A thriller about the exciting rise and fall of the Purple Gang in 1920s Detroit.

W. K. Berger is an award-winning journalist and author whose work has been featured in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, Esquire, GQ, Reader’s Digest, NBC’s Today Show, and ABC World News. His books have been published internationally by Penguin and Random House.

Click here to read a Q & A with the author.

And if you want to know why I decided to self-publish this novel, see this interview:

Visit the author page at Amazon. Questions? Comments? Click here to contact the author. Click here for the full list of author acknowledgments. *



Brief Q & A with the author

Tell us a little about yourself.

After many years writing feature articles for national publications such as The New York Times, The L.A. Times, and Wired, as well as several nonfiction books for Penguin, Random House, and other publishers, I plunged into writing my first novel. I hope it's as fun to read as it was to write.

How long did it take to write the book?
The story first came to my attention in 2001. I initially wrote it up as a screenplay, but after early interest from a film producer fell through, I decided that the material was so rich that it cried out to be a novel. Turns out writing a novel is a MUCH more intense endeavor than a screenplay. The book went through several revisions, including a recasting of the story into first-person voice upon the suggestion of an editor I worked with. It got stronger with each rewrite, to the point that I was very happy with it and my agent took it around to the New York publishing houses. An editor at a top publisher compared The Purples to Billy Bathgate, but in the end the book didn't get picked up by publishers, primarily it seemed for marketing reasons. Apparently, "men aren't reading stories like this anymore." Obviously, I beg to differ.

What inspired you to write the book?
The idea for THE PURPLES came out of a long-ago family connection to the infamous Purple Gang, a wild group of Jewish rumrunners who ruled Detroit during Prohibition. (My connection is to the man who took them down.) I was intrigued by this gang: Why purple? Where did they come from? And why did they disappear so completely? With some facts and a lot of imagination, I chronicle the gang's swift rise and fall through the voice of their smart, cynical, and slightly self-delusional leader, Joe Bernstein. I also manage to sneak in quite a bit of social commentary about the repressive effects of the Prohibition era and the controversial actions of Henry Ford.

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

I needed to get a good grasp of Detroit in its 1920s heyday and I made several visits to Detroit, but of course saw only the mere remnants of what once was dubbed "the Paris of the West." The river and Canada are still there, however, and it was fun seeing the old piers and imagining all the hidden coves and caves of the bootleggers. I also did a lot of armchair research on the period and the people, and found that The Detroit News and the Detroit Public Library have wonderful archives. The friend who first told me about the Purples, Kevin Walsh, is an amateur Detroit historian and he had a treasure trove of old articles, too. The writing was an every day, multi-year project, but I did regular article writing jobs in between writing the novel, and even co-authored several nonfiction books.

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
This book is designed to be pure entertainment. So I hope readers come away greatly entertained. But they'll also learn about Detroit in its heyday and the disastrous effects of intolerance. Bad things were done to Joe Bernstein, the main character, which in turn led to some bad actions on his part.


Visit the author page at Amazon. Questions? Comments? Click here to contact the author. Click here for the full list of author acknowledgments. *



Free Purples EBook
Audiobook info

Awards for The Purples

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Word on the street

I can only imagine what the Detroit papers will eventually have to say about us Purples, but these reviews will have to do for now.


Plot summary

Shunned by our community… locked up for helping an innocent girl… ambushed by rivals and left for dead in the Detroit River: Yeah, there are a few plots to summarize. Read more…

Why purple? button

Why purple?

People will always try to label you. We wore it like a badge of honor.

Elvis button

Jailhouse Rock

I could tell straight off that Presley was a hick and he was full of questions, two things I don’t like.

Detroit button

Good old Detroit

Someone has to tell the truth about what happened in Detroit back in the days when it still mattered what happened in Detroit.


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