MOONSHINE: A Life in Pursuit of White Liquor by Alec Wilkinson
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MOONSHINE: A Life in Pursuit of White Liquor

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The easy rhythms of small towns in the southern coastal backwoods; people with names like Cletus, Calvin, Earl and John Henry Branch eating ""a setting of eggs and a dose of ham"" at twilight in a white two-story house among the pecan groves; fields and woods shimmering in heat while women walk with umbrellas to keep the sun off; a liquor agent with inordinate common sense who for 30 years has been engaged in capturing and prosecuting men and women who make and sell illegal whiskey. That's the texture of Moonshine. Wilkinson, author of Midnights, has here come up with a dazzling change of pace. Moonshine is not about ear chases and slick movie stars in cowboy hats who always wind up with the pretty girl. It's about the life, times and recollections of Garland Bunting, at work as the Alcoholic Beverage Control Officer for Halifax County, North Carolina. Wilkinson relates Bunting's reminiscences in an earthy idiom that fits the people and characters like their overalls. With engaging simplicity and shy backwoods wit, adventures unfold among a backdrop of ""coon"" dog trials, bear wrestling and the smells of whiskey, cucumbers, watermelons, and snakes. Above all, this is Garland Bunting's personal diary. We chuckle to ourselves as he describes ""meal Mammy""--illegal whiskey "". . .that after you drink it, you'll fight your Mammy."" These are portraits of an almost bygone era, scenarios of country honesty and charm. Our eyes open just a little wider as we realize that to these people good moonshine may be illegal, but it is pure--while ""tax paid whiskey ain't nothin' in it much but chemicals."" Like raw ingredients for moonshine mash, this book starts out raw and uneven. But once it is allowed to ferment and age, it becomes smooth and savory. Sip its beguiling artistry slowly.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1985
Publisher: Knopf