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Wed June 27, 2012
Good Read: Chasing the White Dog by Max Watman
From these moonshine pioneers, to the bathtub gin runners of the 1920s, to today’s booming bootleg businessmen, journalist Max Watman traces the historical roots and contemporary story of white lightning, which has played a surprisingly large role in American history. It touched the election of Thomas Jefferson, the invention of the IRS, and the origins of NASCAR. It is a story of tommy guns, hot rods, and shot houses, and the story is far from over. In this fascinating, centuries-long history of illicit booze, Watman infiltrates every aspect of small-scale distilling in America, taking us from the backwoods of Appalachia to the gritty nip joints of Philadelphia, from a federal courthouse to Pocono Speedway. Along the way, this unrepentant lover of moonshine profiles the colorful characters who make up white whiskey’s lore and hilariously chronicles his own attempts to distill hooch from his initial ill-fated batch to his first successful jar of ’shine.
Angela Hatton says:
“Some call it white lightning, hooch, red-eye, and bootleg. The moonshine still is an iconic, but clichéd image of Appalachian culture. Max Watman knifes through the stereotype of bucktoothed backwoods hill-billies with a book that’s as sharp as uncut corn whiskey.
“Watman intertwines chapters on famous moonshine rings and stings, with his own bumbling attempts at illegal distillation. In one chapter, Watman sweats his way through buying still equipment at a brewer’s supply store, guiltily avoiding intrusive questions like, ‘what are you making?’
“Watman interviews dozens of distinct characters like a police officer who busted a multi-million dollar moonshine operation in West Virginia. He talks to distillers who’ve gone legit, slippery distillers who keep avoiding arrest, and one who has turned his illegal liquor into a tourist attraction.
“Chasing the White Dog traces both the personal and the political heritage of moonshine. Watman’s passion for the craft and his keen journalistic perceptions come through with every word.”
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