27 July 2009

Great Lines in Children's Literature: Sam, Bangs & Moonshine

“Sam said her mother was a mermaid, when everyone knew she was dead.”

Sam, Bangs & Moonshine (Evaline Ness)

Now that is a great sentence. That is children's literature.

I was going to leave it at that, but then when I googled "Evaline Ness", I found out that she was married to Eliot Ness, the man who brought down Al Capone. WHAT?! Why this was never mentioned in The Untouchables?! It would have added an interesting dimension to the movie: Evaline trying to write/illustrate her children's books while dodging bullets from Capone's thugs. She could have even asked Sean Connery to proofread a draft for her. How much would you pay to hear Connery read the following passage?

"Moonshine was a mermaid-mother, a fierce lion, a chariot drawn by dragons, and certainly a baby kangaroo. It was all flummadiddle just as Bangs had told her."

Seriously, it would be worth the price of admission just to hear Connery say "flummadiddle". That would have wrapped up the Oscar for him right there.

I was always curious about Ness's choice of the word "moonshine" for the book... now, knowing her prominent role in the prohibition era, I only have more (and much more interesting) questions. Her husband was famous for his quest to enforce prohibition... yet in the book, Evaline has the line:

"There's good MOONSHINE and bad MOONSHINE," he said. "The important thing is to know the difference."

Was Evaline revealing her own moral misgivings surrounding her husband's role in the prohibition era?

Did her famous law enforcement husband share these same doubts with her behind closed doors?

Did the Ness's partake in a little moonshine themselves? Perhaps at a speakeasy called the Mermaid Mother?

Or was the book (which was printed in 1966, 20 years after her divorce from Eliot Ness) meant to be a not-so-subtle jab at her famous ex-husband?

These questions must be answered! I think it's high time the historians stepped to the plate and did some serious digging...


Saints and Spinners said...

I'd like to see the original draft of Sam, Bangs and Moonshine (hint hint).

Minh said...

and the sequel: Sam, Bangs and Hangover.