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

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

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

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The epic true crime story of the most successful bootlegger in American history and the murder that shocked the nation, from the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy

“Gatsby-era noir at its best.”—Erik Larson

An ID Book Club Selection • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST HISTORY BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SMITHSONIAN

In 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 two years he''s a multi-millionaire. The press calls him "King of the Bootleggers," writing breathless stories about the Gatsby-esque events he and his glamorous second wife, Imogene, host at their Cincinnati mansion, with party favors ranging from diamond jewelry for the men to brand-new cars for the women. By the summer of 1921, Remus owns 35 percent of all the liquor in the United States.

Pioneering prosecutor Mabel Walker Willebrandt is determined to bring him down. Willebrandt''s bosses at the Justice Department hired her right out of law school, assuming she''d pose no real threat to the cozy relationship they maintain with Remus. Eager to prove them wrong, she dispatches her best investigator, Franklin Dodge, to look into his empire. It''s a decision with deadly consequences. With the fledgling FBI on the case, Remus is quickly imprisoned for violating the Volstead Act. Her husband behind bars, Imogene begins an affair with Dodge. Together, they plot to ruin Remus, sparking a bitter feud that soon reaches the highest levels of government--and that can only end in murder.

Combining deep historical research with novelistic flair, The Ghosts of Eden Park is the unforgettable, stranger-than-fiction story of a rags-to-riches entrepreneur and a long-forgotten heroine, of the excesses and absurdities of the Jazz Age, and of the infinite human capacity to deceive.

Praise for The Ghosts of Eden Park

“An exhaustively researched, hugely entertaining work of popular history that . . . exhumes a colorful crew of once-celebrated characters and restores them to full-blooded life. . . . [Abbott’s] métier is narrative nonfiction and—as this vibrant, enormously readable book makes clear—she is one of the masters of the art.” The Wall Street Journal

“Satisfyingly sensational and thoroughly researched.” The Columbus Dispatch

“Absorbing . . . a Prohibition-era page-turner.” Chicago Tribune

Amazon.com Review

One of the most deliciously disturbing things about BBC America’s hit TV dramedy Killing Eve is that you just can’t help but like psychopathic serial killer, Villanelle. Sure, she’s ruthless, but charismatically so, and she’s a snappy dresser to boot. The same could be said for real-life “King of the Bootleggers,” George Remus. Karen Abbott’s compulsively readable The Ghosts of Eden Park provides a riveting portrait of this eccentric and teetotaling whiskey trafficker who, shamelessly flouting Prohibition laws, once amassed an alcohol arsenal that was 35 percent of the U.S.’s total supply. The unlawful sale of that booze brought Remus enormous wealth, and he, along with his wife, Imogen, enjoyed a lifestyle that would make Jay Gatsby jealous. But a pioneering female prosecutor—only the second woman appointed to Assistant Attorney General—would put a cork in the fun, landing Remus in prison (where he whiled away his sentence in private quarters and secured the services of a maid and cook). During this time his beloved Imogen, in cahoots with a crooked Department of Justice agent, absconded with his spoils, causing the already tightly wound trafficker to snap. The Ghosts of Eden Park is a rollicking read, and a different kind of guilty pleasure: you might find yourself rooting for Remus at times, until you remember his very real brutality and the different set of rules that benefited him (and others) as a person of means, and stature, and a certain celebrity. It’s also what makes this almost century-old true crime tale seem quite current. —Erin Kodicek, Amazon Book Review

Review

“Few authors write as colorfully and compellingly about the past as Karen Abbott, particularly when bad behavior is involved. In  The Ghosts of Eden Park, we meet the audacious, larger-than-life ‘King of the Bootleggers,’ George Remus, and the equally fascinating women who will seal his fate. Sex and greed, corruption and revenge, oceans of illegal booze—Abbott’s action-packed, riveting tale has it all.” —Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife and Love and Ruin

“Karen Abbott has long shown a formidable talent for rescuing Gothic stories from the noirish margins of American history. In  The Ghosts of Eden Park, she''s done it once again. Here is a high-proof narrative from the Age of Excess, populated with real-life gangsters and flapper girls, but also with plenty of surprising characters who cut against type. This Prohibition-era tale of trapdoors and false bottoms, of wicked pleasures and brilliant deceptions, springs to life on the page—and has Hollywood written all over it.” —Hampton Sides, New York Times bestselling author of In the Kingdom of Ice

“A gripping true-crime narrative . . . [Abbott’s] research is exemplary, and she lays out the details with a novelist’s deft touch. [F. Scott Fitzgerald] would undoubtedly have appreciated this heady cocktail of murder, intrigue and Jazz Age excess.” The Washington Post

“Karen Abbott tells the story of Remus’ rise and fall with a novelist’s eye. . . . I was transfixed, not only by the incredible research that informed this compulsively readable book but also by what the story reveals about human nature, the interplay of brilliant and unpredictable individuals and the societies in which they live, and the way that greed, fame and lust can [corrupt]—and have [corrupted—] the motives of both lovers and enemies. If you are a fan of true crime, historical nonfiction and the Jazz Age, this is not a book to miss.” BookPage (starred review)

“Karen Abbott''s newest is a page-turner, teasing readers with its central mystery, and reaching its climactic final trial with a satisfying bang.” —NPR

“Engrossing . . . This real-life page-turner will appeal to fans of Erik Larson.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Abbott continues her inquiry into sensational yet forgotten women’s lives in this riveting combination of social history and true crime. . . . Smart and delectable [and] generating lots of buzz.” Booklist

“A spirited history . . . Abbott recounts in tense, vivid detail Remus’s entanglement in intrigue, betrayal, madness, and violence. An entertaining tale ripped from the headlines of Jazz Age America.” Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Abbot Kahler (formerly known as Karen Abbott) is the  New York Times bestselling author of  Sin in the Second City; American Rose; Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy; and  The Ghosts of Eden Park. A native of Philadelphia, she now lives in New York City.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

All the Rope He Wants
 
The house seemed out of a Bavarian fairy tale, rambling and turreted, laced with gingerbread cornicing and columns arched like sharp, imperious brows. It was the finest house in Price Hill, the finest neighborhood in Cincinnati, perched high above the Ohio River and its basin of residents and commerce: the downtown business district, the black families in the West End, and the German immigrants in Over-the-Rhine, where Prohibition forced breweries to sell root beer in the hope of surviving the law. Already he envisioned what his “dream palace” would become. A Roman garden, a baseball field, a heated pool, a library stocked with books—presidential biographies, the epic poems of Homer and Milton, tomes of mythology and obscure science that would suggest the surprising depths of his mind. In this house he would once again become someone new, an updated and superior version of himself. In this house the world would come to know his name.

George Remus would be forty-four years old that November of 1920, and had spent the first half of his life gathering momentum for the second. He was the embodiment of the new decade, a harbinger of its grandest excesses and darkest illusions. He endeavored to become the best in the country at his chosen profession—a profession that could not have flourished so dramatically in any other era, nor become so swiftly obsolete. As America reinvented itself Remus would do the same, living in rabid service to his own creation, protecting it at all costs.

The primary facet of this creation, the fulcrum that would allow him to pivot and rise, was Augusta Imogene Remus, formerly Augusta Imogene Holmes. Imogene, as she preferred, was thirty-five, with dark hair and eyes and a voluptuous figure better suited to the bustles and billowing sleeves of decades past. They’d met five years earlier at his office in downtown Chicago, where Remus had been one of the city’s preeminent defense attorneys and Imogene a “dust girl,” sweeping the floors and tidying his desk.

She’d confided in him about her divorce, which plodded along painfully for years, as she and her husband separated ten times before finally going to court. Remus could commiserate. He, too, had suffered marital strife. Lillian—his wife and the mother of his teenaged daughter, Romola—once filed for divorce charging “cruelty,” “pure malice,” and a habit of “coming home early in the morning.” Lillian subsequently wished to reconcile, but their union remained tenuous.

Imogene saw her chance.

Remus accepted her as a client and promptly fell in love. Hoping to spark reciprocal feelings he told Imogene everything, sharing long-buried tales of his past, the quirks and compulsions that shaped him now. He recounted his first memory: the journey from Germany to Ellis Island in 1883, when he was six years old, traveling with two sisters and a mother so beleaguered she forgot the names of four other children who’d died. In America they reunited with Remus’s father, Franz (Anglicized to Frank) and settled in Chicago. Remus remembered his father coming home drunk from the corner saloon and evolving, week by week, into a “mean” and “abusive” alcoholic, and vowed that he himself would never drink a drop of alcohol.

When Frank developed rheumatism and could no longer work, Remus quit the eighth grade to take a job at his uncle’s pharmacy on the city’s West Side, earning $5 per week. As his father’s rages worsened Remus moved into the pharmacy, sleeping on a cot in the stock room, going for months at a time without seeing his parents and siblings. He called himself a “druggist’s devil boy,” and in this role experienced a shrewd and useful revelation: He could sell anything to anyone under any circumstance, no matter how outrageous his claims or unorthodox his delivery.

He bought the drug store from his uncle, and during his years in the business he peddled all manner of dubious concoctions: Remus’s Cathartic Compound, Remus’s Cathartic Pills, a Remus “complexion remedy” containing mercury, Remus’s Lydia Pinkham Compound (presumably Lydia’s own legendary cocktail, for the relief of menstrual pain, wasn’t sufficiently potent), and his specialty, Remus’s Nerve Tonic, consisting of fluid extract of celery, sodium bromide, rhubarb and a dash of a poisonous, hallucinogenic plant called henbane. Although he’d never finished his courses at the Chicago College of Pharmacy, he convinced his customers to call him “Doctor Remus.” 

When he switched careers to law he brought this salesmanship to his practice, employing theatrics that became a vital component of his success. Poignant episodes from history dramatized Remus’s closing arguments; one judge was moved to tears by his description of Abraham Lincoln’s stint as a bartender. He used the courtroom as an arena, leaping and pacing and prowling the length of the jury box. During the cross-examination of his clients he tore at his remaining rim of hair, sobbing and howling with abandon. Detractors derided him with a nickname, “The Weeping, Crying Remus,” but admirers coined one of their own: “The Napoleon of the Chicago Bar.”

In one famous case, Remus defended a husband accused of poisoning his wife. Throughout the trial he kept the poison in question on his table, in full view of the jury. During his closing argument Remus raised the bottle aloft and swiped it slowly across the air, so that the jury got a clear look of the skull and crossbones on its label.

“There has been a lot of talk of poison in this case,” he said. “But it is a lot of piffle. Look!”

As the jury gasped, he swallowed the poison and continued with his closing argument, aware that they all expected him to drop dead. When he didn’t, the jury returned with an acquittal. Only later did Remus reveal his trick: drawing on his pharmaceutical background, he first drank an elixir that neutralized the poison.
 
---

In this same way he sold himself to Imogene Holmes. Only he could provide the level of care and attention she so obviously deserved. He would handle her divorce and she needn’t worry about his fee; in fact, she could quit her job as a dust girl and money would be no concern. He would pay the rent on her apartment in Evanston, north of Chicago, and spend more time there than he did at home with his wife. He would give Imogene allowance money, $100 checks to spend as she wished. He would rescue her from “the gutter” and “make a lady out of her.” He would adore her and be true to her. He would protect her and her 11-year-old daughter, Ruth, from all unsavory people and circumstances, a promise that was tested in the spring of 1919.

One evening, a local plumber knocked on Imogene’s door claiming he had found the girl’s watch, and wanted a $15 reward for its return. Imogene thought $5 sufficed. An argument ensued.

Remus had always enjoyed confrontation, physical or mental. His stout stature— five foot six and 205 pounds—belied his agility and strength. He boasted of his history as a competitive swimmer, and how he set an endurance record by spending nearly six hours in frigid Lake Michigan. During his stint as a pharmacist he once argued with a customer who complained that a liniment had scalded his chest; Remus dragged the man outside and settled the matter by slapping him in the face. When a group of women gathered at his drug store to protest his “poisonous potions,” Remus ran at them with a bottle of amonia and tossed its contents. As a lawyer he had a history of attacking opposing counsel, throwing punches over witness testimony and ending up in a tangle of limbs on the courtroom floor. His hubris was equaled only by a concern that someone, someday, might get the best of him.

Standing in Imogene’s doorway, Remus, wearing slippers, launched himself at the plumber, punched him in the eye, revamped his nose, knocked out a tooth and chased him onto the lawn.

The plumber pressed charges, and Remus represented himself.

“I acted in self-defense as any red-blooded man with a spark of chivalry would have acted,” he argued. “This ruffian of a plumber was disturbing a lady. He was rough housing, loud mouthed, irrelevant, and immaterial about the premises, and I only forcibly applied a perfectly good and legal writ of ejectment.”

After five minutes’ deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. 

His wife Lillian filed for divorce a second and final time. In her petition she once again accused Remus of cruelty, claiming that on several occasions he beat, punched, struck, choked, and kicked her. Remus agreed to a settlement reflective of his success: a lump sum of $50,000, $25 per week in alimony, and $30,000 in a trust for their daughter, Romola. He moved out of their home for good, allowing Imogene to defend him in the press.

“He is a perfect gentleman,” she insisted, “and anything his wife says to the contrary is false. The trouble with modern wives is this: They don’t know how to treat their husbands. A husband should be given all the rope he wants… he will never hang himself.”

It would be Lillian, however, who had the final word. She claimed to the press that Remus, on several occasions, had ended his affair with Imogene, ordering her to stay away from his office and home. But Imogene persisted, following him down Clark Street during the day and lurking outside their windows at night, flashing a gun and insisting that they were meant to be together.

---

With a new fiancé, home and stepdaughter-to-be, Remus once again sought to update his life, discarding any piece of his past that seemed ill-fit for his future. He included his career in this evaluation, and noticed that his docket had filled with a new type of defendant: men charged with violating the Volstead Act, recently passed to enforce the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcohol to, from, or within the United States. Remus considered the law to be unreasonable and nearly impossible to enforce, and his clients were proving him right, making astonishing profits from what he called “petty, hip-pocket bootlegging.” They paid retainers in cash right away, fanning the bills across his desk, and never complained about fines imposed by the court, no matter how steep. He noticed that their customers were the “so-called best people,” whose primary gripe in life was the difficulty in getting good whiskey. It occurred to him that this demand must be spreading across the country, and that if his clients—“men without any brains at all”—were succeeding, then he himself had “a chance to clean up.”

Seeking to launch a large-scale operation he scoured the Volstead Act, finding a loophole in Title II, Section 6: With a physician’s prescription, it was legal to buy and use liquor for “medicinal purposes”—a provision he deemed, in a customary flourish of language, “the greatest comedy, the greatest perversion of justice, that I have ever known of in any civilized country in the world.” A plan took shape in his mind. As a licensed pharmacist, he had the knowledge necessary to exploit the law on a national scale. As a criminal defense attorney, he understood well the mindset and machinations of the underworld. As a lifelong teetotaler, he could view the liquor business objectively. And as risk-taker, he craved the thrill and excitement of outwitting not only his competitors but also the federal government.

He devised his strategy, each step meticulously considered and potential hazards addressed: 

• Close his Chicago law practice and move to Cincinnati, since 80 percent of the country’s pre-Prohibition bonded whiskey was stored within 300 miles of the city.
• Buy distilleries to gain possession of thousands of gallons of that whiskey.
• Acquire wholesale drug companies, always listing someone else as the owner.
• Under the guise of these drug companies, obtain withdrawal permits that would allow him to remove whiskey from his warehouses and, in theory, sell it on the medicinal market.
• Bribe state Prohibition directors to ignore abnormally large withdrawals.
• Organize a transportation company to provide for distribution, and arrange for his own employees to hijack his own trucks—thereby diverting all of that technically legal, curative whiskey into the illicit market at any price he named. He would, essentially, rob Remus to pay Remus.

He called this massive, unwieldy octopus of an enterprise “The Circle.”

---

Imogene had sold herself to Remus, too; she was malleable, receptive to his schemes, eager to mold herself into his ideal. She and her daughter Ruth would be his new family. She would keep his darkest secrets and uphold all of his lies. She would not tell anyone that Remus had always been terrified of ghosts. She would not divulge that his brother, Herman, had died in an insane asylum. She would not mention that Remus had never officially become an American citizen. She would never repeat the strange story behind his father’s death: Frank and Marie, Remus’s mother, had engaged in a barroom brawl, which culminated in a bash to his head with a blunt object; Frank died on the way to the hospital. To protect his mother, and to keep her from speaking indiscriminately to the coroner, Remus locked her in the attic for three days, until the inquest was over.

Remus chose to believe his past was safe with Imogene, and to entrust her with his future. En route to Cincinnati, on June 25, 1920, they stopped in Newport, Kentucky, to get married, with Ruth as their witness. Once in the Queen City he rented a suite at the Sinton Hotel, Cincinnati’s answer to New York’s Hotel Astor, featuring opera concerts, a Writing Room and a Louis XVI Candy Shop. They would live there until renovations were complete on the Price Hill mansion, which had once belonged to Henry Lackman, proprietor of a now-shuttered brewery. “We must buy the Lackman place,” Imogene had urged; it would be a monument to their new start and status, and a grandiose barrier to the past. Remus bought the home for $75,000, a record for a residential sale in Cincinnati, and a fraction of the amount he’d stashed in a local bank under an alias.

As a surprise for his new bride he put the deed in Imogene’s name, one of many decisions he’d come to regret.

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Top reviews from the United States

IsolaBlue
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
What is a Villain? What is a Hero?
Reviewed in the United States on August 26, 2019
Most families have a bootlegger story that has been passed down from the Prohibition Era. Maybe someone''s grandfather ran booze or the family''s neighbor made booze. Or some relative knew where to buy booze (who didn''t during that time period?) But, what a family story one... See more
Most families have a bootlegger story that has been passed down from the Prohibition Era. Maybe someone''s grandfather ran booze or the family''s neighbor made booze. Or some relative knew where to buy booze (who didn''t during that time period?) But, what a family story one would have if related to George Remus! Remus is either the villain or the hero of Karen Abbott''s new book THE GHOSTS OF EDEN PARK. Depending on how an individual feels about prohibition, the law, business and enterprise, Remus may either horrify or delight. In most ways, it is the latter. Here is a man who flouted the rules, but with such style and conviction that the reader has to admire him rather than look askance. First there is the pull-yourself-up-by-the-boot-strings background of the fellow: he dropped out of school in 8th grade to work at an uncle''s pharmacy, and by the age of 19, he''d bought the pharmacy. Although he seemed to do well in the pharmaceutical business, he decided he wanted to pursue law instead. While practicing as a lawyer, Remus noticed that many were being charged with violations of the new Volstead Act. Rather than capitalizing on this specialty in law, he decided to study ways around the act in order to become a top-of-the-line bootlegger himself. Interesting character, eh?

Remus was VERY successful in his bootlegging ventures. He didn''t drink alcohol, he had a good sense for business, and he kept finding and exploiting loopholes in the law. His empire grew large, and his lifestyle showed it. Some of the best descriptions in the book are of his lavish mansion in Cincinnati - 31 rooms total plus 10 acres of gardens, and a Greco-Roman swimming pool housed in its own building (and which cost him $175,000 to build in 1920''s dollars.) In addition to the house, there were the furnishings, the art, and the extravagant parties thrown there. Of course, there was also Imogene. Imogene was Remus'' second wife, and he loved, trusted, and coveted her. A woman younger than the famous bootlegger, she called him "Daddy," and was in the relationship for - what? Sometimes it is hard to tell. Imogene is a difficult character. The reader pictures her - all fashionable and perky - and wants to like her, but there is something about her words and actions that give way to distrust. No secrets are being given away - the reader knows from the start of the book that Remus killed her, BUT . . . one does not expect the up and down feelings that come with that. Is she a victim? Do we care? Who do we feel for? The dead woman or the rejected man? The relationship is so puzzling that it provides as much interest - if not more - than the bootlegging empire and eventual fall from grace. George Remus did not have the reputation of a good man. There was violence in his history, and he certainly comes across on the page as someone that no one would want to mess with. George always seemed to win, come out on top, and how he got there depended on many actions that most law abiding citizens would scorn. Still, he comes across as likable. This is not your usual villain.

There is also a heroine in the book (no, not wife Imogene): Mabel Walker Willebrandt. Imagine a woman working in Washington, DC in the 1920s as the Assistant Attorney General of the United States. Who knew there was a woman in such a powerful and unusual position so many years ago in American history? Suddenly Abbott''s book becomes an interesting presentation of women''s studies in US politics. Willebrandt was appointed to this prestigious position just nine months after American women were given the right to vote! Amazing history. Amazing times. Unfortunately for Willebrandt, her Washington bosses assigned her the task of keeping tabs on the Volstead Act, and Mabel - who had, before Prohibition - enjoyed an occasional glass of wine, was forced to put all her energies into this new law and to go after its biggest offenders. Mabel had to do what Mabel had to do because she was a woman in a high-up position, reportable to men, and trying to prove that women were equal and capable and could fit right in government roles as well as the males one normally expected to find there. The reader will root for Mabel, right? Well . . .maybe . . .

That is the interesting dilemma in Abbott''s book. Who does one root for? Who is the villain? Who is the hero/heroine? Is anyone? Or does it change from day to day, chapter to chapter? The characters - all very real people - are what make THE GHOSTS OF EDEN PARK so captivating. One turns the pages quickly trying to settle into a fan club for someone: Remus? Imogene? Willebrandt? The reader''s feelings for the various players changes frequently. How can one like Remus who is such a scheming and violent man? It turns out he is actually quite likable despite his faults and mistakes. How can one not feel devastated to hear that Imogene has been killed? When does the reader lose empathy? And as far as cheering for pioneering feminist, Maude Willebrandt? Her story and actions grow old, and the reader becomes frustrated and annoyed with her. THE GHOSTS OF EDEN PARK is the most memorable book of recent times in which villains and heroes are not clearcut. It is a book that makes one think and question: what is a villain? what is a hero?

That Prohibition was wrong is certainly an ongoing theme throughout Abbott''s work. If the Volstead Act had not gone through, there would have been no George Remus as bootlegger, no GHOSTS OF EDEN PARK, and perhaps no death of Imogene. Who knows what Mabel would have been able to do in Washington, DC if she had been assigned another task. As for Washington,DC itself, Abbott continues to give us lessons in American history, perhaps one of the most important being the high-level involvement and complicity of male government employees in the cover-up and side cash business of Prohibition. Yes, there is corruption on all levels in this fast-paced book. Plenty of action - and learning - for everyone. The one area Abbott didn''t delve in too deeply was mental health, and, for the main character, George Remus, it is likely that most readers will want to know more. The man was a bit of a genius, but he was unstable and unpredictable in the most amazing ways. Abbott, probably wisely, left the mental-health issues to the courtroom: Remus defending himself based on the insanity plea, and the reports of alienists (psychiatrists) who studied him. It will be tempting for readers to speculate on his actual diagnosis, however. If he were alive and being tried today, what would we hear from the mental-health experts? Was George Remus a classic psychopath?

THE GHOSTS OF EDEN PARK is a ride well worth taking. The book moves right along, the characters are absorbing, and with bootlegging and murder and other crimes thrown in, what could go wrong in such a work? Not much. Abbott proves once again that she is the queen of this particular genre of nonfiction. An earlier book of hers, SIN IN THE SECOND CITY: MADAMS, MINISTERS, PLAYBOYS AND THE BATTLE FOR AMERICA''S SOUL is another recommended read. Check it out.
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Marks' Reviews
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Karen Abbott is the Gold Standard!!
Reviewed in the United States on August 19, 2019
The Ghosts of Eden Park is another great book by Karen Abbott, who I believe is the best author out there. The first thing you have to realize is she is able to take a story of events which happened one hundred years ago, and present it in a way where it seems like it... See more
The Ghosts of Eden Park is another great book by Karen Abbott, who I believe is the best author out there. The first thing you have to realize is she is able to take a story of events which happened one hundred years ago, and present it in a way where it seems like it happened yesterday, with every detail fresh and communicated to the reader in a really user friendly way. Every sentence is profound and information packed. The level and depth of her research is unsurpassed, and she certainly can turn a phrase , and is quite the wordsmith.

The way she chose to approach and present her story is brilliant in the sense is that every dynamic and situation is presented as the major conflict and contrast that it is. The law of the land is prohibition, yet the reality is an endless "wet parade", to borrow a phrase from Upton Sinclair. Law enforcement wise, corrupt prohibition agents and members of the Ohio gang, work side by side with zealous prosecutors like Ms. Willebrandt and a young J. Edgar Hoover. And then you have Imogene, whose apparent actions in cahoots with Dodge fly in the face of what society would expect from a wife in the 1920''s. At the trial, you have the law and the judge''s instructions on the one hand, and the jurors collective biases and prejudices on the other, and never the twin shall meet. Remus is left having to navigate all of this, good luck with that.

It is interesting that the play Chicago first came out around this time. The song on the current Chicago music soundtrack which says "he (she) had it coming", might certainly apply to Imogene if she really committed the dastardly deeds against Remus. "Remus was justified in what he did", said Remus.

All in all just yet another masterpiece from Abbott, not to be missed, for sure.
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BM Perrin
3.0 out of 5 starsVine Customer Review of Free Product
A Tale of Bootlegging, Betrayal, and Murder Diluted in the Telling
Reviewed in the United States on June 29, 2019
The Ghosts of Eden Park 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... See more
The Ghosts of Eden Park 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.
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fenx1200
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I Want a Hollywood Movie Contract!
Reviewed in the United States on February 8, 2020
I tried hard to read this book, and it is well written, and the subject is interesting, but the author wrote this book in anticipation of getting a Hollywood deal, it appears to me. She inserted a fictional dialogue among the key players trying to make the book more... See more
I tried hard to read this book, and it is well written, and the subject is interesting, but the author wrote this book in anticipation of getting a Hollywood deal, it appears to me. She inserted a fictional dialogue among the key players trying to make the book more interesting, but it did not work. In fact, I could not finish the book.
The biggest mistake an author can make is a poor opening as in the Prologue in this book. The Reckoning, 1927, where she describes the murder using pronouns (He) instead of the person''s name. I was immediately turned off from the beginning. This book is about George Remus, who predated Al Capone, who accumulated a fortune in bootleg whiskey and lost it all in the end. You will read about Mabel Walker Willebrandt who headed up the Department of Justice in the early 1920s. You''ll read about a young J. Edgar Hoover and the Jack Daniels Distillery. It''s an interesting read, overall, but not well written.
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David B. Crawley
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
EXCELLENT - FOR ANYONE WHO ENJOYS HISTORICAL NONFICTION
Reviewed in the United States on September 26, 2019
I was initially attracted to this book by the endorsement of Erik Larson, one of my favorite authors of historical nonfiction. Karen Abbott is a writer previously unfamiliar to me, but the book was a good choice. Her writing is so similar to Larson’s in subject matter and... See more
I was initially attracted to this book by the endorsement of Erik Larson, one of my favorite authors of historical nonfiction. Karen Abbott is a writer previously unfamiliar to me, but the book was a good choice. Her writing is so similar to Larson’s in subject matter and style that I would have guessed it another one of his if I hadn’t known better. The story is about a segment of early twentieth century history I had not previously read much about. It is entertaining to read, meticulously researched, and documented with an extensive bibliography and index. As I read this fascinating tale, I almost felt as if I were watching a television documentary. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys historical nonfiction. – David B. Crawley, M.D. – Author of “Steep Turn: A Physician’s Journey from Clinic to Cockpit” and “A Mile of String: A Boy’s Recollection of his Midwest Childhood.”
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Miss Scarlet
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Best Thing About This Book Is the Title
Reviewed in the United States on December 9, 2019
The rampant corruption at all levels engendered by the Volstead Act is interesting, but other than that, this book is bor-ing. I got bogged down at the repetitious trial portion at the middle and spent two weeks watching CIS reruns in the evenings instead of finishing the... See more
The rampant corruption at all levels engendered by the Volstead Act is interesting, but other than that, this book is bor-ing. I got bogged down at the repetitious trial portion at the middle and spent two weeks watching CIS reruns in the evenings instead of finishing the book. I appreciate that the author remained faithful to the facts, instead of over-fictionalizing the story, but the facts simply don''t reveal characters who are sympathetic in any way. It''s hard to feel for people who were motivated solely by crass materialism and their own self-interest, and Remus''s constant histrionics became really old. I couldn''t helping thinking that all the players got what they deserved, except possibly for the crooked FBI agent, thanks to Mabel not wanting to let her own judgment look bad. This is what I get for buying a book based on its title!
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CODJ2013
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Pharmacist. Attorney. Bootlegger. Troubled Soul. And so much more!
Reviewed in the United States on September 8, 2019
Only recently learned of George Remus after trying some ‘George Remus Bourbon Whiskey.’ Read a bit about him and his humble beginnings, background, looked him up on Amazon and waited for this book to become available. The Ghosts of Eden Park did not disappoint!... See more
Only recently learned of George Remus after trying some ‘George Remus Bourbon Whiskey.’ Read a bit about him and his humble beginnings, background, looked him up on Amazon and waited for this book to become available.

The Ghosts of Eden Park did not disappoint! Couldn’t put the book down! Loved the thoroughness about Remus, his rapid rise to the top of the world and his subsequent fall from grace, and how Mabel Walker brought him down... and how President Taft’s son tried too.

After reading the book, it’s easy to see how Remus was a likely inspiration Gatsby.

Cannot wait to read more of Abbott’s books.
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W. Jones Jordan, MD
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Long
Reviewed in the United States on August 26, 2019
This is the extended story of wholesale bootlegger and his wife during the disaster known as Prohibition. At the risk of spoiling the ending, the bootlegger eventually shoots her, and is tried for murder. Even the most dedicated history and biography fans may find the... See more
This is the extended story of wholesale bootlegger and his wife during the disaster known as Prohibition. At the risk of spoiling the ending, the bootlegger eventually shoots her, and is tried for murder. Even the most dedicated history and biography fans may find the exhaustive details daunting.
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Mervyn
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real thriller headturner
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 26, 2021
amazing book about the time the scene this is a truly great read well focused and researched classic author
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Lorne Richardson
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In depth research and wonderful storytelling
Reviewed in Canada on January 4, 2020
This is a great novel that brings to life the roaring twenties.The author really develops her characters and you feel you know them,warts and all.
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JDM
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Great Book
Reviewed in Canada on March 28, 2021
Amazing detail & research. Fast-paced read. Couldn''t put the book down. Simply put, a GREAT book!
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