Edgar Awards overview · Blotter Presents guests: a reader
Plus upcoming podcast topics
|The Blotter Presents||Mar 25|| 3||1|
No new podcast episode this week…but Eve and I are still doing what we do, and it’s still free for the foreseeable! (Paid subscribers, you are, in the words of the philosopher David Silver, so precious to meeee-e-e-e-eeee, so look out for some extras later this week!)
We particularly want to hear from you on nominations for the N Crime AA bracket. Your suggestions have been so fantastic so far; forward this email to a friend or knowledgeable frenemy and get them involved too!
And thanks for reading. It’s nice to know you’re out there. — SDB
Due to the global health pandemic, the Mystery Writers of America have cancelled the 2020 Edgar Awards banquet. We thought it would be worthwhile to highlight this year’s nominees for Best Fact Crime and whether they are worth adding to your to read list.
Two of the five 2020 nominees for Best Fact Crime have already been covered by Best Evidence: Norco ’80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History by Peter Houlahan (as Sarah’s August 2019 bonus book review) and Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall by James Polchin (reviewed by Mark Blankenship).
Let’s start our look at the remaining three nominees with The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder that Shocked Jazz-Age America by Karen Abbott. George Remus is the titular Bootleg King, a former lawyer who ran his whiskey empire out of Cincinnati, Ohio. A thrower of Gatsby-esque parties who hobnobbed with the city’s elite, Remus was egotistical, violent, grandiose, and full of contradictions. The Ghosts of Eden Park details Remus’s rise and fall and the saga of his relationship with wife Imogene, who is just as vain and tempestuous as her husband.
Enter Mabel Walker Willebrandt, who served as Assistant Attorney General and led prohibition enforcement at the Department of Justice. A fascinating figure who I shamefully knew very little about, Willebrandt sends one of her top investigators, Franklin Dodge, to get to the bottom of Remus’s dealings. It turns out Dodge is actually rather, well, dodgy; he gets mixed up with Imogene and the results are deadly.
As with many historical true-crime properties, The Ghosts of Eden Park leans heavy on details and at times meanders into some pretty dry territory. Reading about Remus’s various exploits to manufacture and distribute illicit whiskey is entertaining enough, but the murder trial at the heart of the story doesn’t come into play until about two-thirds of the way through the book, at which point my interest had waned. Abbott has obviously done meticulous research, but as is so often the case with properties like this, does the reader need to see all of it on the page?
I found Willebrandt’s the more interesting of the two narratives, particularly how she navigated the misogyny of the time as she attempted to enforce the law and root out corruption within DOJ. Her professional decisions and her personal life were subject to a level of public scrutiny that pales in comparison to that of her male counterparts (turns out not much really has changed in a hundred years when it comes to how women in the public sphere are treated). The machinations of the DOJ under multiple presidents and the glimpse at a young J. Edgar Hoover are also fascinating.
More than anything, reading The Ghosts of Eden Park made me want to finally commit to watching Ken Burns’s Prohibition series in its entirety for a more comprehensive look at the political and social constructs of the time. The isolation of one bootlegger’s story, salacious as it may be, was ultimately unsatisfying. — Susan Howard
Coming up on the podcast: Mike Dunn returns next week to talk about college-hoops HBO doc The Scheme, plus the Nixon-campaign-contributions heist pic Finding Steve McQueen; and because the roof is more than six feet away, I’ll be dumbwaitering a mic up to Toby Ball to discuss Atlanta’s Missing And Murdered: The Lost Children in Episode 138. And speaking of returning guests…
My distinguished Blotter guests have a lot of content to offer! If you’re already low on consumables, you might find something new to read, listen to, or think about in this master list of The Blotter Presents guests (so far!).
NB: In some cases, I’ve linked to Amazon pages for works cited — and buying through those links does make me and Eve a penny or two, BUT please feel free to order through your local booksellers at this very tough time for them! — SDB
Tara Ariano is my work wife and co-author on A Very Special 90210 Book, now available for pre-order; if you can’t wait to hear us rip on Brandon Walsh, listen to our Again With This podcast from the beginning!
Monty Ashley co-hosts The Incomparable’s incomparably titled reality-TV podcast The Villain Edit.
When Toby Ball isn’t guzzling the last diet Coke up on the roof of Blotter HQ, he’s co-hosting Crime Writers On… and writing thrillers.
Eve Batey is the publisher of Best Evidence, senior editor at Eater SF, and my co-vice president in the Our Dads Aren’t The Zodiac Society.
Mark Blankenship and I co-host a pop-music podcast called, obscurely, Mark And Sarah Talk About Songs.
Dan Patrick Brady does not draw combat pay for being married to me. He does create custom artwork and portraits, including watercolor family trees; DM him on Twitter for more information.
Stephanie Cangro has one of the great Twitter bios IMO.
AB Chao was the first person (but certainly not the last) to call me Hateful Buntsy.
Marcia Chatelain is a historian and the author of Franchise: The Golden Arches In Black America.
One of these days, when we can go to a pizzeria and sit at the same table, Mike Dunn and I will start our Pieholes podcast. Until then, here’s his Twitter.
Kevin Flynn is still giving me shit for stanning Chester Lake on the …These Are Their Stories podcast, as he should.
I still treasure Omar Gallaga’s legendary karaoke performance of “Lady.” There were props! If social-distancing goes on long enough, maybe he’ll recreate it for us; if not, he’s still a solid follow.
Stephanie Early Green and I sort of maybe agreed to try knitting socks, if the other one would? I’m not sure where we are with that. I AM sure she’s a good writer.
Julian Gross is an attorney in the Bay Area, and probably has a lot of dirt on Toby Ball that is not technically privileged.
Adam Grosswirth has a Game Time element that bears his name on the Extra Hot Great podcast, and the unique “honor” of surviving a Cop Rock rewatch with me some years ago.
Allison Lowe Huff tries to find the overseas scripted crime that’s worth your time at MHz Choice.
Chris Huff is a history professor and Florida-Manologist.
Leah Kwan was a founding member of the Virtual True-Crime Book Club and is the proprietrix of Tail Blazers in Oakville, ON.
Will Leitch is a founding editor of Deadspin (RIP) and current author of an excellent newsletter, which has gone daily during All Of This to tell readers’ stories of the pandemic.
Jessica Liese is a contributor at Primetimer and talks about TV on Rob Has a Podcast and Post Show Recaps.
Jeb Lund is the co-host of Dave And Jeb Aren’t Mean, on which I am occasionally quite mean about Hallmark movies.
You can find a sampling of Drag Race herstorian Kevin O’Keeffe’s writings right here.
Kim Reed will get into heaven just for this tweet.
Lani Diane Rich is an instructor at Syracuse and the boss at Chipperish Media.
David J. Roth co-hosts DAJAM; fortunately, the end of Deadspin was not the end of his low-pH Trump columns.
Alex Segura is the author of the Pete Fernandez mystery series.
Alan Sepinwall has written half a dozen very fine books on TV, but let’s start with the one I was honored to copy-edit, The Revolution Was Televised.
Piper Weiss and I survived Big Purple Dinosaurientation via a trade paperback about Robert Chambers. Don’t ask. Her crime-oir You All Grow Up And Leave Me is available here.
This should hold you for a day or two? Hee. Let me know if I missed anyone/anything! — SDB
Thursday on Best Evidence: A Theranos class action, a forgotten school shooting, and HLN scrapes the barrel.
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