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Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long Hardcover – April 4, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (April 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140006354X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400063543
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,063,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

*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 Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 31 customer reviews
Like most demagogues, he never let facts get in his way.
Steve Iaco
It gives a good writer information that has not been available before.
Jean Downs
Long was a fascinating subject, and this book is a pleasure to read.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Robert Hines on April 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed "Kingfish." White provides a wonderfully written and marvelously concise book that reads more like a novel than some dreary historical tome. The story of Huey Long, Louisiana's power-hungry governer and senator, is fast paced, to the point, and refreshingly free of long-winded academic analysis and ten-dollar words. White does not fall into the trap of attempting a psyco-history where he tries to "channel" Huey and read his thoughts. He also doesn't speculate about Huey's real killer or whether or not he was a great democrat or a great dictator. Instead, he uses solid research lay Huey bare and expose his many strengths and weaknesses. For the most part, White steps back and lets the colorful Kingfish tell his own story through his own purple words and scrappy behavior. And what a story it is. Long was loved by thousands and hated by thousands more and did more good - and more harm - to an American state than any leader in our history. Every American should know the story of Huey Long, our country's most outrageous and dangerous politician. For those who know little of the turbulent Kingfish, White's solid biography is the place to start.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By S. Conner on July 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Mr. White's book is a solid condensation of the saga of Huey Long, but as I read this book I couldn't shake the feeling that the book was often just a Cliff Notes version of T. Harry Williams' Pulitzer Prize winning opus. The details that White omits for brevity sake are what makes Williams' book great. Mr. White includes all the major information, but he omits the color that illuminates the players around Huey and by doing so diminishes Huey Long's strengths and weaknesses.

I was not impressed by Mr. White taking a shot at Mr. Williams in the booknotes section...unnecessary and tasteless.

Good but not great. Read this, then go read T. Harry Williams book.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By C. Hutton on April 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Mr. White has written for the causal reader an introduction to the political career of Huey Long. Focusing on his nine years of domination of Louisiana's politics, the biography forgoes an analysis of his formative years to joining the story when Mr. Long was already in his early 30's. The good Mr. Long did early in his career by breaking the power of the corrupt, entrenched power structure in Baton Rouge was undone by his metamorphose into the very evil he had crushed.

This is not the definitive life of Huey Long -- that honor goes to the nearly 1,000 page account by T. Harry Williams nearly a generation ago. And "Kingfish" lacks the poetic license of "All The King's Men" by Robert Penn Warren. But for the reader who desires a readable story and wants the controversial aspects of Huey Long's life laid out, this book will do.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mark Greenbaum on July 22, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Huey P. Long is my favorite political figure of all time. Since I read T. Harry Williams' masterful bio of Long, I've tried to read any and everything about Huey that I can get my hands on. When I saw "Kingfish," I scooped it right up. Admittedly, I may be biased because I think Williams' book is the best political biography ever written and may hold Long bios to a very high standard. In the end, after reading through this book pretty fast - it is less than 300 pages - I liked "Kingfish", and would recommend it to anyone interested in learning about Huey but without the time to read Williams' large text. Further, whereas Williams' book is fairly pro-Long, this book is mostly anti-Huey. Nevertheless, it doesn't hold a candle to "Huey Long" by Williams. It isn't even close.

The book doesn't spend much attention on Huey's early years (he was born in 1893), and focuses on the period from his successful gubernatorial run in 1928, to his Senate election two years late, to his ascension as a national figure, to his assassination in 1935. In between, it provides delicious detailed stories and tidbits of many of Huey's often unbelievable exploits as he ruthlessly conquered every inch of Louisiana and came close to running for President and perhaps endangering FDR's re-election chances in 1936. Beyond that, the book perfectly captures the political and social mood in the Pelican State in Long's day: the sweltering heat, the unrest and bitter hatred Huey engendered in the elite and ruling classes and the equal love and hope he inspired in the long-ignored rural masses, and of course Long's larger than life persona and even bigger ambitions.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Russell A. Carleton on January 28, 2007
Format: Paperback
A biography of Huey Long is going to be dominated by one thing: his megalomaniacal desire for power. It makes for interesting reading in political tactics, but that's really all there was to his life. White is even-handed in his handling with his treatment of Long's excesses, but his prose is a little clunky and repetitive. The problem with a biography on Long (or perhaps just this biography on Long) is that there is little to texture the overally picture of a power-hungry man. There is no underlying complex character to understand. A recommended read for those seeking to understand the dangers of power to excess or people with a romantic attachment to the state of Louisiana or the 1930s.
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