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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
Smugglers, Bootleggers, and Scofflaws: Prohibition and New York City
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on January 8, 2014
This book reads as a novel - fast paced and illustrated. The book is a scholarly thesis with original research, yet is an easy and fascinating read about a little documented period in US history. Many plots are included which would make excellent action movies. There are laugh-out-loud twists of fate, fascinating characters, wild action scenes, adventures at sea in dead of night. There are murders, betrayals and successes. But which side are you rooting for? Where does it all fit into history? This is a must read. Most of this information will be completely new to you.
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on August 2, 2016
A dry but readable account of many pertinent facts, but very parsimonious when it comes to dates. Still, many of the boats and principals can be looked up in Google News Archives and added info gleaned that way. Few Americans have any clue how many people were literally murdered over beer and rum, and how much valuable property was destroyed or confiscated through asset forfeiture in the course of prohibition enforcement. This compilation from official records sheds additional light on the Dark Ages of America's political economy and rule of sumptuary laws.
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on January 28, 2014
In her book, Smugglers, Bootleggers and Scofflaws, Lawson places her exciting discovery of previously unpublished Coast Guard records in historical context for the reader interested in a story of prohibition that moves beyond myths and stereotypes. Although Lawson writes from her background as a historian, the average reader will find this book chock full of entertaining and enjoyable stories of the real people who made this era so unforgettable. Lawson’s notes and bibliography alone are worth the price of the book!
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on March 16, 2014
At some point "historians" go through the phase of doing extensive research of sources, taking notes and making copies of those deemed most relevant or interesting. Historians such as McCullouch (to chose one of the American greats among many) go the next step, synthesizing the material into a eminently readable narrative conveying a defensible viewpoint and noting the viewpoint of others as well as commenting on the soundness of the sources used and unused.
This book unfortunately is in the first phase. It is a pastiche as noted by another reviewer. There is value in wading through it if one has the time and interest in the era and region. It is unreadable if one does not. "So many books, so little time."
I do hope Ms Lawson maintains her enthusiasm and goes on to be a great historian. But for now she needs to hone her history-as-a-story skills and also seek out a great editor.
Reading McPhee or most of "The New Yorker" non-fiction writers wouldn't hurt her either.
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on November 27, 2016
The argument of "academic" vs. "narrative" history is moot in this case, because "Smugglers..." clearly provides the best of both worlds. Although this synergism may confound and even offend some critics, most readers will be delighted by Ellen Lawson's rare ability to write on both levels simultaneously. I had the good fortune to meet her this past summer "in situ" (along the North Atlantic coast) and came away with the impression that she likely has the blood of Blackbeard coursing through her veins. And a PhD to boot. Pick up a copy, have yourself lashed to the mainmast, and prepare for an entertaining journey through one of the most fascinating- and hitherto neglected-periods of American history, just in time for its fast-approaching centennial.
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on November 30, 2016
An excellent study featuring all of the drama of New York City's prohibition era. Each page is filled with a flowing narrative and impressive detail. This is a must read for anyone studying prohibition. Not a boring moment in this one--truly an exciting read.
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on December 1, 2013
This is a very engrossing and entertaining history of prohibition in NYC. The author has put together tons of interesting and quaint stories that illustrate the drama of that time period. Lawson makes the time period come alive. I enjoyed the book a lot.
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