Friday, August 27, 2010

RESEARCH IS A TRIP by Sarah Wisseman

I’m taking a voyage—into the past. To Prohibition era central Illinois, when speakeasies and blind pigs flourished in my hometown of Champaign-Urbana and bootleggers were kings.  My fifth novel stars a physician who’s also an amateur archaeologist, his German wife, and a flapper daughter. The research is time-consuming but fun: I’ve taken historical tours of theaters and banks downtown, rummaged through archives on paper and online, and reread F. Scott Fitzgerald with a whole new slant.

I expected to write another archaeological novel, but instead I am embroiled in fascinating ways to make, dispense, and transport bootleg liquor. Pool halls that morph into bars with the touch of a lever, home parlors where hooch is poured down tubes by ten-year-old proprietors, and drinking joints disguised as laundries, bookstores, smithies, and lawyer’s offices. I’d be tempted to try some of the recipes, only that involves using lead-lined radiators, wood alcohol, embalming fluid, and all sorts of unregulated additives!

We used to live in Cincinnati, a fascinating town with a rich history. Recently I stumbled upon an online chapter of a book, Brother, Can You Spare a Drink? by Allen Singer:  Wonderful stuff! I especially like the booze tube covered with a throw rug and artistically strewn schoolbooks…Thank you, Allen.

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