The Bootlegger's Mistress

Fiction - Historical - Personage
245 Pages
Reviewed on 10/27/2020
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Susan Sewell for Readers' Favorite

After nearly eight decades, a woman who left her home and family behind returns to defend herself against the prejudice and bigotry that sent her away in the first place, in the touching historical novel The Bootlegger's Mistress by Marc Curtis Little. When she was twelve years old, Carrie stayed behind with her father while her mother and siblings left their small South Carolina town for a safer place to live. Keeping accounts for the town's white bootlegger, Carrie soldiers on until the night she discovers her father has been helping people escape. Now, Carrie and her father are in danger of a lynching. Sending her away through the underground, her father makes sure she receives a new identity. With the dissolution of all links to Carrie's past, Dicie is born. Starting over in a new location alone, Dicie takes the first steps into creating a life that will make her parents proud. Nearly eighty years later, Dicie is summoned back to that South Carolina town to account for the events that occurred the night she disappeared. What did happen that night? Can Dicie uncover what nobody else ever has?

The Bootlegger's Mistress by Marc Curtis Little is a stunning historical novel depicting the life of an awe-inspiring journalist and the lives she touched. The captivating narrative unveils the moral, immoral, and narrow-minded aspects of human nature that exist in society. Skillfully written, it is intriguing, exciting, shocking, and at times downright horrifying. Unforgettable, Carrie, her family, and friends are first-class heroines and heroes that closely mirror those who did and still do work to change the world and make it better for everyone. Realistically written, the story reads like a memoir and is so incredibly realistic I couldn't believe it was fiction. An addition of a family photograph from the story's period also adds an air of authenticity to the story. Everyone who relishes stories that reveal the unconscionable side of humanity and protagonists who combat and overcome it will enjoy reading and experiencing Carrie/Dicie's life-long journey.

Teresa Syms

The Bootlegger’s Mistress by Marc Curtis Little tells the story of young Carrie Lacey, born in Anderson, South Carolina in 1925. Carrie was the eldest child in her family, taught at school sometimes, but mostly by her parents. Her mother encouraged her children to read, write, and study hard to improve their lot in life. However, being raised black during the Depression meant Carrie had to be very careful not to attract unwanted attention to herself. Hallie Lacey, Carrie’s father, wanted his people to have every opportunity in life. What he was actually doing was recreating the Underground Railroad for blacks who were accused of crimes they did not commit. Carrie’s world shattered when her mother and siblings had to leave, never to return. Carrie stayed because she worked for the sleazy, crime-ridden Tommy Joe Butler. Carrie counted the money from Butler’s bootlegging, gambling, and extortion business. One terrible evening Carrie was forced to leave Anderson. Nappy Eddy, her friend, lover, and confidant, helped her escape. Carrie eventually ended up in Newark, New Jersey, and assumed her alter ego, Dicie Caughman. Throughout her life she was a force of nature, but rose from the bottom to the top, owning a newspaper, being a sought-after speaker and a lifetime advocate for educational reform. She did all of this but managed to stay away from the South for eighty years. It was only when the State of South Carolina wanted Carrie to answer questions surrounding a death that she decided to go back to Anderson to set the record straight.

Marc Curtis Little’s The Bootlegger’s Mistress is a captivating book depicting the truth around racial discrimination in the 1925 Depression Era in South Carolina. The reader will be unable to put this book down. Once you start reading, you will be captivated and enthralled in the life of Carrie Lacey aka Dicie Caughman. Her story is powerful and relates to the struggles that many black people experienced throughout history, and in cases, still are today. Little’s character development was exceptional. While reading, I could easily envision Dicie, Nappy Eddy, Baby Boy, and Mr. Bilal. My heart cried out at the injustices people from the South experienced. Throughout her life, Dicie had given up so much; her son, lost her adopted son, her family, Nappy Eddy, and her true identity. The Bootlegger’s Mistress is a book I will not soon forget, and will highly recommend to others. Little wrote an incredibly telling book and, through his great plot, told the story of Dicie Caughman perfectly. Anyone who reads this book will be forever changed for the better. I highly recommend The Bootlegger’s Mistress.

Deborah Lloyd

Carrie Lacey, her six younger siblings, and parents lived on their farm in Anderson, South Carolina. As an African American family, they lived with segregation and racism during the first half of the twentieth century. Her father, Hallie, assisted African Americans to escape the horrors of lynching and false criminal charges through a system not unlike the Underground Railroad. Carrie worked for a White businessman and bootleg liquor dealer, Tommy Joe Butler. The family was in danger, and her mother and siblings left secretly. Eventually, Carrie also had to leave. She went to Jacksonville, Florida, and then to Newark, New Jersey, not knowing what happened to her family members. As Dicie Caughman, she forged a successful life, only to have her earlier life in Anderson revealed. Author Marc Curtis Little has crafted an unforgettable novel in The Bootlegger’s Mistress.

The historical aspects of this novel contain information that will most likely be previously unknown to readers. While many may be aware of the Great Migration, when millions of southern African Americans moved to the north for employment opportunities, they may be unaware of other dangers driving the migration. The story itself is intriguing, with many exciting moments. The accomplishments of Dicie and other African Americans are amazing, considering all the obstacles in their paths. The writing is superb, as the author tells the story, moving back and forth from earlier decades through the present year. The characters – from Carrie to childhood friend Nappy Eddie to attorney Louis Bilal - are crafted to illustrate their strengths. TThe Bootlegger’s Mistress by Marc Curtis Little is truly a must-read, historically-based gem.

Gobi Jane

The Bootlegger's Mistress by Marc Curtis Little is a compelling historical novel that captures the racial tensions in the South during the Great Depression. It follows Carrie Lacey, a black girl growing up in Anderson, South Carolina, oblivious to the challenges faced by blacks in the South. Her father dreams of changing the fates of Black Americans and is involved in the non-violent process of freeing slaves. Things change when her mother and six siblings have to flee their hometown, leaving her alone with her father. Working for a dirty White businessman, a bootleg liquor dealer who eventually gets increasing disagreements with Carrie’s father over property, Carrie’s eyes begin to open to the plight of her kind. With help from her childhood friend, Carrie escapes. Follow her on an adventure that brings her into contact with interesting characters and across different towns, her quest for truth in an unsolved murder, and how she champions family reconciliation.

The Bootlegger's Mistress paints a canvas of life in South Carolina from the 1930s with strong allusions to the great migration. Marc Curtis Little does a wonderful job of developing the theme of racism. Carrie’s father is a character whose clandestine work brings out the strategies of the Underground Railroad, a non-violent fighter against slavery. The female protagonist is well-imagined and skillfully written. She is a character that appears naïve at the start of the story, but she learns truths as she grows older. The hardships of her journey transform her into a hardworking businesswoman with a lot of influence. The Bootlegger's Mistress is an intelligently plotted and beautifully written historical novel. I enjoyed the dialogues and loved how well the author recreates the accent and the way people spoke at the time. The novel is transporting and it felt to me like traveling back in time, thanks to the deft handling of the historical setting, the racial hints of the story, and the characters that are real.

Christian Sia

The Bootlegger's Mistress by Marc Curtis Little takes readers on a rollicking, historical ride to the 1920s and ’30s in the rural areas of South Carolina, following a well-fleshed out female protagonist: Carrie Lacey. Questions about the color line are not much of the young girl’s preoccupation as she grows up, even though her father is involved in clandestinely helping slaves to flee from the south, infested with racism. But things change when her family has to flee because of threats, leaving only Carrie and her father behind. She begins to work for Tommy Joe Butler, a bootleg liquor dealer. With tension growing stronger between her father and Tommy, Carrie escapes, thanks to the help of her childhood friend. Thus begins a journey that will take her across cities and help her establish herself as a powerful businesswoman. But she will become more than that!

It is interesting how the young, naive Carrie morphs into an intelligent woman who is motivated by the quest for truth. Her interest in an unsolved murder will bring a surprising outcome to the people she loves. The Bootlegger's Mistress is a powerful narrative with strong themes. Marc Curtis Little writes about racism in the south and captures the general atmosphere of life in the area, the hopes and fears of black people leaving the south, and how racism affected lives. It is a story in which readers hear the cry for freedom and equality. The elements of the setting come out brilliantly. The language is wonderfully crafted, and through the dialogues, readers get a feel of the culture and of how people spoke at that time, especially African Americans. This is a powerful story with strong and relevant themes for contemporary readers, a revisiting of the history we want to leave behind.