Outrageous demagogue or charismatic visionary? In this powerful new biography, Richard D. White, Jr., brings Huey Long to life in all his blazing, controversial glory. From the moment he took office as governor in 1928 to the day an assassin's bullet cut him down in 1935, Huey Long wielded all but dictatorial control over the state of Louisiana. A man of shameless ambition and ruthless vindictiveness, Huey orchestrated elections, hired and fired thousands at will, and deployed the state militia as his personal police force. And yet, paradoxically, as governor and later as senator, Huey did more good for the state's poor and uneducated than any politician before or since.With Kingfish, White has crafted a balanced, lucid, and absolutely spellbinding portrait of the life and times of the most incendiary figure in American politics.
"LSU professor White's latest is lively and well researched." (Publishers Weekly)
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I got through it and I learned things, but there was a real dichotomy between the more-or-less dry recitation of facts and perfunctory retellings of anecdotes and the more forceful editorializing. The editorial position doesn't bother me -- I suspect I'd reach the same conclusions -- but it's how he arrived at them (abruptly) rather than what he said. Some of the strongest writing was in those editorial chapters, but it was all overview without giving any *life* to the facts that support it. I recently finished two biographies of John Brown and I feel like I have a better understanding of who he was as a person and what he was like to be around than I do this man who lived so much more recently.
It feels like White wrote the summary materials first and then decided to relate the minimal number of facts an anecdotes necessary to support the conclusions. And if that seems like I'm just repeating myself, now you know how it feels to listen to this book.
I'm not a stickler for straight chronological narration by any extent, but another thing that annoyed me was White's tendency to silo threads of events. It seems that one of the remarkable things about Huey Long was his ability to handle more than one thing at a time and keep a lot of balls in the air, but that's lost in his telling of the story. Early chapters talk about things that happened much later in life, but when a later chapter deals with the same era it talks about different events and never makes a connection to (if even an acknowledgement of) the other set of events that must have happened around the same time.
If you don't know anything about Huey Long (and I didn't know much when I started) this is probably an OK overview. But I'm going to look for something with a little more meat.
He tried to bring some life to some fairly dry stuff. The only thing I'd point out is that the town of Natchitoches, LA is pronounced "NAC-a-towsh" and not the way it was being pronounced in the reading.
I'm going to find another biography of Huey Long
Not a wasted credit by any means. Just wished it had been better.
- Tom Streeter
Excellenf follow up to All the King's Men!