The fictionalized account of Louisiana's colorful and notorious governor, Huey Pierce Long, All the King's Men follows the startling rise and fall of Willie Stark, a country lawyer in the Deep South of the 1930s. Beset by political enemies, Stark seeks aid from his right-hand man, Jack Burden, who will bear witness to the cataclysmic unfolding of this very American tragedy.
©1946 Robert Penn Warren; renewed 1974 Robert Penn Warren; (P)2005 Recorded Books
"The definitive novel about American politics." (The New York Times)
"Mr. Warren has employed vivid characterization and strong language combined with subtle overtones to write a vital, compelling narrative." (Booklist)
"Michael Emerson's performance brings the characters to life with verve and personality....Through a mix of understatement and intensity, Emerson clearly conveys the political turmoil underlying the book; his performance perfectly complements the story, which is as timely as it was 60 years ago....Emerson's reading does justice to a great work." (AudioFile)
Cranky elderly writer/copy editor
This book takes its own sweet time getting to the point, but along the way you will realize that all those seemingly tangential observations spring these larger-than-life characters. They give the book its immediacy and compelling plot. Robert Penn Warren drew the characters with infinite care, and Michael Emerson voices those words perfectly.
Great book, great story. This is the fictionalized version of the greatest showman politician ever. Crooked as a can of worms, but completely honest about it! Only in Louisiana could you find politics so unabashedly corrupt and completely successful all at the same time! Loved it !!
This is an awesome audio book. The novel is excellent but the narration is superb --- the best I have listened to so far. The narrator is a brilliant artist. The novel is complex and serious work of art. It is for adults--- not for children. It is poetic, profound, and dazzling.
One master-passion in the br east, like Aaron's serpent, swallows all the rest. A. Pope
Robert Penn Warren began this novel shortly after the assassination of U.S. Sen. Huey P. Long (LA), the popular, populist 42-yr-old senator and former Louisiana governor, nicknamed the Kingfish. Warren had been teaching at LSU for a year when Long died. Warren acknowledged that the novel is loosely based on the Kingfish, and the name apparently comes from Long's motto, "Every Man a King."
The novel covers the political rise and fall of the fictional Willie Stark, who came from modest roots as a small town lawyer and made it into office as a populist before the Depression to be elected twice as governor of a Southern state. Warren left references to location intentionally vague and even talked about coming in from the beach at a close-by vacation home (Louisiana has no beaches, only wetlands leading into the Gulf of Mexico).
Jack Burden, the novel's narrator, was a former newspaper columnist and history student before taking the position of Governor Stark's right hand man. As a narrator and participant in the ongoing tragedy, he is exceedingly dispassionate even as he witnesses the tragedy unfold and should suffer mightily from two betrayals. Maybe RP Warren was going for the shock or sense of bewilderment a reader may feel about the narrator seemingly not initially affected by occurrences that would likely devastate any normal person.
This is not simply a political novel as I thought (and Warren said he didn't intend it to be one). It is more about all actions having consequences, intended or not; it's about accepting responsibility for one's actions; it's about how a boy can be affected by the identity of his father; about many and various forms betrayal can take and how each form can affect both the one betrayed and the betrayer. ALL THE KING'S MEN nicely covers all the seven deadlies, particularly the Big Five of pride, greed, envy, lust and wrath.
Two quotes from the novel that I think best hit on the various themes of this classic:
"Politics is a matter of choices, and a man doesn't set up the choices himself. And there is always a price to make a choice. You know that. You've made a choice, and you know how much it cost you. There is always a price.”
“...the air so still it aches like ... like your heart in the bosom when you stand on the street corner waiting for the light to change and happen to recollect how things once were and how they might have been yet if what happened had not happened.”
I have to admit that I sort of tuned out a couple of times when the author/narrator trailed off into 5-or-so-minute abstruse ramblings. I've had a sinus headache this week and didn't feel like concentrating too much on the meaning of life in relation to space and time.
That said, I enjoyed the book immensely for its political nature, its place and time and its exploration of these various themes.
PS: The quote in the heading of this review is from Junior Wells' "Kingfish Blues."
I found this novel to be one of the most amazing literary experiences I've ever had. I concur with another review, there's nothing I can add to what has been said of this wonderful novel. I will compliment Michael Emerson here, as have others. His reading was compelling, draws the listener into the story, and brings the images to life. If I were to recommend only one audiobook to a friend, this would be it.
Yes, this is a classic political novel, but it is so much more than that. It is about the South and America in the early 20th century, coming of age and life in general. A good book and a good audio production.
This is a fabulous novel of life and love even more than it is of politics or the south or an era.
Apparently some feel that the language and morals in the book is offensive; I strenuously disagree. This is moral artistry of the highest order, with a richness of portrait and reflection on its themes that is superb and subtle.
Wonderfully written, excellently narrated, this is a great book that is greatly underrated.
Retired Political Science professor from a community college. Especially like Legal Thrillers.
This well written novel is based on the life of Huey Long. I had intended to read it long ago, but never got to it. Decided that the time was right when Donald Trump, another populist, announced that he was running for President, The book was very well written but it concentrated too much on the people around "The Kingfish" rather than the King himself. Robert Penn Warren does a great job of character development, no wonder he won the Pulitzer for the work.
An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.
"Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something...”
I loved the lyrical writing in this story of Willie Stark and Jack Burden. It was a beautiful tragedy and the only reason I give it 4 stars is the fact that it has a happy ending which does not fit the tone of the rest of the novel.
Based loosely on Louisiana Governor Huey Long's life and death this book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1947.
It has wonderful characters and the storyline is consistent and enlightening on the South of the 30's to 40's. Instead of feeling like a dated story it feels like you have stepped back in time and been welcomed in with open arms.
The narrator does a good job on this book.
It's a classic that you will never forget.
In a long life of reading, I have always known of this book, but thought it wasn't for me. Pegged as the Great American Political Novel, it sounded limited to me. If I want to read about American politics, I'll read non-fiction. I have had just the wonderful experience, at 69, of reading one of the most interesting novels of my life for the first time! And better yet, it comes from my own country, in my own language, and written not long before I was born. I'm saying all this to convey how personal this book feels. I feel my parents, myself, and my children in this book, even though our personal details have no similarity to anything in the book. And beware, there is NOTHING comforting here. What a book. And well read.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.