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The Moonshine War

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  1,021 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
It was Prohibition, and a big, hell-raising Son Martin had himself something special: $125,000 worth of Kentucky’s finest home-made whiskey, no one was going to steal it. Because when it came to shooting, fighting, and outsmarting the Big Boys, Son Martin wasn’t just good. He was bad... dangerous... and deadly.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 1st 1985 by Dell (first published 1969)
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(showing 1-30)
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Dan Schwent
Bootlegger Son Martin has 150 barrels of whiskey his dad made stashed away somewhere and his old war buddy, Frank Long, now a crooked prohibition agent, has his sights set on them. Will Son cave in under the pressure and hand over the whiskey or will he put Long and his cronies into the ground?

Reading an Elmore Leonard book is like bullshitting with an old friend on their front porch. In this case, it would be whiskey we'd be drinking instead of a couple frosty beers.

Rural Kentucky in the 1930'
Aug 26, 2013 Kemper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My review of this one and some thoughts about Elmore Leonard now up at Shelf Inflicted.
Aug 28, 2012 Melki rated it really liked it
People did crazy things where whiskey was concerned. It being against the law to drink wasn't going to stop anybody. They'd fight and shoot each other and go to prison and die for it...

I suffer from ELADS - Elmore Leonard Attention Deficit Syndrome. His books grab me at the get-go, then leave me drifting away somewhere in the middle. His fault or mine? I don't know, but this one was different. I was gripped tightly, in a good way, the whole way through this thrilling read.

Like his father before
#2016-usa-geography-challenge: KENTUCKY

*3.5 stars. Well, now I've finally read an Elmore Leonard book! I've been wanting to do that since watching the movie Get Shorty. This suspense story is a fun, quick read set in the days of Prohibition in the hills of Kentucky, where nearly every farmer has a still. Son Martin has inherited 150 barrels of the best aged whiskey that his father made while Son was in the army. These are hidden on his property, probably in one of the old coal mining shafts, and
Oct 30, 2010 Steve rated it it was amazing
One of Leonard's lesser known novels, The Moonshine War is, nevertheless, Grade-A Leonard, well worth seeking out. Written in 1969, one could say it was written at a time when Leonard was still a wonderful secret, and not yet a trendy discovery for People Magazine. What makes The Moonshine War a bit different than some of Leonard's crime novels, is that it is set in the not too distant past - 1931. So to some extent it is a historical novel. The setting is eastern Kentucky. True, Leonard skates ...more
Well, this just came out of nowhere to be all kinds of good and then some. Between this and you-know-what I hereby petition Elmore Leonard to write about nothing but Kentucky from now on.

First read June 2011

* * *

September 2012:

I wanted to see if this was still my favorite and yes, yes it is.
No Name
Before I finally came to realization that I am not an audiobook person I tried to listen to this via but I didn't get far. The story was engaging but I just don't have the attentiveness to listen to books on tape. I am horrible at multitasking and my commute to work is only 5-8 minutes so it is not feasible to listen while driving. So I abandoned the audio and told myself that I would continue reading it in proper book form. The only problem was that it took me six months to get ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
A very peculiar semi-fictional world of masculine struggle for relevance and self-esteem is exposed by the genius author Elmore Leonard in his usual grand style. The backdrop for this peacock display of virility in this early book by Leonard consists of extreme 1931 Tennessee poverty, isolation, lack of oversight and American male machismo. In Spain, machismo is defined by bullfighting, in Russia and China they have hierarchical domination, but in America it's the loner.

Being female, I recogniz
Daniel Villines
May 24, 2013 Daniel Villines rated it really liked it
If this book is anything, it is certainly entertaining, and reading for the pure enjoyment of a story is something that every reader should do from time-to-time. While I seem to be obsessed with searching out that next morsel of wisdom or insight from my next book, I also need to remember that I would not be the book-geek that I am today if it were not for John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series and the enjoyment that I drew from those mystery novels.

But there is more here for readers that are i
Feb 16, 2012 J. rated it really liked it
I really liked this book but I can see how it's really not for everyone. I don't usually venture into the historical fiction genre, but when I saw this book at the library I had to pick it up. I've been wanting to read an Elmore Leonard book for quite a while now, and this is a good one to get me started with this author.

The Moonshine War is a historical fiction piece set in 1930's Kentucky during prohibition. Immediately you get a terrific sense of presence, as the author sets up a whiskey raid
Mar 11, 2013 Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of Leonard's earlier story's, and he was already writing good novels. Proabition going on in 1931 in the hills of Kentucky. Moonshine was a good but illegal business, but you had to feed your family somehow.
Son Martin was said to have 150 barrels stashed somewhere on his property, that his daddy had made. Eight years later, the well aged whiskey was getting some attention. Leonard is just a darn good (as they would say back then) writer, storyteller,a with some thrills thrown in.
John Kues
Jan 01, 2011 John Kues rated it really liked it
Listened to this in the car, really liked it, and the reader was great (Mark Hammer). My wife didn't care for the slow development but I really loved the Elmore Leonard dialogue. I put off listening to it until I was alone. Leonard as usual captures the characters and gets you involved in the times. Small town Kentucky life. Son Martin is sitting on 150 barrels of prime moonshine left him by his father. Rumors about where it is hidden, and what it is worth. Frank Long, an acquaintance of Son's ...more
David B
Oct 26, 2013 David B rated it really liked it
During the days of Prohibition, moonshiner Son Martin must defend the $125,000 worth of whiskey stockpiled by his daddy for Son's future from an unlikely alliance of scoundrels. Frank Long, an old Army buddy whom Son made the mistake of confiding in, is now an unscrupulous agent of the federal government who wants to sell the whiskey himself. When he sees that he can't do the job alone, he contacts Dr. Taulbee, who seems like a criminal mastermind only because he is smarter than the knuckleheads ...more
David Williams

The Moonshine War is the story of Son Martin a Prohibition Era bootlegger in rural Kentucky. Son's father hid over $100,000 of top grade moonshine. Now Frank Long, an old army buddy of Martin's is looking for it. Long is now a prohibition agent and wants the whiskey for himself. Long brings in some bootleggers to help him and things get hot.

This book was published in 1969, but like all great books, still holds up to repeated readings. This has Leonard's classic style. Heavy emphasis on dialogue,
Jul 30, 2009 Johnny rated it really liked it
Fun, quick read. One of Leonard's early novels feels like it was actually written even earlier that the 1969 copyright. The setting and the execution have an easy charm. Almost feels like an Erskine Caldwell novel.

The writing is a little clunky, but the characters are strong and the story simple and without many wasted words (as expected).
Scott Thrift
Feb 29, 2012 Scott Thrift rated it really liked it
If you have read no Leonard then you should read some others before this so you can appreciate how different it is from most of his books. Really good plot, characters and prose in a setting he's not known for. Highly recommended.
Apr 11, 2013 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hallmark Leonard territory. Great characters, snappy dialogue, unflappable hero in the face of oncoming shitstorm of adversity. Pacey, entertaining, and a quick read to boot. What's not to like. Only the comparatively (for Leonard) thin plot, stops it from getting five stars.
Kirk Smith
Sep 22, 2014 Kirk Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book, good plot!
Dec 19, 2012 wally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leonard
i started this one last night...having finished The Woman Chaser by Charles Willeford moments before and earlier in the day, Hell at the Breech by Tom Franklin...a story that is set in the late 1890s...not too far off the timing of this one.

this is the ______ from leonard for me.

dedicated for jim bill simpson and buck beshear

looks to be fifteen chapters version is the kindle version...not the ebook, but that was the closest available and i don't assume there's much difference.

story beg
Nov 28, 2016 Doug rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery
I didn't like this novel as much as some of Leonard's other books, but it's still pretty good. I believe it is his first use of a Kentucky setting. It takes place during Prohibition. A stoic moonshiner aims to protect his store of aged whiskey from a gang of bootleggers and a corrupt federal prohibition agent.
Carl R.
Oct 13, 2013 Carl R. rated it it was amazing
So, in requiem, The Moonshine War. One of Elmore's earlier, but still with many hallmarks of his style. Perhaps the character of Dual typifies it best in the scene where he decides to buy a suit of a crisis, you might say. And indeed it isn't. Unusual, though, that he decides to buy it off a man in a cafe. Then he decides he likes the dress of the woman the guy is with. By the time he's through, both the man and woman are naked ("Might as well see the whole show." Dual and his boss walk out with ...more
Thomas Tyrer
Sep 12, 2016 Thomas Tyrer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I go back to Elmore Leonard much the way I return to a favorite restaurant. I know I am going to come away satisfied. "The Moonshine War" was the same. One of the things I enjoy most about Leonard is the ease with which he moves between hardboiled Detroit detective stories and what most would call Westerns, and "The Moonshine War" has a nice blend of both. It's tough, with tough characters, and there's very little moral ambiguity or carping self-analysis. Something is wrong. Or right. And you ...more
Jul 26, 2013 PinkieBrown rated it really liked it
Interesting to watch Leonard create in the gap between the old west and the new west of dangerous American cities. The thought occurs that crime is crime whether it be in a lawless land or a corrupt, Bureaucratic one; so exploring a country of moonshine and stills in forest creeks fits the formula.

Lets extol the virtues of the word "formula". Leonard writes on rails because he never loses faith or patience with the infinite variation of ordinary people. The only difference between this book and
Incredibly, this is my first Elmore Leonard book. I'm not sure how that happened. It's a lesser Leonard too, I came across this quite accidentally while browsing my library's shelves. In any case, it's a fairly good book dealing with, as the title suggests, moonshiners in Kentucky during the heights of the Prohibition.

So. The set up: Son Martin has inherited some whiskey from his father and has hidden it somewhere. People know about it, including one individual from the government who means to s
Dominic Munsill
Apr 20, 2014 Dominic Munsill rated it really liked it
The specific publication of this volume that I read was rife with misspellings and typos, but that is upon the soul of the editor and I digress. To say that Elmore Leonard is a master of the strong silent strangers is a vast understatement; Leonard's characters possess a type of unwavering cool that Marlon Brando himself would be envious of... a forbidding indifference that Clint Eastwood could only dream of expressing. The protagonist, or perhaps even antagonist, of The Moonshine War, Son ...more
Jul 26, 2016 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published in 1969, I found this book slightly different than Leonard's later novels. Primarily in terms of technique--while I don't have solid numbers, my impression is that Elmore's later novels were much more oriented in telling the story via dialogue. This novel had much more expository writing and dialogue didn't seem to move the story along. Also, Leonard's later novels seem to have a dark sense of humor worked throughout; this one, not so much that was humorous.

Set in Harlan Co
Jan 08, 2013 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
Written in 1969 [at least that's the copyright date], this is an earlier crime novel from Elmore Leonard. Set in 1931 eastern Kentucky, it's a tale of moonshiners, bootleggers and Prohibition agents. Son Martin has 150 30-gallon barrels of eight-year-old, aged in the barrel whiskey hidden on his property. He hasn't told anyone about it except an old Army buddy, Frank Long, when both were drunk. Frank's out of the Army and working as a Prohibition agent and he wants that whiskey for himself. He ...more
David Bonesteel
Aug 06, 2013 David Bonesteel rated it really liked it
During the days of Prohibition, moonshiner Son Martin must defend the $125,000 worth of whiskey stockpiled by his daddy for Son’s future from an unlikely alliance of scoundrels. Frank Long, an old Army buddy whom Son made the mistake of confiding in, is now an unscrupulous agent of the federal government who wants to sell the whiskey himself. When he sees that he can’t do the job alone, he contacts Dr. Taulbee, who seems like a criminal mastermind only because he is smarter than the knuckleheads ...more
Oct 16, 2013 Fred rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recently re-released and stumbled upon in an airport bookstore, of all places, "The Moonshine War" neatly bookends Elmore Leonard's long and storied career along with later titles like "Raylan" and "The Hot Kid"-taking a break from the Miami and Detroit settings of most of his more famous crime novels, and setting up shop in a deep south almost as lawless as the wild west of his earliest works.
The plot couldn't be simpler: a moonshiner with an "inheritance" of 150 barrels of what is believed to
Feb 17, 2016 Steve rated it really liked it
Set in rural Kentucky during Prohibition this is a typical Elmore Leonard story. The main character is a strong man who is somewhat of a loner who doesn't need to say much. Son Martin is all about action and not someone to go against. The local sheriff doesn't give the local moonshiners any trouble. He does however periodically "raid" each local moonshiner so his deputized me can sit around a drink and get some moonshine at a discounted rate himself. Everything is in balance until a crooked ...more
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Elmore John Leonard lived in Dallas, Oklahoma City and Memphis before settling in Detroit in 1935. After serving in the navy, he studied English literature at the University of Detroit where he entered a short story competition. His earliest published novels in the 1950s were westerns, but Leonard went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into ...more
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