Philip Metcalfe’s book, Whispering Wires: The Tragic Tale of an American Bootlegger, tells the story of Roy Olmstead, one of the principal bootleggers in Prohibition-era Seattle, and the first major federal court case concerning the use of wiretaps. This historical narrative follows the city officials, Prohibition agents, and rumrunners who chased, evaded, and double-crossed each other during one of Seattle’s most thrilling eras.
During the research phase for Prohibition, Burns’ staff contacted Inkwater and requested copies of Metcalfe’s book to help them give more color and depth to the documentary. Prohibition is a three-part, five-and-a-half-hour documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick that tells the story of the rise, rule, and fall of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the entire era it encompassed. The show airs on PBS stations October 2nd, 3rd and 4th.
Metcalfe describes his role as an author as that of a “painter who endows a lost world with the personality and the dailiness it once possessed.” He writes, “Prohibition had produced a shadow universe governed by an aberrant moral algebra.”