Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

by Daniel Okrent
3.6 107

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Overview

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent

A brilliant, authoritative, and fascinating history of America’s most puzzling era, the years 1920 to 1933, when the U.S. Constitution was amended to restrict one of America’s favorite pastimes: drinking alcoholic beverages.

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 ever agree to relinquish their booze was as improbable as it was astonishing.

Yet we did, and Last Call is Daniel Okrent’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.

Writing with both wit and historical acuity, Okrent reveals how Prohibition marked a confluence of diverse forces: the growing political power of the women’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.

Through it all, Americans kept drinking, going to remarkably creative lengths to smuggle, sell, conceal, and convivially (and sometimes fatally) imbibe their favorite intoxicants. Last Call 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 incredible—if long-forgotten—federal official Mabel Walker Willebrandt, who throughout the twenties was the most powerful woman in the country. (Perhaps most surprising of all is Okrent’s account of Joseph P. Kennedy’s legendary, and long-misunderstood, role in the liquor business.)

It’s a book rich with stories from nearly all parts of the country. Okrent’s narrative runs through smoky Manhattan speakeasies, where relations between the sexes were changed forever; California vineyards busily producing “sacramental” 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.

Last Call is capacious, meticulous, and thrillingly told. It stands as the most complete history of Prohibition ever written and confirms Daniel Okrent’s rank as a major American writer.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743277020
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 05/11/2010
Pages: 480
Product dimensions: 9.50(w) x 6.64(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Daniel Okrent was the first public editor of The New York Times, editor-at-large of Time, Inc., and managing editor of Life 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 Burns’s PBS series, Baseball, and is author of four books, one of which, Great Fortune, 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.

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Last Call 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 107 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. It is an easy-to-read factual telling of an interesting time in American history. A quick read for historical non-fiction.
Minnesota_ReaderAN More than 1 year ago
From the first page I found this book interesting, well written and easy to read. The author adds just enough humor and irony to his writing to make it more interesting without ruining the topic or the book. Though Prohibition ended in the early 1930's, there are things in this book to learn for those of us living in the 21st century.
thompsot1 More than 1 year ago
This book seemed to me to start out a bit slow. Once I got past that, the reading became very interesting. I do not know if the author meant to do so, but I am seeing parallel after parallel in what the "Drys" were up to and what our current Far Right political types are up to. Pretty doggone amazing picture painted in this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating book. Among the chief "lessons of history" to be learned here are that cause-driven political activists are in the main repulsive and dangerous crackpots and self-interest driven politics can be comparatively innocent.
HecubaYH More than 1 year ago
I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in American history. If you liked the PBS series, you'll marvel at how much was left out. Well researched, and written with zest and not a little humor. Bravo!
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Haven't quite finished this one, but have enjoyed the first half. I find this period of history/politics pretty fascinating.
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I've struggled to enjoy non-fiction, bit this is my new favorite book. The colorful characters involved with prohibition combined with the brodad impact of prohibition on American history, and vice versa, honestly mad eme feel like this book helped me better understand my country. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, both to those that love non-fiction and those that don't.
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