cover image Dying for a Drink: How a Prohibition Preacher Got Away with Murder

Dying for a Drink: How a Prohibition Preacher Got Away with Murder

Patrick Brode. Biblioasis, $14.95 trade paper (162p) ISBN 978-1-77196-268-1

Lawyer Brode recounts the wild but true tale of a preacher and lawman who murdered a barkeep over prohibition and got away with it. Within the dry province of Ontario, whose evangelical Christian majority had voted in 1916 to outlaw liquor, lay Sandwich, a lawless Wild West–type border town with a more modern, less provincial culture and an active bar scene. Beverly “Babe” Trumble, one of the town’s enterprising barkeepers, took advantage of alcohol regulations on both sides of the Detroit River border to make a fortune. J.O.L. Spracklin, a fiery preacher and provincial inspector notorious for dispensing his own “special brand of justice... disdaining any need for search warrants or legal niceties,” shot and killed Trumble while raiding his bar on November 6, 1920. Spracklin was acquitted at trial because testimony that Trumble had been armed made the shooting self-defense, but Brode surmises that his actions, which were seen as fanatical, decreased temperance’s popularity with the Ontario public. Brode pieces together a nicely researched account from newspaper reports, trial transcripts, and the like, and puts the events in context with fast-paced overviews of the Ontario politics surrounding temperance in the decade leading up to the shooting and the seven years after it, until the Ontario Temperance Act was repealed. This slim, lively volume illuminates Ontario’s pre–Jazz Age cultural and legal history and that of prohibition in an informative fashion. Photos. [em](Nov.) [/em]