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Bootlegger's Daughter (Deborah Knott Mysteries, #1)
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Archived VBC Selections > The Bootlegger's Daughter by Margaret Maron - VBC June 2013

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Vicki (vickivanv) | 282 comments Mod
Maron's award-winning mystery marks the debut of detective Deborah Knott, one of eleven children of a powerful man who built a bootlegging fortune in eastern North Carolina. As the story opens, she is an attorney and candidate for district judge, and, in spite of having her hands full with a political campaign, she is about to be drawn into a murder investigation. What did you think of it?

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KarenB | 352 comments Gah! It's June already!!

I'm going to have to dig this one out and re-read; it's been a long time since I read it. And I really liked it, but will need the re-read to be more specific.

Lenore | 1079 comments Still reading, and liking it very much. (I'd never heard of Margaret Maron before and am glad of the discovery.) I notice that she has a reader's guide to the book on her website.

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C.P. Lesley (cplesley) | 132 comments Sounds interesting. I'm going to be slow on this one, due to too many other group reads (!), but maybe by the end of June the skies will clear.

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Laurie (laurierking) | 166 comments Mod
Margaret is one of my favorite people in the world, and was just honored by being made a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. A strong argument against the idea that there is no justice in the world. The book swept the awards the year Grave Talent was published, and it--and its author--made me aware of How It Was Done.

By the way, Margaret has comments and a brief study guide at:

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Dina | 81 comments And if you like this, I also suggest you read her series in NYC featuring Sigrid Harald of the NYCPD. In later books, there is cross over.

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Sounds like a good one. Just Waiting for it to arrive at my library.

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KarenB | 352 comments One of the things I really like about this series is her obvious affection for things Southern, or really North Carolinian, without dropping into caricature or glossing over the realities of life there. She captures the individuality of the place and its people very well.

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Louise Chambers (louisec303) | 25 comments Sounds like a must read. Have not heard of her. Will hunt in library.

Just found out about Louise Penny! Now there are all of hers to catch up on. :)

OK dustbunnies: you win! I'd rather read than chase you around ad infinitum.

Laura Stratton | 240 comments I am a long time fan of Margaret Maron's books. I especially love her Deborah Knott series. I think I own the whole series. Her eccentric southern characters remind me of home and family (North and South Carolina). I hope everyone enjoys this book as much as I do.

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Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
This book has been on my to-read list for ages; after recommendations from practically everyone in the VBC a few years ago. Super excited to find that it is available in e-format now! Since my library doesn't seem to have it =P

I'll get started on it this weekend.

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John (jtb1951) | 549 comments Mod
This will be a fun read, and I didn't even have to do any looking for the book. The wonderful-beyond-words Marjorie Tucker gifted me with a personalized copy from Ms. Maron herself!!

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MaryL (maryl1) | 234 comments Loved the line:"Was she brains or just book smart?"

message 14: by PatF (last edited Jun 12, 2013 07:48PM) (new)

PatF Floyd Re-reading Bootlegger's Daughter was a nostalgia trip for me. I lived in Raleigh, N. C., the first 21 years of my life, so I enjoyed references to reading The News and Observer, Raleigh's morning newspaper, and shopping for coffees at Cameron Village, the first shopping area outside downtown. But I had totally forgotten the meeting at the Pullen Park merry-go-round (near the end of the book). The merry-go-round I had loved in the 1930s was still in use in the 1990s; furthermore, Deborah and I had the same favorite ride: the cat with the goldfish in its mouth!

Maron's portrayal of people and places seems authentic to me, but I speak as a visitor to the area, knowing it from time spent with relatives, traveling, and attendance at annual barbecues and watermelon cuttings. The top of a T from Raleigh to Durham, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem and extending south to High Point, Salisbury, and Charlotte is a different world. These small cities and towns have colleges and universities, are centers of government at various levels, banking, finance, real estate, and other white-collar-type jobs with the exception of Durham's and Winston-Salem's tobacco manufacturing and High Point's world-known furniture market. When we Piedmont-dwellers traveled south and east, we entered a different, more laid-back world where good cooking "from scratch" was the rule and where the land. weather, and farming were all-important.

Another bit I had forgotten was that Thad Eure attended Deborah's pig pickin'. Eure was N. C. Secretary of State when I lived in Raleigh. He held the office for 53 years, from 1936-1989. Together with other positions, at the time of his death in 1993 he had been in continuous public office longer than anyone else in the U. S., over sixty years.

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PatF Floyd I just looked at pictures of the Pullen Park merry-go-round on YouTube. In renovations that recaptured the original colors, THE FISH IN THE CAT'S MOUTH IS NO LONGER GOLD! It's a silvery color. The merry-go-round was moved from another location to Pullen Park in 1921.

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Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Mary wrote: "Loved the line:"Was she brains or just book smart?""

OMG, the aptness of this comment! We have this discussion at work all the time. People who managed to complete an engineering degree and can spout off theory no problem., but have absolutely no problem-solving capability.

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Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
For funsies I googled around and found discussion questions from Margaret Maron's website for our book =D


1. What roles do Deborah’s internal Preacher and Pragmatist play? Why does she think of them as male instead of female?

2. How does the Knott clan contrast with the Vickerys?

3. Running for a local office means going out and meeting voters one on one. How would you handle being questioned about your religion or your views on alcohol?

4. What role does religion play in this book?

5. What are the family values?

6. There seem to be many secrets in this story, especially about sexual/romantic relationships. Why is that?

7. Do you think this book accurately reflects current Southern culture?

Let's see if we can't stimulate some commentary with these!

Lenore | 1079 comments Until I saw this, it never occurred to me that Deborah thought of her Preacher and Pragmatist as male.

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PatF Floyd One of the things I did as I read this series was to try to pinpoint where in N. C. Colleton County is located. On the basis of the fact that I95 runs through the middle of the county and references in later books about how far it is to Raleigh and Chapel Hill, I conclude that the fictional Colleton County is the real Cumberland County and that Deborah lives in the northern part of the county.

Madonna | 4 comments I liked this book a lot. My sister is a fan of the series and recommended it several times, but I'd not read any until it was chosen for the book club. Sister, sorry I didn't read any of the series until now and for someone else.
I liked the strong female character and will interested in learning more about her father and about her relationship with him. This book left some questions for future books, and I'll be interested in finding out the answers. What a great way Maron has of dropping in a hint or info or comment as part of something else--I found myself yelling at her to go back and develop that further.
She's certainly created a character, supporting cast, and area that will provide rich base to grow all of these from. Can't wait to read others. Thanks for introducing me to what probably will be a favorite.

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MaryL (maryl1) | 234 comments And like a typical small,rural Southern town, there are so many characters I'm having to go back and re-read just to get the relationships straight and catch the nuances.

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
I'm only a little half-way through. Enjoying it so far. I'm wondering, not sure if it will cover it later, but what is so bad about her father being a whiskey boot-legger? Is it a southern thing? I guess I didn't realize it was that big of an illegal enterprise compared to drugs.

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Also, Deborah's whole spiel about her burial preferences was hilarious.

message 24: by PatF (last edited Jun 17, 2013 03:03AM) (new)

PatF Floyd Sabrina wrote: "I'm only a little half-way through. Enjoying it so far. I'm wondering, not sure if it will cover it later, but what is so bad about her father being a whiskey boot-legger? Is it a southern thing?..."

I'm sure bootlegging was a Southern thing and certainly a North Carolina thing, but by the time this book was written largely a thing of the past. Several conflicting strands contributed to the way bootlegging was regarded:

1. A strong commitment to total abstinence from alcohol fostered by the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the predominant churches in the area, Methodist and Baptist. My mother believed you could look at a person and tell if he "drank." Drinkers would be totally unlike us. I'm sure there were a lot of secret drinkers. (I might add that no such sanctions applied to use of tobacco. Methodist Duke University and Divinity School were built with tobacco money and probably a majority of churches in the state supported by tobacco. It's true that at the time the worst that was thought of tobacco was that it stunted the growth of the young.)

2. A strong conviction, especially in the western mountains, but present throughout the state, that making your own liquor was a God-given right violated by the revenuers who collected tax on whiskey and hunted out and destroyed privately operated stills.

3. The questionable character of many bootleggers, and the abuse practiced by a few who didn't use copper coils and produced a deadly brew. Also, the willingness of bootleggers to defend their stills with firearms gave them a dangerous reputation. You didn't go strolling in the woods were a still might be located.

4. The considerable loss of revenue from tax on whiskey.

High quality White Lightning or Mountain Dew were regarded with pride. The best was distributed from Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro in the western part of the state. Cars that carried hundreds of pounds of sugar to stills had reinforced supports under the trunks so that they rode high when empty or low when loaded if they lacked such supports--a dead give away to the knowledgeable. Local distribution to those in the know was accomplished by their leaving money on a stump or rock and possibly a jug, returning later to pick up what they had paid for.

Regardless of their convictions about alcohol almost everybody of my generation has sung:

They call it that old Mountain Dew,
and them that refuse it are few.
If you shut up your mug, I will fill up your jug
with the good old Mountain Dew.

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
PatF wrote: "Sabrina wrote: "I'm only a little half-way through. Enjoying it so far. I'm wondering, not sure if it will cover it later, but what is so bad about her father being a whiskey boot-legger? Is it a..."

Wow, Pat, thanks so much for the information. I had no idea! I think your reply goes along way to answer the #4 discussion point too. So was the Woman's Temperance sort of like a unofficial Prohibition? Instead of the police coming after you, you'd be socially shunned?

Lenore | 1079 comments Sabrina wrote: ". . . So was the Woman's Temperance sort of like a unofficial Prohibition? Instead of the police coming after you, you'd be socially shunned? "

Well, both. Manufacture of whiskey without a license was and remains illegal under both state and federal law. Moreover, while we can assume that Deborah's father made and sold only pure stuff and did not engage in other crimes in defense of his operation, the manufacture, transportation, and sale of illegal whiskey is associated with occasional accidental poisoning due to impurities, violent crime and, in recent years, the drug trade as well.

message 27: by Erin (last edited Jun 17, 2013 10:28AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
As I understand, bootlegging is still pretty prevalent. Though not in the scary "defending my still in the woods with a rifle" kind of way.

People who are into home-brewing are making that hobby shift to home-distilling. And people who used to do moonshine type distillation can now become licensed small batch companies that sell "white whiskey," using passed down family recipes for moonshine (apparently the old regs just did a blanket outlawing of unaged alcohol and that's been changed recently).

The amateurs are the ones who run the risk of poisoning themselves and others (I just read a news report about accidental methanol poisoning killing three men in Australia). I suppose that the key is being under the FDA oversight umbrella where you have to prove your moonshine follows the usual alcohol regulations...and you and your customers pay the taxes.

Leaves me wondering what was the biggest push for making moonshine illegal. I have a feeling it was more that tax issue than anything else.

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Does it only apply to whiskey and stronger spirits? I know a number of people who home brew beer and their own wine.

message 29: by Lenore (last edited Jun 17, 2013 11:10AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lenore | 1079 comments Sabrina wrote: "Does it only apply to whiskey and stronger spirits? I know a number of people who home brew beer and their own wine."

One may brew limited quantities of wine and beer for personal consumption, as long as it is not for sale.

message 30: by Erin (last edited Jun 17, 2013 01:05PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "Does it only apply to whiskey and stronger spirits? I know a number of people who home brew beer and their own wine."

You can brew up to 200 gallons of beer or wine per household per year in the U.S. For personal consumption, as Lenore said (for sales tax reasons). As of July 1st that'll be true for all 50 states. Alabama and Mississippi were the last two hold-outs and only just passed bills this year.

ETA: Alabama's new bill actually has a tighter quantity limit than the rest of the 48 apparently; 60 gallons per person instead of 100:

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
How interesting, Erin. It's something I've never really given any thought too. I just assumed it was legal to brew your own stuff in any state.

The practice seems pretty popular in California, which I suppose is why there are so many micro-breweries and wineries springing up in the state. People start brewing as a hobby then it goes into a business.

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MaryL (maryl1) | 234 comments My friend,a retired Deputy Sheriff of Mecklenburg County, NC recounts visiting his Grandmother in Asheville as a child and going to her Primitive Baptist Church. The Preacher would run on about how Prohibition was the best thing that ever happened to the Country, that his congregation was made more godly because of it, etc. My friend recalls knowing, even at age 10 or 12, that there were at least 4 stills in walking distance of the church, that a number of those present in church ran the stills,and those were only the one HE knew about.

Yeah, the South is odd about moonshine. NASCAR came out of it though.

message 33: by PatF (last edited Jun 17, 2013 05:13PM) (new)

PatF Floyd Lenore wrote: "Sabrina wrote: ". . . So was the Woman's Temperance sort of like a unofficial Prohibition? Instead of the police coming after you, you'd be socially shunned?

The WCTU was an important social movement that began in Ohio in 1873. In the first few years it focused on temperance, but by the time Francis Willard became president (1880s and 90s) its concerns had broadened to women's suffrage, fair labor practices, public health and sanitation, protection of working women, and treatment of prostitutes. It quickly became a worldwide organization. From 1900 to 1920 the U. S. branch focused on care of immigrants. In the U. S. it reached its largest membership in 1931 with about 375,000 members. Although the WCTU had many male supporters, the demand for abstinence grew out of the suffering of women and children--especially poor women--whose husbands drank up their livelihood and were often abusive. The WCTU focused on legislative action to obtain its goals and appeal, especially to young people, for pledges of sobriety. I've never heard or read of social shunning. (My maternal grandmother was at one time state president in N. C.) The Christian part of its motivation was strongly Protestant and discouraged the wider support its other issues might well have received.

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MaryL (maryl1) | 234 comments Anyone remember the movie The Hallelujah Trail?

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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
I can see that I'm going to have to read this book (I'm late getting to this particular party). I live in Lexington, VA, but I'm a frequent visitor to Chapel Hill, and since I've been living in this area I've gotten quite interested in the history of Western Virginia/Appalachia. But I am sorry to say I've not yet read Margaret Manon.

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Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
The minute I saw the setting for this one, I figured I'll probably be handing it off to my aunt, who lives near Chapel Hill. It's so interesting to read a fictionalization of a place you're really familiar with =)

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MaryL (maryl1) | 234 comments so, question 1: I think Deborah's inner voices are male because A.She's the only girl in a herd of boys and B. She grew up in an era when authority figures post grammar school would all have been male. She's USED to hearing men tell her things, tell her what to do, think. Doesn't mean she listens to them though.

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Oh, I didn't even notice she thinks of her internal voice as male... I think I need to pay more attention.

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
PatF wrote: "Lenore wrote: "Sabrina wrote: ". . . So was the Woman's Temperance sort of like a unofficial Prohibition? Instead of the police coming after you, you'd be socially shunned?

The WCTU was an importa..."

Thanks for the information on WCTU, Pat. Seems kind of like a precursor to A.A.

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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
If some of you are getting interested in Prohibition, rent or stream Ken Burns' documentary about it, which came out last year, I think. It was really interesting and provided a lot of background which I certainly didn't know. The Women's Christian Temperance Union was a very powerful political force in the U.S. at one time - and certainly is addressed in the documentary.

message 41: by PatF (new)

PatF Floyd Sabrina, as far as I've ever heard, the WCTU didn't offer help to alcoholics. With its broad social agendas, it had a strong focus on getting women the vote, getting women elected to public office, and lobbying legislators and other public officials. Two things my grandmother worked on were the treatment and rehabilitation of prisoners and the treatment of people in the local "insane asylum."

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Anne Pichette | 4 comments I just finished reading this book and really enjoyed it. It gave an interested view of a southern town and the beliefs of the residents. I liked the plot.

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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
PatF and all,
I believe, too, that the WCTU was mostly focused on abstinence and getting liquor out of people's hands, period. It was founded during a period when men went to saloons and unfortunately, many of them drank up the paycheck and staggered home drunk ("respectable" women didn't drink in public until the 20's - spurred on, ironically, by the "speakeasy's" and other party places created by Prohibition). At any rate, when the WCTU got started, liquor was seen by many as an Evil and a threat to home and hearth, and there really wasn't any understanding of alcoholism - people were simply viewed as "drunks."

Judith | 13 comments I have now read 12-13 of Maron's Bootlegger Daughter series and will keep on reading. I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one. She keeps her story new and interesting.

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Merrily wrote: "If some of you are getting interested in Prohibition, rent or stream Ken Burns' documentary about it, which came out last year, I think. It was really interesting and provided a lot of background ..."

I'll have to check that documentary out, Merrily. I can see that my knowledge of early to mid American history is lacking!

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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Sabrina, I thought I knew quite a bit about Prohibition as my parents were old enough to remember it and would talk about it quite often. But I learned so much from the Ken Burns documentary, like the fact that Prohibition was among other things a battle between the "traditional," more rural parts of the country and the big cities - the former tended to be in favor, the cities, not so much, in part because of large immigrant populations who had cultural traditions that included wine and beer! Prohibition ended up making criminals of most of the population, as people WERE going to drink and there were all kinds of ways of dodging the law, such as getting a "prescription" for your alcohol and getting it at the pharmacy!

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
How interesting! Prescribed alcohol kind of sounds like today's medical marijuana debate. Of course, if memory serves, I think I remember reading an article that dealt with the late 19th century and early 20th belief in the medicinal properties of Brandy. It was used to treat just about everything (in England anyway).

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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Sabrina, well, we certainly know that Watson often prescribed it, and if he didn't, Holmes told him to go fetch some!

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
That's what BBC Sherlock is missing! Holmes' standard cure all. Though I don't know, maybe for an updated version he'd call for a joint.

The article did state that Brandy had a number of benefits and even when it should have been counterproductive seemed to help.

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Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Or a beer!
My mother remembered her mother giving her a teaspoon of whiskey when she was a young girl and first having menstrual cramps. This would have been around 1923 - aspirin was around but perhaps not as widely used yet. Liquor definitely has painkilling properties!

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