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Prohibition: Thirteen Years That Changed America

Behr, Edward

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On January 16, 1920, America went dry. For the next thirteen years, the Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the making, selling, or transportation of "intoxicating liquors," heralding a new era of crime and corruption on all levels of society. Instead of eliminating alcohol, Prohibition spurred more drinking than ever before. Formerly law-abiding citizens brewed moonshine, became rumrunners, and frequented speakeasies. Druggists, who could dispense "medicinal quantities" of alcohol, found their customer base exploding overnight. So many people from all walks of life defied the ban that Will Rogers famously quipped, "Prohibition is better than no liquor at all." Here is the full, rollicking story of those tumultuous days, from the flappers of the Jazz Age and the "beautiful and the damned" who drank their lives away in smoky speakeasies to bootlegging gangstersÑPretty Boy Floyd, Bonnie and Clyde, Al CaponeÑand the notorious St. Valentine's Day Massacre. In an America still struggling with the problems of alcohol and drug dependency, Prohibition will strike an especially meaningful chord for today's readers.

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Review:

The Roaring Twenties is one of our most romanticized eras. We tend to look back on the days of Prohibition as a golden time of freewheeling gangsters and gun-wielding G-men, all of whom really knew how to live. Edward Behr's thorough and comprehensive history of that time labors under no such misconceptions. Prohibition, as Behr so expertly illustrates, was a period of rampant corruption maintained by vicious violence and widespread dishonesty. The central character in Behr's story is bootlegger George Remus, who once recounted to the Senate how he was able to sell massive amounts of whiskey as medicine after purchasing a license from United States Attorney General Harry Daugherty. No reader of Prohibition will ever look back on the 1920s with quite the same naive pleasure.

About the Author:

Edward Behr is a veteran journalist and war correspondent turned author and broadcaster. His many books include studies of the Algerian War, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, a best-selling biography of the 'Last Emperor', Pu Yi ( which was awarded the Gutenberg Prize in 1988 and was the companion book to Bertolucci's Oscar-winning film), and another, published in Penguin, on the late Emperor Hirohito. Behr's autobiography and humorous reflections on the nature of journalism, Anyone Here Been Raped and Speaks English?, also published in Penguin, is regarded as a modern classic, and his novel, Getting Even, has been translated into ten languages. His numerous television documentaries include Red Dynasty, a three- part series for BBC2 which documented Chinese communism and the events leading to the massacre at Tiananmen Square; The Rise and Fall of Ceausescu, a BBC-PBS co-production which was nominated for an Emmy in 1992; and a prize-winning documentary on India for French television. He has also written film scripts and published books on the musicals Les Miserables and the making of Miss Saigon. When not travelling, Edward Behr lives in Paris and in Ramatuelle with his wife and two cats.

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