George Remus (left), his flapper daughter Romola (middle), and co-counsel Charles H. Elston (right) sit at the defendant’s table during the sensational murder trial.
Franklin L. Dodge, Jr., tried to keep his photo from the newspaper reporters that tracked his every step. As the national spotlight intensified, he would soon be outed.
Once the press got Dodge’s photo, he sat for a formal pose. Newspapers used this headshot most often when illustrating stories about the Bootleg King and his shenanigans.
What Surprised You the Most about Writing The Bourbon King?
When it comes to the 1920s, what I discovered is that people love the glitz and glamour of the Jazz Age and The Great Gatsby, but they hate Prohibition with a passion. As a result, a lot of materials regarding bootlegging and Volstead Act enforcement were destroyed or went missing.
Combined with the basic fact that artifacts from 100 years ago simply don’t exist is the reality that in the intervening century, people threw away or destroyed things from the Prohibition era because of the general disgust with America’s failed social experiment. There are a handful of artifacts that I would grab if I could take a ride in the Tardis.
On a personal level, many descendants of bootleggers have a hard time rectifying what their ancestors did during that time. Some families swear that they were never involved, even when proof clearly exists.
Another surprising aspect was Franklin L. Dodge, Jr., the federal Prohibition Bureau secret agent who stole Imogene away and ran off with George’s riches. I had vague ideas about who he was and what he stood for.
Then I visited the Turner-Dodge House in Lansing, Michigan, where Dodge grew up and lived later after Remus killed Imogene, and got a whole new perspective. I stood in his boyhood bedroom and walked the upstairs ballroom where he and his family held celebrations and his mother—a classically-trained pianist—played for friends and family members.
Dodge became a real person as a result of walking in his steps. That humanity—with all the frailties that being human encompasses—went into my portrayal of him in The Bourbon King. Research reveals the complexity of historical figures, which enables a more contextual and critical examination.