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The Whiskey Rebels

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  6,375 ratings  ·  850 reviews
David Liss’s bestselling historical thrillers, including A Conspiracy of Paper and The Coffee Trader, have been called remarkable and rousing: the perfect combination of scrupulous research and breathless excitement. Now Liss delivers his best novel yet in an entirely new setting–America in the years after the Revolution, an unstable nation where desperate schemers vie for ...more
Hardcover, 519 pages
Published October 28th 2008 by Random House (NY) (first published September 30th 2008)
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3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,375 ratings  ·  850 reviews

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Sep 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Misfit by: Amazon Vine
For over two months I have tried to get through this book and I am now calling *uncle*. I love historical fiction and I've not found many novels based on this period in US history so I was very much looking forward to this book. I have lost count of the times I have picked this book up and put it down for another. Unlikeable characters, a plot that takes too long to get moving and the worst sin of all (at least for me) is the alternating chapters with the first person point of view of Ethan and ...more
I really enjoyed this book. I learned a lot about the Revolutionary period, and like any solid work of historical fiction, this book piqued my interest in learning even more. I enjoyed Liss's writing style and his humor. I was very surprised by how much of this wild story is actually based on reality.

This book was a five for me for probably the first third, but I docked it a star for what, at times, felt like anachronistic humor (very funny, but still) and for too many characters who felt a bit
Feb 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved Ethan Saunders in this book as much as I've ever loved a character in any book. He has a rakish and witty/sarcastic arrogance that is so engaging. No matter how bad things were for him (of his own doing or others), he never doubted he was all that. For some reason it made him so loveable.

In a conversation with another man he promises "You have my word as a gentleman." The other man remarks that he is not a gentleman. He replies "Then you have my word as a scoundrel, which, I know, opens
Sep 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Historical fiction set in the immediate post-Revolutionary War period in Philadelphia and New York. The story is told from the point of view of two people: Ethan Saunders, a disgraced spy, and Joan Maycott, a young woman with literary aspirations. Ethan’s story begins in the present time while Joan’s starts in the past with her early life. Her and Ethan’s paths begin their fateful crossing when she and her husband Andrew trade in his war debt for a parcel of land in western Pennsylvania, which w ...more
Sep 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing

Part potboiler, part history lesson, part financial treatise, part love story, part adventure tale, this highly entertaining novel by Goodreads author David Liss takes us back to the early days of America in the 1790s, when Alexander Hamilton was setting up the Bank of the United States, America was developing its first stock markets, and the frontier border was in the rugged woods of Western Pennsylvania.

"The Whiskey Rebels" is based on real historical events -- not only a financial crisis that
Richard Derus
Dec 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4.5* of five

Liss in true Liss form! I adored A Conspiracy of Paper and A Spectacle of Corruption and enjoyed greatly The Coffee Trader. Mr. Liss is a writer with several gifts, and seemingly displays them to their best advantage in works of historical fiction. (I was no fan of The Ethical Assassin since it felt undeveloped and unfinished to me.)

Most unusually, Mr. Liss can take any business conflict and make it into a story. He tells us the story of the business panic that in part led to
Sep 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
The Whiskey Rebels

I’ll tell you right off, I hate novels that are written in alternating chapters. My complaint is that one story is never allowed to develop without the interruption of another story, and though David Liss is a skillful writer, and the stories eventually intersect quite artfully, I still think it’s a lazy way to put a novel together. I know, I know, “try it yourself and see how easy it is…” Well, no, I won’t, but that doesn’t make it any less an irritation. The double-edged savi
I picked this up once off the shelves at the library but returned it. This time I didn't and I'm glad. The writing was really good and I loved the humor, the one MC was pretty funny. This is the kind of book that needs to be read in a quiet room as for me at least, I needed to concentrate at times to make sure I understood the schemes that were being plotted and executed. Plus, I wanted to just absorb the story with no distractions. As soon as I knew that I wanted to settle in with the book I kn ...more
Claire Monahan
Hm. What a letdown.

The process of reading this book for me fluctuated like a sound wave: at times my interest was high, and in other parts I felt like this could not drag on any longer. If the book had not been an easy read, I suppose I would have quit much earlier on.

My criticisms for this book are quite high in the historical side, since I disagree very much with the representations of Hamilton, Philadelphia, Burr, and other Federalist stars. Still, I could have forgiven this if I had truly
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, favorites, library
This. This is what a historical fiction novel should be. This is what a spy novel should be. I absolutely loved The Whiskey Rebels.

The Whiskey Rebels takes place after the Revolutionary War when America was just starting to flex it's muscles and find out what it was to become. References to historical events, and wonderful fictitious plotting combined with truly fascinating characters kept the pages turning. The Whiskey Rebels reads as much like a thrilling spy novel as it does historical fictio
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it
I remember liking "The Coffee Trader" when I read it many years ago, and I'm trying to get more into historical fiction. This started strong and I liked both of the main characters - sure, shambolic drunken rogue who still manages to be preternaturally talented and/or lucky when the plot calls for it is a cliche, but it's a cliche that works. Unfortunately, this is a 500+ page book where there's only about 300 or so pages of plot. The book runs out of steam and becomes repetitive and the finale ...more
Mar 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
For historical fiction fans who enjoy a plotline rather complicated with intrigue, usually offering opportunity for some reflection on how the forces of capitalism affected political and social change in another time and place, David Liss is an author you need to check out. I thoroughly enjoyed one of his earlier books, A Spectacle of Corruption, and looked forward to this volume with some eagerness, as western Pennsylvania has long been dear to me, and I anticipated a tale offering a view of po ...more
Apr 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
So, you're into historical fiction. And, on occasion, you truly enjoy a political thriller. Yet you also tend to savor a good mystery. Should that be the case--along with the added bonus of engaging, clever writing--may I recommend THE WHISKEY REBELS?

Set in America's infancy--a 1792 that saw the fragile American Experiment in danger of being torn asunder by the Hamiltonian Federalists and the Jeffersonian Republicans--author David Liss presents two protagonists, both with compelling, and quite
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This author never disappoints. He truly understands the historical fiction genre. Everything is meticulously well-researched, and the story is always tightly written. I have read nearly all of his books, and not one has been a stinker.. This is actually more of an accomplishment than it sounds. It's impressive to be consistently excellent!

This particular book is actually a 4.5 star book in my opinion, but I've rounded up, because, you 1/2 stars here at Goodreads.

I found the characters
Aug 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was another Early Reviewer book and the second I've read by Liss. He writes historical fiction and this particular book is set in America, shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War and deals with actual historical events and figures from the time. I thought it was really well written, and I found it much more engaging than The Coffee Trader, his other novel that I have read. (The Coffee Trader wasn't bad, I just found it dull at times). In any event, this book was quite good and has ma ...more
May 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
The character of Ethan Saunders was rather entertaining and I enjoyed this author's witty writing. It did take me a little while to get in to the dual storyline as one is told from the perspective of Ethan Saunders in the novel's "present day" and the other from the perspective of Joan Maycott, which starts about 10 years prior. The story slowly builds as the two story lines come together. The author shows you how events can change a person and how the line between good and bad can become blurre ...more
Sep 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is my first book by David Liss, but it won't be my last. I enjoyed every second of it. I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable about history, but knew little of the years after the Revolutionary War. The book encouraged my interest in learning more facts upon which the fiction is based. I listened to the audio version of it, and the reader does an excellent job.
Kelsey Demers
Feb 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
I now officially wish that I could give books half stars. When going back and forth between "I really liked it" and "It was amazing." I find myself somewhere in the middle.

I, myself am surprised that I liked this book so much as I did. For one, historical fiction is really quite hit or miss with me. (That isn't to say that I don't like it, rather that my tolerance can be low.) Also, I rarely ever like alternating chapters as a method to tell a story unless it is because there simply is no other
Tim Weed
Aug 26, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is good entertainment. Liss is an excellent writer, with a good sense of humor and an admirable ability to construct a lively, immersive scene. And he clearly did his research. The book as a whole, though, if frustratingly flawed. I found the plot too complex, too arcane in its attempted fidelity to the financial details of the period, to the extent that the main emotional thrust of the story gets lost. But a more serious problem for me had to do with the book’s characters, its dual pr ...more
Jun 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fiction lovers/Historical Fiction
Recommended to Kirk by: Me - previously read Liss and loved it
So I wrote this about a month ago:

Looking forward to reading what I'm guessing is going to be another great historical fiction - this time set in the early founding days of the Good ol' USA.

And I was correct - it was both another great historical fiction from David Liss AND set in the early days of the US! A page-turning great historical fiction novel.

Without giving much away the story focuses on early America where going "west" meant Pittsburg. Hamilton is in charge of our countries finances a
Jun 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd love to give this 4 & 1/2 stars - it's a rollicking tale from start to finish! The story, set in post-Revolutionary War Pennsylvania and New York, alternates between two engaging narrators: Joan Maycott, is a self-possessed young woman with who reads 'Wealth of Nations' and other economic treatises, and Captain Ethan Saunders, a spy for the American side during the war, falsely accused of treason and now fallen on hard times. Captain Saunders is a loveable rogue in the best tradition, an ...more
Mar 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Enjoyed the writing style and the theme, but the end left me wanting.
Mar 17, 2019 rated it liked it
This book started strong and then, for me, devolved into too much description of financial intrigue.
* I loved the character of Ethan Saunders. He was largely oblivious to his own faults, sardonic, and despicable, and I love a naively despicable character.
* I wanted to love Joan Maycott, but I simply could not. I thought her transition from would-be novelist and homemaker to double-agent set on the destruction of a nation was too smooth and sudden. The conceit of her writing an “American” novel
Feb 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: in-possession-of
A very slow start and not as much whiskey as I thought there would be.
Jun 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Whiskey Rebels is a historical fiction novel set in the late 1700’s, after the Revolutionary War. I don’t normally read much historical fiction, unless it has some sort of science fiction or fantasy element to it, but I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I don’t know the history from this time period very well, so I can’t vouch for its authenticity, but it came across as being plausible and consistent with what little I do know. Although there are real historical characters in the book, they are not ...more
Emily Hollendoner
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
I love historical fiction and found myself slogging through it. I really wanted to enjoy it, but just couldn't get into it.
Tammy Dotts
For many Americans, the time between the American Revolution and the Civil War is a blur. General U.S. history classes in school paid the period little mind except brief mentions of westward expansion and the presidents between Washington and Lincoln.

The Whiskey Rebels takes a closer look at this time, focusing on 1789-1791. The story follows two main characters. Captain Ethan Saunders left the Army of the Potomac in disgrace and, in 1791, finds himself caught up in intrigue swirling around his
Steven Z.
Jan 01, 2014 rated it liked it
I have been a fan of David Liss’ historical novels since they first appeared. THE CONSPIRACY OF PAPER, THE COFFEE TRADER, AND THE DEVIL’S COMPANY all possessed a historical flair that drew in the reader into a rather plausible plot line. Liss’ THE WHISKEY REBELS, though a good read, falls short of the quality of his first three efforts. The narrative of this somewhat light historical novel centers around two characters Ethan Saunders, and Joan Claybrook, who become involved in a plot to either s ...more
Dec 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
The Whiskey Rebels takes place after the American Revolution. The primary characters are fictional, and many of the minor characters are prominent historical figures. The storyline was very interesting, and is written in the first person from the perspective of two different characters. One main character, Ethan Saunders, appears at the beginning of the book to be about as unlikely a hero as could be found. Ethan's story is told in alternating chapters with that of the other major character, Joa ...more
Nov 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
The Whiskey Rebels, by David Liss, was another free sample ebook, but I'd been meaning to read another one of Liss's books anyway, so I decided to start with the free one.

This novel is not about the Whiskey Rebels that you've heard of, but rather about a group of "Westerners" (residing near Pittsburgh) who'd been cheated out of their back pay from serving in the Revolutionary War, in exchange for nonusable land. They resort to selling whiskey, the most portable commodity they can create, but the
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review 5 51 Jul 07, 2013 05:13AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: The Whiskey Rebels 1 2 May 23, 2012 06:09PM  
Key West Library: Print vs. audio 1 7 Sep 09, 2011 01:22PM  
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I am a novelist living in San Antonio, Texas, though, for the record, I am not from Texas. I just live here. I have four novels published: A Conspiracy of Paper (which won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel) and A Spectacle of Corruption were both national bestsellers. They are set in 18th century London and feature Benjamin Weaver, a Jewish former pugilist, thief-taker for hire. Weaver will be ...more
“I enjoy my pettiness with a dose of wit.” 11 likes
“I did not tremble to lose what men called beauty, but I feared the loss of my spirit and humor and love of living, the things I believed made my soul human and vibrant.” 7 likes
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