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The Moonshine War: A Novel Paperback – August 21, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 118 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Prohibition is a big headache for some . . . and a big payday for others, the fearless entrepreneurs with little respect for the law of the land. With $125,000 worth of Kentucky's finest homemade whiskey in his possession, big, hell-raising Son Martin counts himself among the latter. Son knows having this much illegal hooch makes him a very tasty target, but nobody's going to steal it from him. Ware may be coming to his backyard, but Son's not worried. Because when it comes to fighting, shooting, and keeping one step ahead of the Big Boys, he's more than good—he's bad . . . and dangerous . . . and deadly.

About the Author

Elmore Leonard wrote more than forty books during his long career, including the bestsellers Raylan, Tishomingo Blues, Be Cool, Get Shorty, and Rum Punch, as well as the acclaimed collection When the Women Come Out to Dance, which was a New York Times Notable Book. Many of his books have been made into movies, including Get Shorty and Out of Sight. The short story "Fire in the Hole," and three books, including Raylan, were the basis for the FX hit show Justified. Leonard received the Lifetime Achievement Award from PEN USA and the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He died in 2013.

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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062208985
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062208989
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Harris on January 31, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"The Moonshine War," is Grade-A Leonard. Written in 1969, one could say it was written at a time when Leonard was still a wonderful secret, and not yet a trendy discovery for People Magazine. What makes "The Moonshine War" a bit different than some of Leonard's crime novels, is that it is set in the not too distant past - 1931. So to some extent it is a historical novel. The setting is Eastern Kentucky. True, Leonard skates pretty lightly over the regional specifics (dialect, land descriptions, etc.) - the kind of things that make Faulkner or Cormac McCarthy so authentic in a literary sense. But Leonard does throw enough in to make it thriller believable. Authentic details regarding the making of moonshine, historical nods, such as the Spanish flu, WW 1, and the kind of overalls men wore, for the most part root the reader well enough. The characters are as solid as any Leonard has created. Son Martin, the novel's hero, is your typical Leonard tough-guy. Quiet, operating on the edge of things, something of an outlaw himself. The bad guys are what you would expect. Vicious, erratic, and often kind of stupid. Of particular note, however, is Dr. Taulbee, a murderous bootlegger, who is smarter than your average Leonard criminal, and a difficult opponent for Son Martin. But he has a weak spot - Miley, a beautiful (and amoral) prostitute, who's along for the ride, though she's always looking for a reliable man. Son, with his internal code of honor, is closer to fitting that description than the good doctor, and Miley, who recognized this, is in her own way a more admirable character than Mrs. Lyons, Son's long-running love interest from town.

The plot in "The Moonshine War," is pretty simple: bootleggers trying to steal Son's hidden whiskey, and Son's reluctance to let that happen.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Elmore Leonard continues his sojourn from Detroit to eastern Kentucky (6 hours down I-75 by car.) There be lots of interesting characters in the hills and hollers. This time it's pre-weed, Oxycontin, and Raylan Givens, and it's Prohibition time. Leonard stirs in a couple of buddies from WW I (one with a secret and the other with a great big gun), a doctor, a mule-shooter who get's bumped off a little too early and easily, a (sorta) heroic bellboy, a widow, and, of course, the prostitute with the heart of gold--all caught up in the quest for hidden moonshine. As usual, Leonard's dialogue is conceivable, vernacularly appropriate, nicely paced, and flows the story forward, but the secret ain't necessarily that concealed, and, shucks, after all the blastin', things never quite come together to provide an answer to, "Ok, so that was fun, but what's the point?"
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Leonard's story of prohibition era moonshiners is a great companion to Wallace Stegner's Big Rock Candy Mountain. It's grittier and has to do with making, rather than selling, bootleg liquor during prohibition. It's a fascinating chapter in American social history, and in Leonard's spare but riveting telling you can smell the mash and the woodsmoke, not to mention the gunpowder.
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Even bad Elmore Leonard is good, but this one is good Elmore Leonard. A good read with interesting characters. Hard to put it down and that's the problem with reading this guy's work. You want to eat it all in one sitting.
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Bootlegger Son Martin has 150 barrels of whiskey his dad made stashed away somewhere and his old war buddy, Frank Long, now a crooked prohibition agent, has his sights set on them. Will Son cave in under the pressure and hand over the whiskey or will he put Long and his cronies into the ground?

Reading an Elmore Leonard book is like drinking a few cold ones with an old friend on their front porch. In this case, it would be whiskey we'd be drinking instead of a couple frosty beers.

Rural Kentucky in the 1930's is far from Elmore Leonard's usual haunts but after watching several seasons of Justified, I figured he could handle it. I was right.

The Moonshine War plays out like a lot of Elmore Leonard books. The promise of violence keeps building until the glorious shootout at the end. Frank Long trying to strongarm Son Martin out of his valuable whiskey is more of the same. It went a little differently than I thought it would near the end, which is always a plus for me.

The country dialog is very well done and drives the plot forward. Like in most Leonard books, Son Martin is just a little slicker than Frank Long and the others.

Son reminds me of Raylan Givens a bit of Raylan was running moonshine instead of being a US Marshall. He's a conflicted character, his young wife dying from the flu while he was in the army leaving him somewhat directionless. He's got a bit of that Givens inner rage going as well. When his neighbors started turning on him when he wouldn't roll over for Long and the others, I knew the violence was coming. The Moonshine War actually feels like a western more than anything else.

Any gripes? Not a one besides wanting to read more about Son Martin.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Loved the dialogue, loved the characters, loved the plot. I could taste the sour mash that oozed from the stills in this unabashingly witty novel.Son Martin is another in a long line of Leonard characters that are unforgettable. The little creep, Duel was contemptible and I cheered when he met his demise. The two women characters were stereotypical, but amusing.The Doctor was a nasty villain and the prohibition man was a perfect counterpoint between the Doctor and Son, our hero. I am hooked on Leonard. Looking forward to his next novel.
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