Last Call

  • by Daniel Okrent
  • Narrated by Daniel Okrent
  • 9 hrs and 29 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A brilliant, authoritative, and fascinating history of America's most puzzling era, the years 1920 to 1933, when the U.S. Constitution was amended to restrict one of Americas favorite pastimes: drinking alcoholic beverages.
From its start, America has been awash in drink. The sailing vessel that brought John Winthrop to the shores of the New World in 1630 carried more beer than water. By the 1820s, liquor flowed so plentifully it was cheaper than tea. That Americans would ever agree to relinquish their booze was as improbable as it was astonishing.
Yet we did, and Last Call is Daniel Okrent's dazzling explanation of why we did it, what life under Prohibition was like, and how such an unprecedented degree of government interference in the private lives of Americans changed the country forever.
Writing with both wit and historical acuity, Okrent reveals how Prohibition marked a confluence of diverse forces: the growing political power of the women's suffrage movement, which allied itself with the antiliquor campaign; the fear of small-town, native-stock Protestants that they were losing control of their country to the immigrants of the large cities; the anti-German sentiment stoked by World War I; and a variety of other unlikely factors, ranging from the rise of the automobile to the advent of the income tax.
Through it all, Americans kept drinking, going to remarkably creative lengths to smuggle, sell, conceal, and convivially (and sometimes fatally) imbibe their favorite intoxicants. Last Call is peopled with vivid characters of an astonishing variety: Susan B. Anthony and Billy Sunday, William Jennings Bryan and bootlegger Sam Bronfman, Pierre S. du Pont and H. L. Mencken, Meyer Lansky and the incredible - if long-forgotten - federal official Mabel Walker Willebrandt, who throughout the 20s was the most powerful woman in the country. (Perhaps most surprising of all is Okrent's account of Joseph P. Kennedy's legendary, and long-misunderstood, role in the liquor business.)
It's a book rich with stories from nearly all parts of the country. Okrent's narrative runs through smoky Manhattan speakeasies, where relations between the sexes were changed forever; California vineyards busily producing sacramental wine; New England fishing communities that gave up fishing for the more lucrative rum-running business; and in Washington, the halls of Congress itself, where politicians who had voted for Prohibition drank openly and without apology.
Last Call is capacious, meticulous, and thrillingly told. It stands as the most complete history of Prohibition ever written and confirms Daniel Okrent's rank as a major American writer.


What the Critics Say

“Daniel Okrent's Last Call is filled with delightful details, colorful characters, and fascinating social insights. And what a great tale! Prohibition may not have been a lot of fun, but this book sure is.” (Walter Isaacson)
Last Call is - I can't help it - a high, an upper, a delicious cocktail of a book, served with a twist or two and plenty of punch.” (Evan Thomas, Newsweek)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Strictly an account

This book is probably okay for what it is -- I was just expecting something different.

It gives the lobbying and legislative history of both prohibition and repeal in some detail. It also talks some about the lawlessness of gangsters that occurred in the '20's and touches on the instability of a society that basically nullifies a law by ignoring it.

I felt it did not do justice to the things that led to Prohibition. Don't misunderstand -- I am not pro-prohibition. In fact, I'm for the legalization of drugs. Nevertheless, while the author did talk about the role of women and women's suffrage in connection with the law, it did not really go into any detail about *why* women supported it - in other words, the social problems women, who were without legal rights or protection in a society where saloons were all men bastions and drunkeness often resulted in poverty and abuse against which they had no recourse. Instead, the author concentrated on anti-immigrant feelings which certainly were a factor, but not the whole story.

So, for a bare-line history, an okay book. For analysis, not so good - even in those areas he addressed.
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- Linda

"Read by the author" kiss of death.

This could have been a much more entertaining book (think 1776 or The Great Bridge) if the author had not taken it upon himself to read it. I don't know why these authors think they are actors.
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- Brett

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-21-2010
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio