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A Life in Pursuit of White Liquor

by Alec Wilkinson
Introduction by Padgett Powell

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Product Details

Nonpareil Books

ISBN: 978-1-56792-805-1
Pages: 176
Size: 5.25" x 7.5"
Published: May 2024
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A vivid portrait of legendary liquor agent Garland Bunting, an American original who patrolled rural North Carolina when moonshiners worked their stills in the backcountry.

For thirty-five years, Garland Bunting slid his “sweet potato shape—small at both ends and big in the middle” onto the front seat of his beat-up pickup with the coon dogs in the back to ride around in pursuit of moonshine stills in Halifax County, North Carolina. Bunting was true a one-of-a-kind, a man who would do nearly anything to get his culprit. To best the bootleggers, Bunting passed himself off as an outrageous array of characters, including a door-to-door fish peddler, a preacher, a farmer, a fox hunter, a sawmill worker, and a woman.

Articulate, canny, imaginative, and aware—aware even that he’s an unusual character—Bunting fills the foreground of Alec Wilkinson’s deeply reported and elegantly told story. This is experiential, immersive, journalism at its best.

Moonshine is a wonderfully alive portrait of both Bunting and rural North Carolina’s coastal plain, with its landscape of small farms, woods, and swamps. We meet the people Bunting grew up with, his fellow liquor agents, his cronies, and his shy wife, Colleen. Along the way, we learn the history of moonshine and how it is made, and accompany Bunting on the stake-out of a small, backwoods still.

For viewers who made Moonshiners a hit for 12 seasons on the Discovery Channel, this is the book they’ve been waiting for. All readers will find a story where the flavors of the past and present are richly intermingled. This Nonpareil edition includes a new introduction by Padgett Powell.

Alec Wilkinson
Alec Wilkinson began writing for The New Yorker in 1980. Before he was a policeman, he was a rock-and-roll musician. He has published eleven books—including two memoirs, two collections of essays, two biographical portraits, and two pieces of reporting. His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lyndhurst Prize, and a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. He lives with his wife and son in New York City.

Author: Padgett Powell
Padgett Powell is the author of six novels, including Edisto, a National Book Awards finalist, and You & Me. His other books include three short story collections and the essay collection, Indigo: Arm Wrestling, Snake Saving, and Some Things in Between. Mr. Powell’s honors include the Prix de Rome Fellowship in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Whiting Writers Award. He has been a writing professor at the University of Florida since 1984.