I knew it would be hard work, and ultimately it was more work than I imagined. But now that the books have arrived and the launch is close, I can say for sure that I’ve never had more fun as a writer. Digging through archives, reading detective’s reports from the 1920s and ’30s. Learning intimate details about a part of Canadian history I’d only vaguely heard about before. Prohibition and bootlegging, the dawn of the mafia in Canada, known then as The Black Hand. And coming to know the three people who shaped that history more than most — Rocco Perri, his common-law wife, Bessie Starkman, and the undercover mountie who tried more than once over the years to bring them to justice, Frank Zaneth.
These are names that should be as well known to Canadians as the names Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Eliot Ness are to Americans. Rocco Perri, Bessie Starkman, Frank Zaneth — these people, and some of their associates, made headlines in their day. Their exploits were front page news. I hope The Whisky King helps grow their legend. Canada’s history isn’t just about politics and war, prime ministers and inventors. The underworld is part of the country’s story too.