Prohibition – most people think this American experiment in outlawing alcohol sales and consumption was an abysmal failure. Not only did it encourage otherwise law abiding citizens to break the law, but it also spawned modern organized crime in this country. One of the early crime bosses was George Remus in Cincinnati. Bob Batchelor chronicles Remus’s life in The Bourbon King: The Life and Crimes of George Remus, Prohibition’s Evil Genius.
Batchelor meticulously details Remus’s rise from a pharmacist and lawyer in Chicago to one of the largest bourbon distributors in the eastern U.S.. During that rise, Remus divorced his first wife and married a socialite wanna be who eventually fleeced him of most of his money. This fleecing lead to Remus murdering his wife and successfully (for the first time in the U.S.) pleading temporary insanity.
Batchelor details how Remus quickly cornered the market on bourbon distribution through legal and illegal means – he used his brilliant legal mind to skirt the law. His rapid rise brought many benefits (great wealth and attention from the public), but also the attention of liquor agents, including the U.S. Assistant Attorney General Mabel Willebrandt (assigned as the chief Prohibition enforcement officer).
The most fascinating part of the book is how much Prohibition corrupted public officials. According to Batchelor, the corruption went as far as Attorney General Harry Daugherty (and possibly even President Harding). Remus was at the center of a lot of the corruption in the Midwest, including Ohio. His money bought off liquor agents, policemen, and politicians.
The book includes ample photographs (38 total) of Remus and the other major figures in Remus’s life.
The book provides great insight into a brilliant man who was greatly troubled.