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Publisher's Summary

In the summer of 1987, Johnny Boone set out to grow and harvest one of the greatest outdoor marijuana crops in modern times. In doing so, he set into motion a series of events that defined him and his associatesas the largest homegrown marijuana syndicate in American history, also known as the Cornbread Mafia.

Author James Higdon - whose relationship with Johnny Boone, currently a federal fugitive, made him the first journalist subpoenaed underthe Obama administration - takes listeners back to the 1970s and ‘80s and the clash between federal and local law enforcement and a band of Kentucky farmers with moonshine and pride in their bloodlines. By 1989 the task force assigned to take down men like Johnny Boone had arrested 69 men and 1 woman from busts on 29 farms in 10 states, and seized 200 tons of pot.

Of the 70 individuals arrested, none talked. How it all went down is a tale of Mafia-style storylines emanating from the Bluegrass State, and populated by Vietnam veterans and weed-loving characters caught up in Tarantino-level violence and heart-breaking altruism. Accompanied by a backdrop of rock-and-roll and rhythm-and-blues, this work of dogged investigative journalism and history is told by Higdon in action-packed, colorful, and riveting detail.

©2012 James Higdon the Third (P)2012 Tantor

What listeners say about The Cornbread Mafia

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Mixed bag, but ultimately worth a credit

First, this is an interesting book and I liked it. Second, I could never produce something on a par with it and I respect the effort and diligence that went into its creation. However, I do have a few criticisms. I found that I enjoyed the portions that were based on actual records better than the stuff that's reported from one-on-one interviews with the "hillbillies" who produced all that Kentucky grass. The author is perhaps a bit too credulous when relating some of the stories he was told by these folks. OTOH, the solid straight reporting in much of the book balances those stories with enough facts that the stories are still fun to read, if not exactly "according to Hoyle" journalism.

My larger gripe is the author's insertion of his own book creation/subpeona to testify story near the end of the book. I found this part unnecessary and a little too self-satisfied for my taste (the Obama '08 stuff looks particularly naive in light of the way his presidency has, IMO predictably, played out). But again there is a shorter sort of coda that takes well-earned shots at a trigger happy US Marshall with some solid reporting to balance that excess. This shorter end portion, although also self-referential, works much better. It even includes a final sentence that provides a more level-headed assessment of the possibility that Obama's 2008 election would result in any positive developments in our absolutely insane war on drugs.

Finally, I listened to the audiobook version and the narration was clear and easy to follow. Unfortunately, the narrator was clearly unfamiliar with the regional pronunciations of central Kentucky while I am not. This didn't ruin anything about the book, but each appearance of, for instance, "Lebanon" or "Courier-Journal" produced a slight self-referential smirk from this Hardin County guy.

8 people found this helpful

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I'm probably biased but this was a very fun book.

I binge listened to this book. I'm from the area they talk about in the book and it's very interesting to hear about places I know. I don't like the drug aspect of the book (not because the book did anything wrong, but I don't care for drugs even the ones advertised on TV), but like some mention, if it doesn't hurt me then it doesn't concern me. I find it interesting the politics behind the "wars" portrayed and how much freedom we've given away to fight inanimate objects and in this instance a weed. I do think this book represents much of the rural life and mind set. I guess to jump on my soap box and rant, by outlawing something as popular as marijuana you create a massive pipeline for the black market. Along with the pharmaceutical industry pushing drugs and being supported by the gov, you get them started by the doctors and the intricate pipeline seems to have plenty of avenues for the street opiates like heroine that are plaguing this state, but gets overshadowed by media crying over what someone said in D.C.

3 people found this helpful

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Horrible narration

Skip this, get the book.

Narrator sounds like a digitally generated synthetic emotionless disaster. Audiobooks are only as good as their narrator allows them to be.

4 people found this helpful

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Great read!

I'm not usually into books of this type. Having been in Kentucky for the last 22 years and spending a fair amount of time frequenting Marion, Woodford, Washington, and Fayette counties I've heard stories of the pot grows and the cornbread mafia. This book intertwines with what I've heard from those I know, and couple are mentioned in this book. I can't tell you if he's got all the facts right or not but I can say that more than a few are spot on. It certainly resonates with me, the depressed area, and the struggle to survive, I can't say that I'd do anything different to feed my family!

1 person found this helpful

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very impressive story, hard to turn off

Somthing for everybody story, horticulturist, historian, law men, politics, corruption and concpericy. The ending has a bit of a running man theme, showing how Americas most wanted makes things up to hunt people more effectivly. Big take away for me is trying to understand who made this crazy law, lock up nonviolent FARMERS with killers and scumbags? God bless America?

1 person found this helpful

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Great Book

This is a great read. I’m from Casey County so I grew up hearing the stories.

1 person found this helpful

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The best stories are the true ones

Tells the story of a unique place with plenty of characters to spare. I live in Washington county kentucky and know many of the families involved. End prohibition now!

Great book, the narrator could be better. Cadence doesn’t fit the people or the story. Folks around here pronounce Lebanon as “Lebnin” not the country of Lebanon. That drove me crazy but other than that great listen.

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Excellent

Mr. Higdon is an excellent scholar and historian. This book is an important resource in non violent criminal law.

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Great read!

Growing up in Louisville, I remember hearing the myth of Johnny Boone and the CBM. I've always been enamored with the story of how marijuana used to be Kentucky's number one cash crop. Johnny Boone was regarded as more of an outlaw hero than criminal. I'm glad I finally was able to hear the story that goes with the legend.

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Not at all what I was hoping for

I live in Louisville so I have heard of the Cornbread Mafia and couldn’t wait to hear this book I know of some of the places in the book and in fact my dad and brother had one the same lawyers mentioned in the book so that was kind of cool but other then that to me this book had way to much stuff that was just added to stretch out the story I mean it starts out talking about the 1700’s i wanted to hear about the Cornbread Mafia not the 1700’s and a lot of the other stuff that was added was just to hard for me to keep up with my mind just keep wondering how is this going to tie into the story an more often then not for it never did this should have been a 4hr audiobook I was very Disappointed