Spirits of Just Men: Mountaineers, Liquor Bosses, and Lawmen in the Moonshine Capital of the World (2011) tells the story of moonshine in 1930s America, as seen through the remarkable location of Franklin County, Virginia, a place that many still refer to as the “moonshine capital of the world.” Charles D. Thompson Jr. chronicles the Great Moonshine Conspiracy Trial of 1935, which made national news and exposed the far-reaching and pervasive tendrils of Appalachia’s local moonshine economy.
Thompson, whose ancestors were involved in the area’s moonshine trade and trial as well as local law enforcement, uses the event as a stepping-off point to explore Blue Ridge Mountain culture, economy, and political engagement in the 1930s. Drawing from extensive oral histories and local archival material, he illustrates how the moonshine trade was a rational and savvy choice for struggling farmers and community members during the Great Depression.
Thompson brings the area to life, offering a portrait of a place that the government forgot, a blue-collar town run amok with barefoot children and well-armed men. . . . A meticulous, exhaustive history of moonshining, poverty and Blue Ridge culture.”