About the BookThis extraordinary account of a struggling midwestern coal town profiles small-time bootlegger Kelly Wagle, whose mysterious career--and suspected involvement with two unsolved murder cases--had a profound and lasting impact on his community. In unraveling the process by which Colchester, Illinois, lost its grip on the American promise, John Hallwas reveals this remote corner of the Midwest as a true reflection of the quintessential American experience.
Reviews"With its rich detail, fast narrative pace, and robust sources, The Bootlegger succeeds as a satisfying work of social history, a gripping true-crime tale, and a powerful examination of how relentless change altered one rural American town." --Cleveland Review of Books
"Rarely have the secret undercurrents of American small-town life stood so revealed. The Bootlegger reads like a good whodunit and yet stands as objective historical reportage and analysis at its finest."--John Jakle, author of The American Small Town
"A book of compulsive readability as well as great historiographic interest. The stories of Colchester and of its petty criminal folk hero, Kelly Wagle, as Hallwas tells them, raise haunting questions about midwestern identity and American values."--James Hurt, author of Writing Illinois
"Well written and carefully crafted . . . John Hallwas's major theme, the disintegration of the community ethos in the process of modernization, makes this story fit every community in the nation."--Gerald A. Danzer, author of Public Places: Exploring Their History