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This should appeal to those who liked Howard Fast's The American almost more than to the usually predictable Irving Stone audience. To be sure, it is reasonable that he should add Politics and Social Problems to his broad canvas of fictional biography:- Art, Marriage, in these lay his greatest popular success. Better from the sales angle than They Also Ran, because the interest is focussed on one character- Eugene Debs; but not in the class with Immortal Wife or Lust for Life. Socialism and the labor problem do not command a wide book market -- and Debs built his life around these two things. The great value of this look lies not in the emotional and occasionally sentimental picture of Debs as a selfless leader, a fiery figure in the labor picture, a man who sacrificed his home, his wife (for long years his private ""adversary in the house""), his family, for the cause- but in the historical aspects of the movement itself in its early struggles. Debs was head of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, as its inspiration, as well as secretary and treasurer; he supported what then seemed lost causes (Robert Ingersoll -- Susan B. Anthony etc.); he was forerunner in advocating unionization of industry rather than craft; he was an external but vital factor in the Pullman strike, in the founding of the I.W.W., he pulled out of his party--split it rather--in his determination to win by pacifism rather than by violence. He served sentence in a federal penitentiary as a pacifist in the last war, (the charge was civil disobedience, under the espionage act) -- and from the penitentiary, where he made a great contribution to the cause of criminals' better treatment, he ran for the sixth time as head of the Socialist ticket for President of the United States. There's a great deal about his private life-his strange marriage, his great love, his family oneness, his associates- yes, even his weaknesses (though lightly). In the main it is a movingly sympathetic picture of Debs, the man, Debs the symbol. And it contains some of Irving Stone's best writing.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1947
Publisher: Doubleday