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Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition Audiobook, by Daniel Okrent Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Daniel Okrent Narrator: Richard Poe Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2011 ISBN: 9781442348721
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,669 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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A brilliant, authoritative, and fascinating history of America’s most puzzling era, the years 1920 to 1933, when the U.S. Constitution was amended to restrict one of America’s favorite pastimes: drinking alcoholic beverages.

From its start, America has been awash in drink. The sailing vessel that brought John Winthrop to the shores of the New World in 1630 carried more beer than water. By the 1820s, liquor flowed so plentifully it was cheaper than tea. That Americans would ever agree to relinquish their booze was as improbable as it was astonishing.

Yet we did, and Last Call is Daniel Okrent’s dazzling explanation of why we did it, what life under Prohibition was like, and how such an unprecedented degree of government interference in the private lives of Americans changed the country forever.

Writing with both wit and historical acuity, Okrent reveals how Prohibition marked a confluence of diverse forces: the growing political power of the women’s suffrage movement, which allied itself with the antiliquor campaign; the fear of small-town, native-stock Protestants that they were losing control of their country to the immigrants of the large cities; the anti-German sentiment stoked by World War I; and a variety of other unlikely factors, ranging from the rise of the automobile to the advent of the income tax.

Through it all, Americans kept drinking, going to remarkably creative lengths to smuggle, sell, conceal, and convivially (and sometimes fatally) imbibe their favorite intoxicants. Last Call is peopled with vivid characters of an astonishing variety: Susan B. Anthony and Billy Sunday, William Jennings Bryan and bootlegger Sam Bronfman, Pierre S. du Pont and H. L. Mencken, Meyer Lansky and the incredible—if long-forgotten—federal official Mabel Walker Willebrandt, who throughout the twenties was the most powerful woman in the country. (Perhaps most surprising of all is Okrent’s account of Joseph P. Kennedy’s legendary, and long-misunderstood, role in the liquor business.)

It’s a book rich with stories from nearly all parts of the country. Okrent’s narrative runs through smoky Manhattan speakeasies, where relations between the sexes were changed forever; California vineyards busily producing “sacramental” wine; New England fishing communities that gave up fishing for the more lucrative rum-running business; and in Washington, the halls of Congress itself, where politicians who had voted for Prohibition drank openly and without apology.

Last Call is capacious, meticulous, and thrillingly told. It stands as the most complete history of Prohibition ever written and confirms Daniel Okrent’s rank as a major American writer. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • “This is history served the way one likes it, with scholarly authority and literary grace. Last Call is a fascinating portrait of an era and a very entertaining tale.” 

    Tracy Kidder 

  • “Assiduously researched, well-written, and continually eye-opening.” 

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Fast-paced and fascinating, his narrative assembles a wide collection of comical stories and outrageous personalities.” 

    Bookmarks magazine

  • “Okrent asks and answers some important questions in this fascinating exploration of a failed social experiment.” 


  • One of the 2010 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction
  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Reviews

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  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Don | 2/18/2014

    " Fascinating look at the prohibition movement, its inevitable failure and its role in spawning organized crime in the U.S. Didn't know Ohio played such a pivotal role. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Margaret | 2/18/2014

    " In my lazy Americanist history thinking, I always stick prohibition at the end of WWI and its repeal in the hands of FDR, but of course, it was much more complicated than that--the bizarre union of dry forces (women's suffrage, the Klan, Ford and his Anti-Semites, Progressives), the results like the foundations of the Seagram, Welch, Gallo and Mondavi fortunes, the economic transformation of the Caribbean, booze cruises, women's bathrooms in bars, tax implications (Andrew Mellon and the wet solution to inheritance taxes), cocktail recipes to hide rotgut, state nullification by refusing to fund enforcement, the pioneering legal career of Mabel Walker Willebrandt, and the early years of Hugo Black. Not to mention the repeal, masterminded by Pauline Sabine--pearl-wearing, gracious maternal Republican committeewoman. And the Beck rally reminded me strikingly of Billy Sunday bellowing that he had no use "for a God who does not smite!" "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Will | 2/11/2014

    " A great look at Prohibition and the organized crime surrounding it. Especially fun to read while living in Chicago! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Budd | 1/31/2014

    " It's hard to believe anyone has done a better job of covering the various aspects and affects of Prohibition. Daniel Okrent is an extremely bright person and a fine writer, and his smarts shine through throughout the book. The basic drawback is that the subject is, pardon the pun under the circumstances, a little dry in spots, and it's a little tough to zip through. Still, there are great little stories told along the way without ignoring the big picture by any means. This certainly is a very solid piece of research and writing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Anne | 1/23/2014

    " Great read, historically significant, and at times funny as hell. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Roger | 1/18/2014

    " Superb research and writing. No matter how much you think you know about prohibition and its affect on American life and culture, this book will surprise you. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Alexis | 1/13/2014

    " Okrent brings Prohibition to life in "Last Call" and makes it fascinating. The subtitle "the Rise and Fall of Prohibition" aptly describes this well-written, well-researched book. Most of the book covers the rise and duration of Prohibition with the fall making up a smaller but no less important portion of the book. I had not really known much about how Prohibition came to be before reading "Last Call". The successful passage of Constitutional Ammendments for women's suffrage, income tax and Prohibition were completely intertwined. Supporters of Prohibition, "drys", realized that they needed the support of women to successfully push Prohibition through Congress and ratification and women realized they needed the support of "drys" to push through suffrage. An enormous amount of money flowed to the U.S. government from liquor related taxes and an income tax was needed to replace it. For a time the "drys" had a stunning amount of influence over Congress, the President and the American public. Okrent supplies an amazing amount of detail, writing with wit and intelligence. The book is peppered with anecdotal stories such as how during Prohibition ships would anchor just outside U.S. waters and then small boats would smuggle liquor to shore. One enterprising group of smugglers packed bottles of liquor in bags of salt so that if intercepted they could dump the bottles overboard, wait until the coast was clear, then pick up the bags that bobbed to the surface after the salt dissolved. The repeal of Prohibition came about through the efforts of America's ultra rich with the aim of getting rid of the despised income tax. Also, in the depths of the Depression the jobs that a restored alcohol industry would provide was greatly needed. Okrent delves into the large, complex social and political ramifications and the background surrounding Prohibtion with amazing thoroughness and clarity. By the time I finished the book I felt like I'd had a whole semester course on Prohibition with a truly interesting instructor. I did have to take a break in the middle and go read Tess Gerritsen's new mystery but then jumped right back into this singular time period in American history. PBS is supposed to air a Ken Burns film this fall on Prohibition which was made with the help of Okrent. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Clay | 1/12/2014

    " A very well written and entertaining book about the rise and fall of Prohibition. Seeing the machinations of the actors at work, the products that came about as a result of prohibition (Welch's Grape, anyone?) and seeing the parallels to the currently ill- fated war in drugs makes for a good read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katie | 12/3/2013

    " An interesting history of Prohibition. I learned a lot, but got tired of reading it by the end. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kelsey | 9/17/2013

    " A very thorough history of Prohibition from the legislative and political perspective. Quite interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dan | 7/31/2013

    " A fascinating and very enjoyable read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jody | 7/5/2013

    " It's a slow read but a good one - definitely learned a lot from the book. It was very interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Du | 4/15/2013

    " This was a decent read. It would probably make a great movie. It was well thought out and interesting, to a point. I wish it held my interest better and was more illuminating on prohibition and the times surrounding it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joe | 2/14/2013

    " Vivid evocation of a wide open time. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sineala | 2/10/2013

    " This should have been interesting; I liked the topic, it was clearly exhaustively-researched, and it came at it from an interesting angle ("why the hell did this happen?"). Unfortunately, the writing was really dry (ha!) and I just couldn't get into it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 mickiegoc | 1/15/2013

    " At times dry (SOARY), this history of prohibition is also riveting, eye-opening, and will make you thirsty. Also, America is so confused. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tracy | 10/29/2012

    " A good book on the politics of the Volstead act. I personally wished he would have delved deeper in the criminal aspect of prohibition. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susan | 1/4/2012

    " Simply outstanding. But I have always been fascinated by prohibition. This brings in so many other issues that most histories do not. Pour yourself a glass of your favorite and enjoy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tracey | 10/24/2011

    " I learned a lot from this book, and I liked the writing style. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Danny | 10/6/2011

    " Fun book on an amazingly successful social movement. The Dry movement was incredibly savvy at influencing Washington DC through a keen understanding of the electoral incentives of congress. 99%'ers take note! Full of great details and characterizations, but not as analytical as I'd like. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Francie | 9/25/2011

    " Dry in spots but fascinating, funny, absorbing and extremely edifying. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bernard | 9/21/2011

    " This book is an incredible history to an often overlooked but no less important part of American history. This is the companion piece to the Ken Burns documentary on PBS on which the author served as principal consultant. It is flush with facts and highly engrossing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tbates57 | 9/19/2011

    " Fascinating history (of both probihition and unintended consequences)!
    I'm enjoying re-reading in anticipation of Ken Burn's 10/2/11 PBS special. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Clif | 9/13/2011

    " An excellent study of Prohibition. Very detailed and written in a readable, interesting style. I enjoyed it more than the Ken Burns documentary that used it as reference. "

About the Author

Daniel Okrent was the first public editor of the New York Times, an editor-at-large of Time, Inc., and managing editor of Life magazine. He also worked in book publishing as an editor at Knopf and Viking and was editor-in-chief of general books at Harcourt Brace. He was a featured commentator on Ken Burns’s PBS series, Baseball, and is author of four books, one of which, Great Fortune, was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in history. Okrent was also a fellow at the Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where he remains an associate. He lives in Manhattan and on Cape Cod with his wife, poet Rebecca Okrent, and their two children.

About the Narrator

Richard Poe, a professional actor for more than thirty years, has appeared in numerous Broadway shows, including 1776 and M. Butterfly. On television he has had recurring roles on Star Trek and Frasier. His films include Born on the Fourth of July and Presumed Innocent. Poe is a well-known and prolific audiobook performer and the winner of numerous AudioFile Earphones Awards.