Blanket Fort Radio Theater


SIU Press and WSIU present Blanket Fort Radio Theater, a project highlighting works published by SIU Press. This series includes work from students in the SIUC Creative Writing Program, who have taken SIU Press books and brought them to life. Join us each Thursday for a new installment of Blanket Fort Radio Theater.

Looking for more? Check out Inside the Blanket Fort - a special peek behind the blanket, where you can meet the students creating our series, and learn more about the projects!

After escaping another murder conviction, Charlie Birger is injured in a fight but recovers in a hospital in Herrin, where his wife Beatrice encounters one of his mistresses for the first time.

A complicated man to say the least, bootlegger and murderer Charlie Birger gains a reputation among locals for extreme acts of kindness. However, his deadly temper always lurks beneath the surface.

After Charlie Birger establishes the profitable “Near Bar” in town, Beatrice recalls her husband’s ability to “operate with minimum of interference” due to his weekly payoffs of certain local law enforcement.

In the summer of 1919, Charlie Birger meets and marries 18-year-old Beatrice Bainbridge in Harrisburg, much to the dismay of her parents. Beatrice becomes the reluctant stepmother of Charlie’s daughter Minnie, and the three of them take up residence in Harrisburg.

When police raid a local saloon, Charlie Birger uses it as an opportunity to take down one of his competitors in the liquor business, but not everything goes to plan.

In 1913, southern Illinois bootlegger and former cowboy Charlie Birger moves to the small mining community of Ledford, where he quickly ingratiates himself by selling liquor to the locals and providing them with employment.

However, not all the locals are fond of his breaking the law.

Charles Birger has gone down in southern Illinois history as a bootlegger, enemy of the Ku Klux Klan, and even as the reigning "kingpin of the Saline County underworld" during the Prohibition Era.

In this episode, we meet Charlie as he emigrates from Russia to America, escapes a murder conviction, and settles in southern Illinois, his home for the rest of his life.

WSIU's Jennifer Fuller talks with SIU Press Interim Co-Director Amy Etcheson and SIU Senior Fiction Writer Pinckney Benedict about the new Blanket Fort Radio Theater - a new podcast collaboration between WSIU, SIU Press, and SIUC's Creative Writing Program.