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. Wi...

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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

  • Julie

    The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America by Karen Abbott is a 2019 Crown Publishing Group publication.

    George Remus is a name I was only moderately familiar with. I knew he was a famous bootlegger during prohibition, but I didn’t know much more than that. I had not familiarized myself with his complex criminal operation or with his personal issues, which included referring to himself in third

    The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America by Karen Abbott is a 2019 Crown Publishing Group publication.

    George Remus is a name I was only moderately familiar with. I knew he was a famous bootlegger during prohibition, but I didn’t know much more than that. I had not familiarized myself with his complex criminal operation or with his personal issues, which included referring to himself in third person, and the hint of mental instability. So, I had no idea what to expect when I started reading this book.

    Well, to say George lived a colorful life is an understatement. As an attorney, he found a way to procure alcohol legally for “medicinal purposes.” This subterfuge allowed him to take control of a large percentage of distilleries. From there he built a very lucrative bootlegging operation which made him quite wealthy, earning him the moniker, “The King of the Bootleggers’.

    George and his second wife, Imogene, lived a lavish lifestyle, handing out diamonds and cars to their party guests, but the law was not ignorant of his enterprise. Enter Mabel Walker Willebrandt, a prosecutor with the Attorney General’s office, whose job it was to investigate and prosecute violators of the Volstead Act.

    This is where the story really gets interesting. One of Wellebrant’s agents, Frank Dodge, was assigned the task of infiltrating Remus’ empire. Frank’s involvement lead to a shocking turn of events that would have made a gripping crime novel. The head spinning twist and turns in this case just goes to show that truth really is stranger than fiction…

    Since Truman Capote spoiled us with his ‘True Crime Novel’, any other approach to this ‘genre’ can be mind numbingly dry. Yet, Karen Abbott has employed a new technique which I thought worked out quite well.

    The book is written in the standard chronological format- thank goodness, as I’ve never seen nonfiction work out when someone gets creative with the timeline. The research is also noteworthy as the author had access to thousands of pages of transcripts. Naturally, this requires exceptional organizational skill, and Ms. Abbot did a phenomenal job with so much material.

    There are many people involved in this tale, and unlike fiction, where the author has control over the number of characters involved in the plot, the author didn’t have that same luxury when it came to writing nonfiction. Still, I thought Abbott handled it nicely, including all the key players in this saga without allowing it to slow down the momentum. In fact, the book is very fast paced, and held my interest all throughout.

    As one will gather from the title, bootlegging is not the only crime at play. A murder is eminent which is where Abbot applies one truly unique and clever trick-

    Unless one already knows how this story plays out, the victim and the murderer remain a secret until the killing transpires in real time. Abbott keeps us on the edge of our seat, building the suspense and keeping one guessing like this was a fictional murder mystery.

    Then there is that stunning trial! The prosecutor was Charles Phelps Taft II, son of William Howard Taft. But you will have to read this book to believe how it concluded. It’s one of the most insane trials I’ve ever read about from this era. Talk about putting on a show!

    I admit, by the time I turned the final page, I was shaking my head in disbelief. This is one bizarre story and will take readers on a wild roller coaster ride through prohibition and the politics of the day. But mostly this is one of the most entertaining true crime books I’ve read.

    5 stars

  • 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.

  • 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

    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!

  • Toni

    This is a must read in Cincinnati, where I’ve lived for the past 27 years. Great city btw. I combined ebook and audio, which I like to do occasionally, depending on the book. This audio was great so I switched over half way through.

    Alternating male and female narrators added to the appeal of listening and sparking the content. Facts and entertaining drama entwined for great historical content we must “keep alive.”

    Must read for true crime fans.

  • ♥ Sandi ❣

    3.5 stars

    This book is hard for me to review, due to two reasons - first, I read it in starts and stops and secondly, although very well researched, it became boring in spots. However, it is due back to the library today, so I lack the time to ponder or procrastinate.

    Gangsters, bootleggers, crime and corruption, and all in the Midwest. That is what drew me to the book. And there was plenty of that for the taking. The star of this book was George Remus, multimillionaire and known as t

    3.5 stars

    This book is hard for me to review, due to two reasons - first, I read it in starts and stops and secondly, although very well researched, it became boring in spots. However, it is due back to the library today, so I lack the time to ponder or procrastinate.

    Gangsters, bootleggers, crime and corruption, and all in the Midwest. That is what drew me to the book. And there was plenty of that for the taking. The star of this book was George Remus, multimillionaire and known as the "King of the Bootleggers". With most of the local police in his pocket, a mansion in Cincinnati and a rebellious wife, Imogene, George owned a third of all liquor in the United States. Then with George in prison, Imogene decides to take him off his throne and she sells off most of his millions. The result - murder.

    This is non-fiction and very well researched. It takes you through a time and place that is little known to most people. This story of prohibition took place before even Al Capone was notorious. It tells of the rise of George Remus, his life with his wife Imogene, and through his trial. Then also of the aftermath of his imprisonment.

    Boring in spots when the details over ran the story, and entertaining in learning the history of Remus and his bootlegging days.

  • Robert Sheard

    Americans have long been fascinated with Prohibition and bootleggers, so it's no surprise that a story about one of the biggest bootleggers would bring such attention. Throw in a domestic murder as well and you have the makings of what should have been a spell-binding read. Unfortunately, this book doesn't really get there. Abbott's research is extensive and meticulous, but I think that might actually have hampered the storytelling. So much secondary and tertiary information gets included that t

    Americans have long been fascinated with Prohibition and bootleggers, so it's no surprise that a story about one of the biggest bootleggers would bring such attention. Throw in a domestic murder as well and you have the makings of what should have been a spell-binding read. Unfortunately, this book doesn't really get there. Abbott's research is extensive and meticulous, but I think that might actually have hampered the storytelling. So much secondary and tertiary information gets included that the narrative drive fails miserably in the second half of the book. All we're left with is legal details and court shenanigans. I wanted to love this one, but ultimately I was disappointed and it became a chore to finish.

  • 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

    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 o

    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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