The Cornbread Mafia

  • by James Higdon
  • Narrated by Paul Boehmer
  • 14 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In the summer of 1987, Johnny Boone set out to grow and harvest one of the greatest outdoor marijuana crops in modern times. In doing so, he set into motion a series of events that defined him and his associatesas the largest homegrown marijuana syndicate in American history, also known as the Cornbread Mafia.
Author James Higdon - whose relationship with Johnny Boone, currently a federal fugitive, made him the first journalist subpoenaed underthe Obama administration - takes listeners back to the 1970s and ‘80s and the clash between federal and local law enforcement and a band of Kentucky farmers with moonshine and pride in their bloodlines. By 1989 the task force assigned to take down men like Johnny Boone had arrested 69 men and 1 woman from busts on 29 farms in 10 states, and seized 200 tons of pot.
Of the 70 individuals arrested, none talked. How it all went down is a tale of Mafia-style storylines emanating from the Bluegrass State, and populated by Vietnam veterans and weed-loving characters caught up in Tarantino-level violence and heart-breaking altruism. Accompanied by a backdrop of rock-and-roll and rhythm-and-blues, this work of dogged investigative journalism and history is told by Higdon in action-packed, colorful, and riveting detail.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Mixed bag, but ultimately worth a credit

First, this is an interesting book and I liked it. Second, I could never produce something on a par with it and I respect the effort and diligence that went into its creation. However, I do have a few criticisms. I found that I enjoyed the portions that were based on actual records better than the stuff that's reported from one-on-one interviews with the "hillbillies" who produced all that Kentucky grass. The author is perhaps a bit too credulous when relating some of the stories he was told by these folks. OTOH, the solid straight reporting in much of the book balances those stories with enough facts that the stories are still fun to read, if not exactly "according to Hoyle" journalism.

My larger gripe is the author's insertion of his own book creation/subpeona to testify story near the end of the book. I found this part unnecessary and a little too self-satisfied for my taste (the Obama '08 stuff looks particularly naive in light of the way his presidency has, IMO predictably, played out). But again there is a shorter sort of coda that takes well-earned shots at a trigger happy US Marshall with some solid reporting to balance that excess. This shorter end portion, although also self-referential, works much better. It even includes a final sentence that provides a more level-headed assessment of the possibility that Obama's 2008 election would result in any positive developments in our absolutely insane war on drugs.

Finally, I listened to the audiobook version and the narration was clear and easy to follow. Unfortunately, the narrator was clearly unfamiliar with the regional pronunciations of central Kentucky while I am not. This didn't ruin anything about the book, but each appearance of, for instance, "Lebanon" or "Courier-Journal" produced a slight self-referential smirk from this Hardin County guy.
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- Derek

Hometown connections

I'm from that area and went to school with Jeff, several facts are true, entertaining book
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- Kevin

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-25-2012
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio