The Whisky King by Trevor Cole
The remarkable true story of Canada's most infamous bootlegger and the undercover Mountie on his trail

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So yeah, The Whisky King is a really, really good book. If I were in a generous mood, I'd even be inclined to write the perfect pull-quote. Something like: "What a story! The Whisky King has got it all...
-Globe and Mail

Synopsis

“True-crime writing at its finest.” —Dean Jobb, author of Empire of Deception

A rich and fascinating history of Canada’s first celebrity mobster, Rocco Perri—King of the Bootleggers—and the man who pursued him, Canada’s first undercover Mountie, for readers of Erik Larson, Dean Jobb and Charlotte Gray

At the dawn of the 20th century, two Italian men arrived in Canada amid waves of immigration. One, Rocco Perri, from southern Italy, rose from the life of a petty criminal on the streets of Toronto to running the most prominent bootlegging operation of the Prohibition era, taking over Hamilton and leading one of the country’s most influential crime syndicates. Perri was feared by his enemies and loved by the press, who featured him regularly in splashy front-page headlines. So great was his celebrity that, following the murder of his wife and business partner, Bessie Starkman, a crowd of 30,000 thronged the streets of Hamilton for her funeral.

Perri’s businesses—which included alcohol, drugs, gambling and prostitution—kept him under constant police surveillance. He caught the interest of one man in particular, the other arrival from Italy, Frank Zaneth. Zaneth, originally from the Italian north, joined the RCMP and became its first undercover investigator—Operative No. 1. Zaneth’s work took him across the country, but he was dogged in his pursuit of Rocco Perri and worked for his arrest until the day Perri was last seen, in 1944, when he disappeared without a trace.

With original research and masterful storytelling, Cole details the fascinating rise to power of a notorious Prohibition-era Canadian crime figure twinned with the life of the man who pursued him.

 

 

About Trevor Cole

See more books from this Author
Trevor Cole has been hailed as “one of the best young novelists in the country” by Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, for his books Norman Bray in the Performance of His Life, The Fearsome Particles, and Practical Jean. He lives near Toronto.
 
Published April 11, 2017 by HarperCollins Publishers. 512 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Whisky King
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

Toronto Star

Below average
Reviewed by Dave Bidini on Apr 08 2017

...but it’s not as if you leave the book feeling covered in Hamilton’s factory soot or drowning in the blood of the city’s organized crime. For readers who want their history ably documented, this may be a sturdy point, but I prefer something a bit more fantastic and wild in the storytelling.

Read Full Review of The Whisky King: The remarkab... | See more reviews from Toronto Star

Globe and Mail

Good
Reviewed by Taras Grescoe on May 12 2017

So yeah, The Whisky King is a really, really good book. If I were in a generous mood, I'd even be inclined to write the perfect pull-quote. Something like: "What a story! The Whisky King has got it all...

Read Full Review of The Whisky King: The remarkab... | See more reviews from Globe and Mail

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