The Ghosts of Eden Park

The Ghosts of Eden Park

by Karen Abbott

Overview: In the early days of Prohibition, long before Al Capone became a household name, a German immigrant named George Remus quits practicing law and starts trafficking whiskey. Within two years he's a multi-millionaire. The press calls him "King of the Bootleggers," writing breathless stories about the Gatsby-esque events he and his glamorous second wife, Imogene, host at their Cincinnati mansion, with party favors ranging from diamond jewelry for the men to brand-new Pontiacs for the women. By the summer of 1921, Remus owns 35 percent of all the liquor in the United States.

Pioneering prosecutor Mabel Walker Willebrandt is determined to bring him down. Willebrandt's bosses at the U.S. Attorney's office hired her right out of law school, assuming she'd pose no real threat to the cozy relationship they maintain with Remus. Eager to prove them wrong, she dispatches her best investigator, Franklin Dodge, to look into his empire. It's a decision with deadly consequences. With the fledgling FBI on the case, Remus is quickly imprisoned for violating the Volstead Act. Her husband behind bars, Imogene begins an affair with Dodge. Together, they plot to ruin Remus, sparking a bitter feud that soon reaches the highest levels of governmentóand that can only end in murder.

Combining deep historical research with novelistic flair, The Ghosts of Eden Park is the unforgettable, stranger-than-fiction story of a rags-to-riches entrepreneur and a long-forgotten heroine, of the excesses and absurdities of the Jazz Age, and of the infinite human capacity to deceive.

Deanna Boe (11/15/19): I will begin this review with the authorís note found at the beginning: ďAs strange as this story may seem, this is a work of nonfiction, with no invented dialogue. Everything that appears between quotation marks comes from a government file, archive, diary, letter, newspaper article, book, or, most often, a hearing or trail transcript.Ē This is an excellent book about a bootlegger I had never heard anything about, and yet for a couple of years he was selling more than Al Capone! This is a book where you donít know who is the hero or the villain. That is certainly true when it comes to George Remus! It can also apply to Mabel Walker Willebrandt of the United States Department of Justice. At times I viewed them both as a hero or the villain. Both were able to come from nothing and make success of their lives, analyzing as to what you feel is success. Is it success in your job? Making lots of money? Becoming famous? In short, what have you accomplished by a certain point of your life? It is hard to view both of these people and come up with the correct answer. In fact I found myself often pulling for George, the bootlegger, and against Mabel plus the Justice Department. All these years later we still donít know who the good and/or bad guys were during Prohibition! Who felt they should dictate to others who could and shouldnít be drinking? What shocked me the most was how much liquor was still allowed in various places and why. I think we have all known President Harding continued to serve it at the White House, but there were so many other places and events where it was also ignored as illegal.

This is an extremely well written book! I canít begin to imagine how much research and time was spent in writing it. It is one of those rare books you simply want more information and donít want it to end; although Abbot does an excellent job of filling you in on what happened to the main individuals at the end of the book. The main character is George Remus who literally started with nothing and became a pharmacist; when he became bored with that he went on to become a lawyer in Chicago. He even worked with the famous lawyer, Clarence Darrow, who willing came and vouched for George. In short I hesitate to say any more because the way the author wrote the book you donít really know until close to the end who is being tried for what and the result.
Rating: *****

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