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Monday, July 21, 2008

The Period of the Great Moonshine Wars

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This is an occasional series to highlight a book that influenced an Elmore Leonard novel.  In this case, The Moonshine War. The book that influenced it:  Night Comes to the Cumberlands by Harry M. Caudill.

Elmore tells the story about a Hollywood producer who wanted him to write something like Valdez is Coming only different.  Note, Valdez was written before The Moonshine War, but published a year later.  Elmore went to the library looking for an idea.  He pulled a book off the shelf in the history section and remembered opening it to a chapter entitled: “The Period of the Great Moonshine Wars.”  He says he closed the book real quick so it wouldn’t get away.

There are a few discrepancies in Elmore’s account.  The actual chapter heading in Night Comes to the Cumberlands is: Moonshine and Mayhem.”  He is certain that he has the right book.  Where the chapter title came from is a mystery.

The story line to The Moonshine War is laid out in the few paragraphs of the chapter.

image

This is an occasional series to highlight a book that influenced an Elmore Leonard novel.  In this case, The Moonshine War. The book that influenced it:  Night Comes to the Cumberlands by Harry M. Caudill.

Elmore tells the story about a Hollywood producer who wanted him to write something like Valdez is Coming only different.  Note, Valdez was written before The Moonshine War, but published a year later.  Elmore went to the library looking for an idea.  He pulled a book off the shelf in the history section and remembered opening it to a chapter entitled: “The Period of the Great Moonshine Wars.”  He says he closed the book real quick so it wouldn’t get away.

There are a few discrepancies in Elmore’s account.  The actual chapter heading in Night Comes to the Cumberlands is: Moonshine and Mayhem.”  He is certain that he has the right book.  Where the chapter title came from is a mystery.

The story line to The Moonshine War is laid out in the few paragraphs of the chapter. 

CHAPTER TWELVE
Moonshine and Mayhem
AFTER 1920, the Federal Government’s war against the “stillers”?rose to an ever higher crescendo. In this Prohibition era the moun­?taineers could manufacture whiskey for the great nationwide under­?ground market as well as for the local “fruitjar trade” in the towns?and camps. In each of the major cities, hooch gangs grew rich deal­?ing in illicit alcohol—and one of the big sources of supply was the?Cumberland Plateau.
A dependable and well-managed transportation system was re­?quired to get the whiskey out of the narrow valleys of the highlands?and into the big city markets. After the building of the arterial high­?ways trucks were increasingly relied upon, but most barrels of “white?mule” were carried out in freightcars where they were hidden with?the connivance of railroad crewmen. Kegs were buried under the?coal in the gondolas, to be dug out again at some pre-arranged stop­?ping point in Ohio or Illinois. The business of smuggling whiskey out?of the mountains became scandalously big and complex.
The Federal Government hired gangs of new special agents to?assist in tracking down the stills and “stillers,” and in some counties?the sheriffs became fired with the “Prohibition fever” and assigned?gangs of deputies to assist the agents. These heavily armed teams of?local and national peace officers traversed hill and mountain in a?never-ending campaign to destroy the stills and to arrest their operators.

 

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