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Dark Horse: A Biography of Wendell Willkie Paperback – October 10, 1989

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Product Details

  • Series: Biography of Wendell Willkie
  • Paperback: 383 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas (October 10, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700604537
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700604531
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #366,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A masterly biography." -- Chicago Tribune Book World

"A warm, readable biography that reminds us why so many people wanted Willkie." -- American Heritage

"An engaging, thorough narrative of Willkie's life." -- The New Republic

"Not merely fine biography or history, it's a damned good yarn--well worth reading just for the fun of it." -- Newsday

"Willkie's maverick but meteoric career is set forth crisply in this fast-moving, carefully documented biography." -- Los Angeles Times

From the Back Cover

"Dark Horse is a superb book. I read it avidly. . . . There are a lot of lessons here for modern times."--President George Bush

"In this fascinating and detailed chronicle of Willkie's life, Steve Neal has captured the man as he was and as I remember him: his warmth, vitality, and appeal."--William L. Shirer

"A lovely portrait of one of the most vivid characters of recent times . . . a study not only of the man but of America and its problems in a time of change."--Theodore H. White

"A highly readable biography of one of the most colorful and significant figures of the Roosevelt era"--Frank Freidel

"Seldom is a nearly forgotten figure in American history brought to life again in such a burst of light and excitement as Steve Neal's Willkie. Willkie was the only Republican lion since Teddy Roosevelt, and his roars echo through this marvelous account."--Robert J. Donovan

"Necessary reading for anyone who would like to understand Willkie himself and, even more important, the tumultuous times during which he lived."--John S. D. Eisenhower

"Neal's sprightly prose is irresistible. A wonderful portrait of a Hoosier."--Robert H. Ferrell

More About the Author

Steve Neal served as a law enforcement officer in Virginia for 29 years. During his tenure he was fortunate to experience a wide range of assignments which included Uniform Operations, Criminal Investigations, Covert Operations, Director of the Emergency Communications Center, Director of Training, Support Services Commander, and Inspector for the Office of Professional Standards. He has comprehensive knowledge on the subject of selection and development of a public safety workforce, expertise regarding covert investigations, and a special affinity for media relations.

Steve's distinguished law enforcement career includes many awards and commendations. He is proud of his reputation as a "cop's cop," a leader who places the welfare of those under his command as his top priority. He is respected by those who have served with him, and has been a mentor and coach to many officers. Steve is well known as a man of strong values, straight talk, and true to his word. Rebelling against injustice since childhood, he embodies the doctrine, "When you're right you fight," regardless of political consequences.

Steve was the architect of Public Safety University (PSU), which was a partnership between the public safety community and the University of Richmond. Well over two-hundred officers obtained Bachelor and/or Master degrees through the PSU program.

Co-founder and partner of the Leatherman & Neal public safety consulting team, Steve enjoys providing leadership training for peace officers. In addition to his consultancy, he currently works as a media contributor; furnishing analysis, consultation, and crime commentary for television broadcasters.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 10 customer reviews
If he had lived, he'd have given McCarthy a good fight, I think.
Sheila Dreckman
Neal's book discusses Willkie's astonishing rise to the Republican nomination.
Robin Friedman
It is rare for a political biography to be fully engaging throughout.
Jason Matthews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Thomas C. Quinn on October 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
American history has produced a number of colorful and intriguing individuals who have lost the presidential election. Wendell Willkie, while possessing much of the intellectual gravity of a Stevenson and the charisma of a Goldwater or LaFollete, differs from them in at least one crucial respect: he was not a professional politician and in fact never held any elected office, only running for the same when he ran for President in 1940 and briefly again in 1944. Willkie's politics also do not fit the mold, as he was far from a traditional party standard bearer, but rather advocated "liberal" policies at odds with the conservative hidebounds views of the Republicans, particularly during the era preceding the Second World War, that great conflict being what propelled Willkie into his unique place in American history.

Willkie came from modest roots in the midwest, his father being a small town lawyer in Elwood, Indiana to where he returned to officially kick off his presidential campaign in 1940 in a scene straight out of Norman Rockwell. Willkie's politics were those of a liberal Woodrow Wilson democrat without the racism of the former, but as a corporate lawyer, first in Akron and then in New York, he took on what he saw as the excesses of the New Deal in regulating business. This activity, particularly his attempts to reign in the Tennesee Valley Authority resulted in his being made president of the utilities giant, Commonwealth & Southern, resulting in his becoming a national public figure.

The growing clouds of war caused great concern to Willkie who felt that America must not abandon Europe and Britain to Nazi Germany.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jason Matthews on June 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
This was simply one of the finest political biographies I have ever read. 'Dark Horse' stands out for two reasons: 1) it has a fast-paced and lucid narrative that reads almost like a novel and 2) it brings Willkie and his times to vivid life. It is rare for a political biography to be fully engaging throughout. However, 'Dark Horse' is one of those rare biographies.

This book is truly a tour de force of political biography. And, it a fitting testament to a true American hero who awakened a nation to the dangers of Hitler at one of history's most perilous hours.

Highly recommended for all.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael T Kennedy VINE VOICE on August 9, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the third book I have read about Wendell Willkie since I read Amity Schlaes' history of the Great Depression, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. She describes the battle between Willkie and Roosevelt as the former tried to defend private enterprise from the New Dealers who were determined to nationalize the electric power industry. I highly recommend her book but it got me reading about Willkie. I remember my father telling me about the 1940 election. Most people who know anything about it, remember that Roosevelt won by a large majority (449 to 82) in the electoral college. What they do not realize is that it was much closer and a change of 600,000 votes could have shifted enough states to Willkie for him to win.

The Republican Party of 1940 was not quite a bad as it is shown in a recent novel, The Plot Against America, suggesting that Charles Lindberg could have been the nominee. Still, it was adamantly isolationist. Willkie was a wealthy lawyer and CEO of an electric utility who decided to run for president in spite of never having held public office. This biography describes, not only his run for the presidency, but his life and, tragically, the promise of his future had he lived. After the 1940 election, Roosevelt asked him to embark on several exhaustive and dangerous world tours to gather information. He traveled around the world meeting Stalin, the Shah of Iran, General Montgomery in Egypt and even Chaing Kai Shek.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
Many years ago, I became fascinated with Wendell Willkie (1892 -- 1944) by reading "They Also Ran" They Also Ran, Irving Stone's famous account of defeated presidential candidates. Willkie's story inspired me greatly, and I read a substantial amount about him when I was too young to understand. Then, after many years and much change in me in between, I read David Levering Lewis' perceptive account of Willkie in an essay included in a study of various American leaders edited by Walter Isaacson, "Profiles in Leadership" Profiles in Leadership: Historians on the Elusive Quality of Greatness. Lewis' essay made me want to revist Willkie again. I found Steve Neal's biography, "Dark Horse", published in 1984 and now unhappily out of print. Neal (1949 -- 2004) was a person of my own generation. He was a political writer and columnist for the Chicago Tribune before his unfortunate death. I was happy to learn something of Neal as well as of Willkie in this moving biography.

Willkie was indeed the quintessential "Dark Horse" presidential candidate. Although he had never held political office and had been a registered Democrat until mid-1939, Willkie captured the 1940 Republican nomination. He mounted an aggressive campaign (in which he toured the United States in a rail car and yelled himself hoarse) against Roosevelt, who was running for an unprecedented third term, and did relatively well in terms of popular vote even though he lost decisively in the electoral college. Willkie ran as a liberal Republican against the Republican Old Guard which in 1940 was strongly isolationist.
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