Daniel Okrent’s interview promoting his book Last Call was one of the ones that made me say, “I’m so glad I have to read this book!” I find the 1920s a fascinating time period, and prohibition is an exciting topic. Plus, I’ve been enjoying watching HBO’s new series Boardwalk Empire, which centers on prohibition, and my turn with the library’s copy of Last Call arrived just a few episodes into the show. I was eager to begin reading and get some more background information, which would surely just add to my enjoyment of the show. However, maybe because I’d hyped up the book, Last Call fell a bit flat.
Don’t get me wrong, Okrent is a fine historian and decent writer, and Last Call is a thorough exploration of the Prohibition period. Beginning with the initial campaign for prohibition, Okrent follows with the ratification of the 18th Amendment, the period of prohibition, and ends with the amendment’s repeal.
Last Call is filled with details about the people and events surrounding prohibition. And though I found many of these details to be, well, kind of boring, the ones Okrent hid in footnotes were delightful. It seems as though every so often he came across a “fun fact” in the course of his research that had little to do with prohibition; however, the stories were just too good not to share, so he added them in a footnote. I loved that.
But, the thing is, I expected Last Call to be a little more exciting—the “sexier” part of prohibition, if you will. I wanted less politics and more parties, less Al Smith and more Al Capone. Still and all, Last Call was a decent read and I’m giving it a 3/5. If you’re just reading it for fun, though, I recommend skimming (or skipping) the first section. Or, you know, you could just watch Boardwalk Empire instead.
Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Daniel Okrent (It's quite interesting!)
Buy the book