During Prohibition, while Al Capone was rising to worldwide prominence as Public Enemy Number One, the townspeople of rural Templeton, Iowa—population just 428—were busy with a bootlegging empire of their own. Led by Joe Irlbeck, the whip-smart and gregarious son of a Bavarian immigrant, the outfit of farmers, small merchants, and even the church Monsignor worked together to create a whiskey so excellent it was ordered by name: Templeton rye.
Gentlemen Bootleggers: The True Story of Templeton Rye, Prohibition, and a Small Town in Cahoots tells a never-before-told tale of ingenuity, bootstrapping, and perseverance in one small town, showcasing a group of immigrants who embraced the American ideals of self-reliance, dynamism, and democratic justice. It relies on previously classified Prohibition Bureau investigation files, federal court case files, extensive newspaper archive research, and a recently disclosed interview with kingpin Joe Irlbeck. Unlike other Prohibition-era tales of big-city gangsters, it provides an important reminder that bootlegging wasn’t only about glory and riches, but could be in the service of a higher goal: producing the best whiskey money could buy.
“Bauer does a remarkable job of weaving together the various stories in the book, positioning them against the backdrop of the political and economic climates of the day.”
“Bauer dug deep into the untold stories of former bootleggers who didn’t trust “goons” to handle their cash. They were a secretive bunch, and their story is a great piece of true whiskey history.”
“Bauer weaves the people into the history facts and fleshes out scenes that add flavor to what everyday life in a dry world would be…”
“A highly interesting detailed study of one town’s response to Prohibition. Highly recommended.”
“Bauer’s work is well documented and thoroughly detailed … His writing feels effortless; more like a really enjoyable conversation over several drams on a late winter’s afternoon…”
“Mr. Bauer carefully pulls us along as the moonshining business in Templeton expands and the lawmen attempt to bring it down. His book is full of the little gems that come only from spending serious time in the back rooms of good libraries…”
“A quiet revolt against Prohibition happened in Templeton, Iowa, where the famous Templeton rye whiskey was made illegally and prized by its consumers. This is a book full of interesting characters, especially Iowa’s bootlegging king Joe Irlbeck, his confederates in town and the lawmen who tried to catch up with the lot of them.”
“…a treasure of archived federal documents and other original source material was unearthed to form the basis of [Bryce T. Bauer’s] engaging new book ‘Gentlemen Bootleggers: The True Story of Templeton Rye, Prohibition, and a Small Town in Cahoots’…”
“A fascinating, well-researched glimpse into a much-storied period in U.S. history.”
— Library Journal, May 15, 2014
“Bauer turns phrases easily […]. Readers will be entertained.”
— Publishers Weekly, April 21, 2014
— Crime Beat Radio, October 9, 2014 (mp3 direct link)
© 2014 Bryce T Bauer