Kurtz (History/Southeastern Louisiana Univ.) and Peoples (retired: History/Louisiana Technical Univ.) make extensive use of FBI files obtained under the Freedom of Information Act in this in-depth, engrossing biography of the former Louisiana governor. Though at times too admiring and forgiving, the authors vividly provide some insight into the seedier aspects of Long's life, including his connections to organized crime, his bitter rivalry with his older brother Huey, ""The Kingfish,"" his wild relationship with stripper Blaze Starr, and his ""breakdowns"" and confinement in mental institutions later in his controversial career. In the shadow of his more famous brother both historically and personally, Earl Long is nonetheless an important and fascinating political figure. The authors begin with his early career as a lawyer and travelling salesman--of patent medicines. Long's early political experience was gained by campaigning for his brother, as he learned the ins and outs of ""politicking"" and financing. As passionate and entertaining a speaker as his brother, and as popular in some circles, Earl's rivalry with Huey became public knowledge in the early 1930's when Earl ran for lieutenant governor on an anti-Huey campaign. Despite the bad blood (he even testified against Huey in a 1933 Senate investigation), Earl was devastated at his brother's assassination in 1935. When he became lieutenant governor in 1936 and, finally, governor in 1948, it was on his own merit and in great measure on positions opposed to those of Huey. The authors contend that, despite the controversies and his contributions to ""the most corrupt political system in the nation,"" Earl Long was a progressive and effective governor and an early champion of civil rights--that he had a ""genuine commitment to improving the lives of the people."" Probably too sympathetic to be definitive, but still a fascinating character study and a telling look at a political system gone awry.