Actually, the Bondurant Brothers wasn't a gang at all. Rather, they were folks living on the edge of poverty and trying to survive the Great Depression. Prohibition was the game changer!
Until Prohibition, Franklin County farmers made liquor from leftover crops at the end of the harvest season primarily for personal use: imbibing, anesthetic, cough syrup, and antiseptic. During Prohibition, the area fell on hard times; during that era, liquor was made in sizable quantities to the point that the mountainsides looked like Christmas trees. Large buyers came from as far away as New York City and Chicago for the purpose of stocking their speak easies. After Prohibition, Franklin County became less lawless — although, even today, blockaders, liquor runners, do occasionally make runs to Washington, D.C., to sell the 'shine in back alleys.
As the author Matt Bondurant points out in an essay about Franklin County today:
...If you are offered a drink in Franklin, better put on your coat and kiss the wife goodbye, because you are definitely going outside, and I'll guarantee a vehicle is involved.Not covered in the book and something that I recently learned from my veterinarian, who hails from that area: the supposed demise of the making of bootleg liquor in Franklin County led to the replacement of that particular activity, one that dates back as far as the 19th Century and continues to a smaller extent today. What has largely replaced the making of illegal liquor in Franklin County? Marijuana and meth. Not an improvement!
In fact you will almost never see a man in Franklin County drink anything in front of women and children. If you do, it will be in an opaque cup, plastic or paper, and it will remain off the table. I was in Franklin a few years ago for an aunt's birthday party, held in a large barn on my cousin's land. They had several long tables set up, laden with food, at least 50 cousins and friends, and when we sat down to eat, I was the only person there with a can of beer at the table. I wasn't the only one drinking — some of my uncles and cousins were positively ripped — but I was the only one that anybody saw drinking. And this is the county that, as the New York Times reported recently, produces half-a-million gallons of illegal liquor a year. You could spend years there and never see it, even as it is all around you....
I do recommend The Wettest County in the World, available in all formats. The audio version is particularly good.
Lawless, the film based on the novel, lacks luster in comparison to the book, however, and is a waste of time.