From Publishers Weekly
The inspiration for Robert Penn Warren's demagogue in All the King's Men
, Huey Long was Louisiana's governor, then U.S. senator and controlled virtually every aspect of the state government from 1929 until he was shot to death in 1935 at age 42. Long used the same skills he had honed as a charming traveling salesman for a lard substitute to appeal directly to potential voters and bypass the powerful political bosses. He filled the ranks of government employees with his own supporters, shamelessly appointing his brother as a tax collector even though he had promised to abolish the post and use the money for a TB hospital. Long may have started out as a populist with the admirable goal of providing free textbooks to schoolchildren, but squandering resources and lining his own pockets, he created Louisiana's first income tax.. Supposedly pro-labor, Long put the kibosh on pensions, unemployment insurance and a minimum wage. Crude and vindictive, Long had his eye on the presidency, influenced an Arkansas U.S. senate race and may have been killed by a "trigger-happy" bodyguard aiming at an attacker and not by an assassin's gun. LSU professor White's (Roosevelt the Reformer
, etc.) latest is lively and well researched but isn't as groundbreaking as the biography by William Ivy Hair or as authoritative as Pulitzer-winner T. Harry Williams's. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW
. (On sale Apr. 4)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Huey P. Long ranks as one of the most simultaneously loved and hated political figures in American history (one of those who despised him being none other than President Franklin Roosevelt). New source material affords LSU professor White the opportunity to not so much replace the classic and Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Huey P. Long,
by T. Harry Williams (1968), as position his new book next to it, on equal professional and readability footing. The author allots one chapter per year (1927-35) through the years in which Long literally reigned over Louisiana politics, first as governor and then as U.S. senator (a reign that ended abruptly when Long was assassinated in the Louisiana capitol building). Readers witness an amazing coalescence of personal power by a character who neurotically insisted on being at the center of every conversation and room, the state of Louisiana, and, if he could have arranged it, the nation. Developed here is a record of dictatorship amazing to behold in this democratic-founded country as Long crudely but effectively gathered the executive, legislative, and political branches of Louisiana government into his own hands. Individuals moved by an absolute thirst for control are at once discomfiting and alluring to read about, and White's careful, straightforward, and sound picture of this American original will do nothing less than disturb and fascinate readers. Brad HooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved