off from the start with a dramatic prologue set in 1927, in which a man's pursuit of a woman in Cincinnati's Eden Park ends with a gunshot. The reader later learns that they are George Remus, an attorney turned bootlegger, and his wife, Imogene. Prohibition, which became law in 1920, provided Remus with a golden opportunity to capitalize on the nation's thirst for alcohol. Corrupt government officials at the highest levels of the Justice Department abetted his illegal schemes in exchange for bribes. The book's hero is pioneering prosecutor Mabel Willebrandt, the U.S. assistant attorney general in charge of enforcing the Volstead Act, who was able to convict Remus in 1922 for violating the act. After Remus completed his sentence, frictions between him and Imogene led to her murder; that crime set the stage for an extraordinary trial in which Remus both represented himself and asserted that he should be found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity. This real-life page-turner will appeal to fans of Erik Larson.
Warms up Slow but Decadent
This is the second Abbot book I have read, and it didn’t disappoint. True to her style, the words on each page are vibrant and paint a vivid picture of the characters and the times.
My only criticism isn’t if the writing but if the content. By nature of what the story is there is a lot of character development required. There are many important characters introduced early and in quick succession in the book, which made my head spin a little as I tried to keep them separate and learn their nuances for the first 20% of the pages or so. That said, having all those richly developed characters is what makes this book so good and a decadent find for those who devour well written history and good story telling.