the whisky king

“True-crime writing at its finest”
— Dean Jobb, author of Empire of Deception

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The full set of endnotes for The Whisky King — a complete 61-page pdf — is available to read here.
Short-listed for The 2018 Speakers Award

Named to The Globe and Mail’s 2017 list of Best Books

Optioned for film and TV
The publication of The Whisky King is the culmination of more the two years of the hardest and most rewarding work of Trevor Cole’s career. He spent countless hours pouring over thousands of old newspapers, books and archival documents, including hand-written detectives’ reports and eye witness testimony, to build this true and compelling narrative.

Stretching from the turn of the century to beyond the Second World War, it tells the story of two men. The first, Rocco Perri, an immigrant from Calabria, arrived in North America in 1904, as a nearly penniless sixteen-year-old, and became arguably the richest and most notorious bootlegger-mobster in English Canada. The second, Frank Zaneth, arrived from Italy’s north and took a very different path, from hardworking Prairie homesteader to undercover detective. Inevitably, their paths brought them together more than once, in ways that had momentous implications for both their careers.


— In May, 2017, TVO featured The Whisky King in a segment of The Agenda. Here’s Trevor’s interview with Steve Paikin.

— Here’s Trevor’s June 22 interview with Piya Chattopadhyay on CBC Radio’s The Current.

— Trevor’s appearance on CHCH TV’s Morning Live.

— Jamie Tennant of CFMU interviewed Trevor about The Whisky King for his show Get Lit.

— In April, 2017, Trevor was a guest on 900CHML’s The Bill Kelly Show to talk about The Whisky King.


— “One of my favourite reads in a very long time… Thank you. I am now a re-energized reader.”
Brenda Hill

— “The Whisky King is an amazingly informative, sad, heartbreaking and tantalizing tale. If it ever gets made into a movie, I hope to be the first in line. Thank you!!”
Kathleen Chalk, BC

— “A great read!”
K. Grant

— “excellent fast read!!! rich with details.... must read!”
An customer

— “This is a fascinating book about Hamilton's local gangster Rocco Perri. A biography/history that reads like a novel. Terrific.”
Chapters.Indigo Customer Barry

— “Loving this book and its local history. very well written!” customer Karen

“Cole is a great writer; I really enjoyed this book.”
Amazon Top 1000 Reviewer


— “What a story! The Whisky King has got it all: poison hooch in blind pigs, liquor orgies with double-crossing dames, shootouts in chicken coops. This is superb non-fiction, by a writer at the top of his game.”
The Globe and Mail
Full review here

“While Perri and Zaneth are the main trunks of the story, the book is branched with characters from a John Huston epic: piano-playing wharf rats; Mafia reprobates; fusty councillors; and a handful of cops who can’t shoot straight. It’s a compelling gallery.”
The Toronto Star.
Full review here.

— “Who knew that southern Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe was also a nefarious hotbed of illegal bootlegging, drug peddling, gambling, extortion, roadside slayings, and bullet-riddled bodies sent to sleep with the fishes of the Welland Canal?… Trevor Cole draws on all that material in his entertaining new work of non-fiction.”
Quill and Quire
Full review here.

Advance Praise for The Whisky King:

— “Boardwalk Empire meets Catch Me If You Can in this absorbing, full-throttle account of Rocco Perri – Canada’s Al Capone – and the undercover cop determined to bring him to justice. Trevor Cole serves up an intoxicating Prohibition-era cocktail of rum-running, mob hits, drug smuggling and police corruption. The Whisky King is true-crime writing at its finest.”
— Dean Jobb, author of Empire of Deception

“Calling on his immense gifts as a novelist, Trevor Cole tells the true story of Rocco and Bessie Perri, the “King and Queen of Bootlegging” in Hamilton. With impeccable research, Cole exposes the network of police, customs officers, and politicians who also profited, shattering the myth of Canada as a country addicted to law and order. An illuminating, disturbing, and well-paced read.”             
— Rosemary Sullivan, author of Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva.

“Trevor Cole is a veteran journalist with a novelist’s eye. He deftly lifts mobster Rocco Perri from the lakebottom or grave or wherever he ended up and brings him back to life on the page."
— Peter Edwards, author of Hard Road: Bernie Guindon and the Reign of the Satan's Choice Motorcycle Club.

“Trevor Cole takes readers on a fascinating journey through the Italian Canadian underworld of the early twentieth century. The research is impeccable and the dramatic pace never falters in this intriguing tale of immigrants turning to crime and running rings around the authorities.”
— Charlotte Gray, award-winning author of The Promise of Canada and The Massey Murder

“Trevor Cole is a masterful stylist, and The Whisky King a tall Canadian crime tale that just happens to be true. Popular history at its outsized, plot-driven best.”
— Charles Foran, award-winning author of Mordecai: The Life & Times