The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America

The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America

The epic true crime story of bootlegger George Remus and the murder that shocked the nation, from the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and Liar, Temptress, Soldier, SpyIn 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 t...

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Title:The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America
Author:Karen Abbott
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The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America Reviews

  • Joshilyn Jackson

    I have read all of Abbott's books, even though I am primarily a fiction reader. I love them because they read like novels. This one reads like a literary legal thriller.

    It has some INSANE twists. I love that things actually happened that would break my suspension of disbelief in fiction. The truth really is stranger. Well drawn characters, gorgeous writing, and a murder mystery? Yes, please. Highly recommended.

  • Ronald Koltnow

    To be published by Crown in August 2019

    Fans of the HBO program BOARDWALK EMPIRE may recall an odd presence named Remus, George Remus. He always referred to himself in the third person. George Remus was an historical figure, a leading bootlegger in Ohio and a colorful character, as Abbott's fine bio points out. He may have been the model for Fitzgerald's Gatsby. Abbott, known for her previous studies of the Everleigh Sisters and Gypsy Rose Lee, does not go the usual bio route. Early on, Remus has

    To be published by Crown in August 2019

    Fans of the HBO program BOARDWALK EMPIRE may recall an odd presence named Remus, George Remus. He always referred to himself in the third person. George Remus was an historical figure, a leading bootlegger in Ohio and a colorful character, as Abbott's fine bio points out. He may have been the model for Fitzgerald's Gatsby. Abbott, known for her previous studies of the Everleigh Sisters and Gypsy Rose Lee, does not go the usual bio route. Early on, Remus has become a pharmacist, a bootlegger, and an over-night success. The book centers on Remus's love for, marriage to, and betrayal by his beloved Augusta Imogene Brown Holmes. Suffice it to say that the marriage, although tempestuous, does not end well. Abbott's secondary focus is on a woman I suspect few of of us know, Mabel Walker Willebrandt, the first woman Assistant Attorney General of the US. Willebrandt, who monitored the prohibition cases for the AG's office, was zealous in her pursuit of Remus, assigning her best man, Franklin Dodge to the case. Therein lies the rub. Warren G. Harding, Albert Fall, and young J. Edgar Hoover all play roles in the history, but it is the quadrangle of Remus-Imogene-Willebrandt-Dodge that drives this wonderfully researched narrative. Abbott's prose is clear, concise, and sharp, with nary an overdone sentence in the whole book. It is a model of true crime writing.

  • Susannah

    Sexy, smart, compulsively readable -- and expertly researched.

  • Karen Rush

    The Ghosts of Eden Park Karen Abbott

    Karen Abbott brilliantly pieces together this page-turner through meticulous resource and without any fictional dialogue. With so much chronicled information, I suspected this might be a dry journaling of events but no, far from it! It is a rich narrative, a captivating story about a volatile time in American history that involved widespread corruption amongst a who’s who of politicians, judges, law enforcement and civilians.

    So many wanted a piece of the boot

    The Ghosts of Eden Park Karen Abbott

    Karen Abbott brilliantly pieces together this page-turner through meticulous resource and without any fictional dialogue. With so much chronicled information, I suspected this might be a dry journaling of events but no, far from it! It is a rich narrative, a captivating story about a volatile time in American history that involved widespread corruption amongst a who’s who of politicians, judges, law enforcement and civilians.

    So many wanted a piece of the bootlegging action. Each major character either good or bad was masterfully depicted by Abbott and fascinating to follow. Day to day business included maneuvering, extortion, bribery, backstabbing, and an incomprehensible volume of money - mind-boggling!

    It was difficult choosing my favorite character as I was as fascinated by the good guys as well as the bad. Mabel Walker Willenbrandt, the ‘First Lady of Law’ was an inspiration. George Remus, pharmacist, lawyer and bootlegger was one heck of a visionary. A genius with unpredictable anger, insane jealousy and misplaced trust, I was gobsmacked by his story. One of the best non-fiction books I have read!

  • Kitty Jay

    There are times when you hear of people who had such an enormous impact on the course of history that you wonder how you never heard of them before. George Remus, and his pursuer, Mabel Willebrandt, are two such people. George Remus, at one time known as the "King of the Bootleggers", owned as much as 35% of all liquor in the United States during Prohibition. Given to excess and outpourings of emotion, coupled with an erratic, but nonetheless successful, business acumen, he built an extensive ne

    There are times when you hear of people who had such an enormous impact on the course of history that you wonder how you never heard of them before. George Remus, and his pursuer, Mabel Willebrandt, are two such people. George Remus, at one time known as the "King of the Bootleggers", owned as much as 35% of all liquor in the United States during Prohibition. Given to excess and outpourings of emotion, coupled with an erratic, but nonetheless successful, business acumen, he built an extensive network of graft and corruption in order to build his empire. Willebrandt was the associate attorney general of the United States, the highest office a woman had held in the federal government at the time, and a woman of stern convictions and ambition, who - while not personally a great proponent of Prohibition - nonetheless vowed to prosecute offenses of it with all her power.

    The story follows Remus's meteoric rise as a conman pharmacist, then lawyer, and finally bootlegger, who threw parties of such extravagance that would make Trimalchio blush. Women were gifted with brand new Pontiacs and men with diamond watches as "party favors". A mansion was purchased and he encouraged his wife, Imogene, to furnish it with the top-of-the-line decor. It also follows his tumultuous relationship with Imogene, who comes out fairly poorly in the story; she is portrayed as a calculating, unfaithful gold-digger only interested in the finer things in life.

    Remus is eventually prosecuted by Willebrandt for his bootlegging operations, and the story follows his time in prison and Willebrandt's top agent, Frank L. Dodge, Jr., beginning an affair with Imogene. The events unravel slowly but surely toward their inevitable end, culminating in a court case that captured the public's eye. A slew of familiar names crop up: Clarence Darrow, J. Edgar Hoover, and George Remus's spiritual successor, Al Capone.

    With the same accomplished sleight of hand as a magician, Abbott most clearly demonstrates the effortless dexterity of a writer in the information she reveals. Her earlier accounts, through Remus's cronies and associates, of Remus's behavior leads to a clear portrait of a man that is quickly upset when the trial begins.

    For all the tales of extravagance and theatrics, however, George Remus took second stage for me in comparison to the estimable Mabel Willebrandt. A shrewd lawyer with a calculating instinct, Willebrandt proved crucial in America's history with Prohibition, even successfully campaigning to rule that bootleggers must report their ill-gotten and illegal profits on their taxes, which would ultimately nab the infamous Al Capone.

    Abbott's writing is effortless, spinning a well-researched, thoughtful story that showcases what a talented writer of historical non-fiction must do: the characters are presented as fully as can be done with historical records, and Abbott holds her cards close to her chest. Some doubt is thrown on Willebrandt's true relationship with Dodge, for instance, but speculation is kept to a minimum. Even Remus is treated with the same objectivity, and the writer must decide for him or herself, just as the public did, what the true story was. Every time the reader may have leaned one way, Abbott reveals another source that forces doubt.

    As much a story about the time period, one of conspicuous consumption, corruption and graft, and modernity and femininity, as the people in it,

    is a fascinating look at some mostly forgotten characters of a bygone era.

    There is one error that should be noted - on page 47, it says that $1000 bills were hidden under the plates of dinner guests at the unveiling of the Imogene Pool, but on page 169, it says $100 bills. One hopes this error is noted or corrected in the final release.

  • Beth Cato

    I received an advance ebook via NetGalley.

    I never cease to be amazed by the innovations and machinations perpetuated by bootleggers during Prohibition, and wow does this book bring an incredible drama to light. George Remus was a corporate powerhouse out of Cincinnati. Once a lawyer known for courtroom histrionics, he switched his focus to dominating the illicit liquor trade throughout the Midwest. He accumulated incredible wealth and prestige, masterminding some third of bootleg operations with

    I received an advance ebook via NetGalley.

    I never cease to be amazed by the innovations and machinations perpetuated by bootleggers during Prohibition, and wow does this book bring an incredible drama to light. George Remus was a corporate powerhouse out of Cincinnati. Once a lawyer known for courtroom histrionics, he switched his focus to dominating the illicit liquor trade throughout the Midwest. He accumulated incredible wealth and prestige, masterminding some third of bootleg operations within America, and becoming one of the largest employers in the entire region. He also acquired a bride: Imogene, who soon became his business partner. But after Remus is nabbed by the Feds and sent to lock-up in Atlanta, Imogene begins an affair with a Prohibition agent and begins to systemically unravel her husband's luxurious household and his business operation--and unravel Remus's very sanity. He had never been a stable man to begin with, and Imogene's betrayal sends him over the edge... resulting in murder and one of the most sensational trails of the era and a legal and moral test of "guilty by reason of insanity."

    Also, I absolutely loved reading about Mabel Walker Willebrandt, U.S. Assistant Attorney General throughout the 1920s. She was the very definition of a woman surviving by grit and wit within a man's world. I need to read more about her.

    This book is astonishing. It reads with the ease and intensity of a thriller, in part because the author's fantastic research included full dialogue from all of the major players. People speak in their own words, including Remus, who had a tendency to speak of himself in the third person. As a research geek myself, I can only respect in and be delighted by another author going through such intense labor, and it works to great success.

    I think my only complaint is that the book ended up far shorter than I anticipated. The ebook's content actually ended at 64%, with the rest of the pages consisting of footnotes and bibliography.

    I highly recommend this read for anyone interested in the period of Prohibition.

  • Bruce Perrin

    is set in the Jazz Age in the United States. It was a time of great change—women received the right to vote; fashion, music, and social norms were being transformed; and alcohol became illegal. Into this setting, insert George Remus, a lawyer turned bootlegger who quickly amassed a vast fortune by finding loopholes in the new Prohibition laws. Opposing Remus was Mabel Walker Willebrandt, appointed as US Ass

    is set in the Jazz Age in the United States. It was a time of great change—women received the right to vote; fashion, music, and social norms were being transformed; and alcohol became illegal. Into this setting, insert George Remus, a lawyer turned bootlegger who quickly amassed a vast fortune by finding loopholes in the new Prohibition laws. Opposing Remus was Mabel Walker Willebrandt, appointed as US Assistant Attorney General with responsibility for enforcing Prohibition. Fresh out of law school, few expected her to upset the benign indifference shown by most politicians; they were wrong. Remus was convicted and sentenced to prison. His second wife, Imogene, betrayed him with one of Willebrandt’s agents, Franklin Dodge, and they stole much of his fortune. And then, the histrionics Remus showed in the courtroom became more prevalent and much more violent. But was it insanity, or just a ruse to defend himself in his own trial for killing Imogene?

    With all this grist for a spellbinding tale, I expected one; unfortunately, it never quite materializes. The text and dialog pulled from court records and other documents reflect the style of the time, e.g., somewhat wooden compared to today’s standards. But that same stilted feel continues into the rest of the book. Perhaps that was intentional, but it reduces the pace to the point of plodding. The story is not presented succinctly. As an example, during Remus’s murder trial, several witnesses were called to testify about the night Remus discovered that his mansion had been stripped of its valuables. Each witness, however, gives a different date. And after several pages of this same story, the author reveals that the lawyers were trying to prove Remus was staging his ‘discovery’ of the theft over and over, so he could fly into a rage at his wife’s betrayal for each new audience. One well-written paragraph could have replaced several pages of repetition. The basic sequence of events is also confusing, when segments from court transcripts representing a different time are inserted between chapters. And digressions into the personal and professional lives of characters only loosely related to the story feel like filler.

    I did enjoy the insight the book provided on several tangential topics—the excesses of Remus’s Gatsby-esque lifestyle, the treatment of the rich in the penal system, the concept of insanity in the legal system, among others. And I came to greatly admire the stamina and vision of a past US Assistant Attorney General. To accomplish what Wllibrandt did during the Prohibition Era was truly amazing. But as for a riveting story of betrayal and murder in the matter of George Remus? That was difficult to find.

    I was given a free copy of this book. I elected to write this candid review.

  • Samantha

    Competently executed yet disappointingly dull.

    I have greatly enjoyed Abbott’s other work and expected this to be a slam dunk. Unfortunately, I found myself bored of the narrative and apathetic about the subject matter.

    Generally speaking, bootlegging and Prohibition are not topics that lend themselves particularly well to narrative nonfiction. They certainly *seem* like they should (largely because fiction has done such a good job with this topic), but the sad fact is that money and (temporary)

    Competently executed yet disappointingly dull.

    I have greatly enjoyed Abbott’s other work and expected this to be a slam dunk. Unfortunately, I found myself bored of the narrative and apathetic about the subject matter.

    Generally speaking, bootlegging and Prohibition are not topics that lend themselves particularly well to narrative nonfiction. They certainly *seem* like they should (largely because fiction has done such a good job with this topic), but the sad fact is that money and (temporary) criminal success don’t necessarily make a subject worthy of being immortalized on the proverbial page.

    Such is the case with the subjects of this particular narrative. Remus is certainly a savvy businessman, but he’s also mentally unstable and not much of an intellectual, even if you concede he had some decent street smarts. Even that feels worthless though, since by the end of his tale he’s barely comprehensible. Imogene seems like a nasty opportunist rather than the clever con woman who finally snaps that the book seems to want her to be.

    Abbott’s writing and research are both good, but the choice of subject matter feels ill-advised. While the story has some interesting moments, it simply isn’t compelling enough to warrant an entire book. This could have been a great long form article, but as a book it feels indulgent and excessive.

    *I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

  • Natasha Niezgoda

    HAPPY PUB DAY!!!!

  • Peter Tillman

    Harold Schechter at the WSJ found it a "hugely entertaining work of popular history":

    (as always, I'm happy to email a copy to non-subscribers)

    Excerpts:

    George Remus, a pharmacist & lawyer, found a loophole in the Volstead act "that permitted licensed pharmacists, such as himself, to legally acquire liquor for “medicinal purposes.” Within a year, he owned “35 percent of all the liquor in the United States.” The tabloids would crown him “King of the Boot

    Harold Schechter at the WSJ found it a "hugely entertaining work of popular history":

    (as always, I'm happy to email a copy to non-subscribers)

    Excerpts:

    George Remus, a pharmacist & lawyer, found a loophole in the Volstead act "that permitted licensed pharmacists, such as himself, to legally acquire liquor for “medicinal purposes.” Within a year, he owned “35 percent of all the liquor in the United States.” The tabloids would crown him “King of the Bootleggers.” He got very, very rich.

    The author "describes a New Year’s Eve bash hosted by the Remuses at which“cigars were lit with $100 bills, and party favors consisted of gold watches and diamond stick pins for the men and, for each lady in attendance, a brand-new Pontiac."

    Remus's nemesis was Mabel Walker Willebrandt, an assistant Attorney General in charge of enforcing Prohibition. "Willebrandt—who began each day with an ice-cold bath and kept a framed quote by Cotton Mather on her office wall for inspiration—set about pursuing the nation’s leading bootleggers, with George Remus at the top of her list."

    OK, I'm in. Let's see what others here have to say. . . .

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