Surely, Norman Thomas needs no introduction to the American public; he has been our self-delegated Jimminy Cricket for nigh on to half a century. But the public does need a biography of him like this one--frankly but quietly admiring, warmly (but not too) personal, and thoroughly fascinating in its plethora of little-known historical detail. Socialist candidate in every presidential election from 1928 to 1948, Thomas had the glory as well as the misfortune of being consistently too far ahead of everyone else in his political thinking. ""If I were the leader of a mass party like Britain's Labor Party, I should have had to compromise a great deal,"" he once remarked, ""but since we have no mass party, I can at least afford the luxury of being as honest as possible."" It is a luxury which he has simply wallowed in, all his long, happy life. And while he never won an office, who can say he lost: nearly every cause he fought for is now either law or a prominent plank in both major party platforms. Quibbles might be raised, among them, that too often the author presupposes a familiarity with obscure leftist groups and persons which only another Socialist could be expected to have; but all in all this is a fine, full, old- fashioned biography of a fine, full, old-fashioned American.