the whisky king

“True-crime writing at its finest”
— Dean Jobb, author of Empire of Deception

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The full set of endnotes for The Whisky King — a complete 61-page pdf — is available to read here.

A rich and fascinating history of Canada’s first celebrity mobster, Rocco Perri – King of the Bootleggers – and the man who pursued him, Frank Zaneth, Canada’s first undercover Mountie, whose code name was “Operative No.1.”

The publication of The Whisky King is the culmination of more the two years of the hardest and most rewarding work of Trevor Cole’s career. He spent countless hours pouring over thousands of old newspapers, books and archival documents, including hand-written detectives’ reports and eye witness testimony, to build this true and compelling narrative.

Stretching from the turn of the century to beyond the Second World War, it tells the story of two men. The first, Rocco Perri, an immigrant from Calabria, arrived in North America in 1904, as a nearly penniless sixteen-year-old, and became arguably the richest and most notorious bootlegger-mobster in English Canada. The second, Frank Zaneth, arrived from Italy’s north and took a very different path, from hardworking Prairie homesteader to undercover detective. Inevitably, their paths brought them together more than once, in ways that had momentous implications for both their careers.


— Trevor’s appearance on CHCH TV’s Morning Live to talk about The Whisky King.

— Jamie Tennant of CFMU interviewed Trevor about The Whisky King for his show Get Lit.

— On April 12, Trevor was a guest on 900CHML’s The Bill Kelly Show to talk about The Whisky King.


“While Perri and Zaneth are the main trunks of the story, the book is branched with characters from a John Huston epic: piano-playing wharf rats; Mafia reprobates; fusty councillors; and a handful of cops who can’t shoot straight. It’s a compelling gallery.”
— The Toronto Star.
Full review here.

Advance Praise for The Whisky King:

— “Boardwalk Empire meets Catch Me If You Can in this absorbing, full-throttle account of Rocco Perri – Canada’s Al Capone – and the undercover cop determined to bring him to justice. Trevor Cole serves up an intoxicating Prohibition-era cocktail of rum-running, mob hits, drug smuggling and police corruption. The Whisky King is true-crime writing at its finest.”
— Dean Jobb, author of Empire of Deception

“Calling on his immense gifts as a novelist, Trevor Cole tells the true story of Rocco and Bessie Perri, the “King and Queen of Bootlegging” in Hamilton. With impeccable research, Cole exposes the network of police, customs officers, and politicians who also profited, shattering the myth of Canada as a country addicted to law and order. An illuminating, disturbing, and well-paced read.”             
— Rosemary Sullivan, author of Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva.

“Trevor Cole is a veteran journalist with a novelist’s eye. He deftly lifts mobster Rocco Perri from the lakebottom or grave or wherever he ended up and brings him back to life on the page."
— Peter Edwards, author of Hard Road: Bernie Guindon and the Reign of the Satan's Choice Motorcycle Club.

“Trevor Cole takes readers on a fascinating journey through the Italian Canadian underworld of the early twentieth century. The research is impeccable and the dramatic pace never falters in this intriguing tale of immigrants turning to crime and running rings around the authorities.”
— Charlotte Gray, award-winning author of The Promise of Canada and The Massey Murder

“Trevor Cole is a masterful stylist, and The Whisky King a tall Canadian crime tale that just happens to be true. Popular history at its outsized, plot-driven best.”
— Charles Foran, award-winning author of Mordecai: The Life & Times