From Publishers Weekly
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. (Mar.)
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Although most of us associate moonshine with Prohibition and the cross-border gin runners of the 1920s, the first moonshiners actually were outlaws who protested the new tax on whiskey; this was in the 1790s, and it was such a serious rebellion that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton sent 13,000 troops into Pennsylvania to quash it. Moonshine is, in parts of the U.S., still a booming business and an important part of the economy of the South. Watman, a journalist and southerner, takes us on an exciting and often-eccentric ride through the history (and present) of the moonshine business, at the same time chronicling his own frequently disastrous efforts to produce home-grown alcohol. Written in a lively, you-are-there style, and featuring some truly out-of-left-field characters, the book is sure to entertain as it informs. --David Pitt