The Whisky King: Not Just a Hamilton Story

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There’s no doubt that, because Rocco and Bessie Perri settled in Hamilton in 1915 and used it as a base for their bootlegging operation for decades, a lot of important events in The Whisky King take place there. But the book has a much bigger scope than that.

Here’s just a partial list of the towns and cities where significant events in The Whisky King take place:

  • Toronto, ON
  • Chicago, IL
  • Springfield, MA
  • Massena, NY.
  • Calgary, AB
  • Moose Jaw, SK
  • Regina, SK
  • Winnipeg, MB
  • Niagara Falls, NY
  • Niagara Falls, ON
  • St. Catharines, ON
  • Montreal, QC
  • Guelph, ON
  • Cobalt, ON
  • Elk Lake, ON
  • Thorold, ON

Of these, the city that crops up most frequently in the book besides Hamilton is Toronto. Here’s a partial list of the significant events in The Whisky King that occurred in the GTA.

  • The Ashbridges Bay tragedy and inquest
  • The murder of Frank Sciarrone
  • The trial of Sciarrone’s murderer, Frank Griro
  • The beginning of Rocco Perri and Bessie Starkman’s relationship
  • The re-opening of the Gooderham & Worts distillery
  • The publishing of a sensational 1924 interview with Rocco Perri
  • The poison liquor crisis of 1926
  • The testimony of Rocco and Bessie at the Royal Commission on Customs and Excise and the Gooderham & Worts trial
  • The arrest of Ned Italiano and discovery of Bessie Perri’s link to the narcotics trade.
  • The discovery of Rocco’s illegal distilling operation.
  • The arrest of Rocco Perri and Anne Newman.
  • The murder of James Windsor

All of this is to say that the universe of The Whisky King expands well beyond the confines of Hamilton. It’s a saga that sweeps across many regions and events in Canadian history.