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Publisher's Summary

Robert Penn Warren, America's first Poet Laureate, penned one of the most widely read works in American literature with the Pulitzer Prize-winning All the King's Men. An unrivaled novel of American politics, Warren's masterpiece is a classic tale every bit as relevant today as it was upon its release more than 50 years ago.

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; 1974 Robert Penn Warren (P)2005 Recorded Books

Critic Reviews

  • Audie Award Finalist, Literary Fiction, 2007

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

people & politics

a classic exploration of the complexities of personality, power, character, good and evil. the writing is sublime and the narration is wonderful. i found myself stopping the play just to think about the implications of the author's observations on characters and events. it is a novel of it's time and uses the vernacular of its time. that, too, is something to ponder and to assess for ourselves how much we believe that we as individuals or society have changed.
very thought provoking. i know i will come back to listen to this again.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Cheimon
  • New York, NY USA
  • 10-12-08

Beautifully presented

This is a wonderfully moving, insightful presentation of the novel, treating the characters with tenderness as they are being torn apart. That said - this is not an audiobook for the casual listener, the novel demands attention. If you are like me, and listen to audiobooks while walking on busy streets, relying on an author to dwell on important plot points long enough for you to hear them eventually (think Tolstoy), you will find yourself rewinding All The King's Men a lot.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


This is an outstanding reading of a great piece of literature. I can't add to 60 years of literary reviews praising this Pulitzer winning classic, but I can compliment Michael Emerson's reading of it. Mr. Emerson's reading is a perfect fit for what is unquestionably a great work of American Literature. His pacing, intonation, and articulation of Warren’s beautiful use of our language enhance the experience of this excellent book.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Marvelously written and read

This is a great novel. You probably already know that. What you may not know is that this audiobook production is top-notch. The narrator is spot on, capturing the poetry of the writing and the tone of the south. Just a fantastic package of writing and narration.

Highly recommended.

22 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • David
  • Hendersonville, NC, USA
  • 08-17-09

Beautiful Prose

Every now and then you happen upon a book that makes you just stop and listen. This is it. The prose is beautiful. It is not an "action" book it is a book to savour. If I could only ever listen to one book this would be it

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • David
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 12-20-11

It ain't that simple

I find it really difficult to characterize this book because it is so complex and textured, probing the ever present ambiguities of good and evil in our motivations and actions and rejecting all the simplistic drivel which allows us to choose sides so easily both in politics and in life. Penn Warren makes it clear that nothing is that simple, though it may not make much difference since our hearts usually drive us to make our choices and live with them and perhaps justify them later.

While I recognize that this is a brilliant book, I gave the story four stars because I actually found the first person, central character's struggle a little tiresome by the end. I think I might have tolerated it somewhat better if I were still thirty seven. On the other hand, watching through his eyes as Willie Stark/Huey P. Long carries all before him toward his inevitable destiny is fascinating and completely absorbing. He comes across as an American original and anything but simple.

As noted by most other reviewers, Michael Emerson's rendering of the book is brilliant throughout. One of the really great audible book performances I have heard.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Ted
  • Lancaster, PA, United States
  • 12-15-10

My standard of excellence

This is, to date (Dec 2010), the finest book Ito which I have listened. Every award, every compliment, every praise that Warren accumulated for All The King's Men is deserved. To say that Michael Emerson is up to this work is to say that his interpretive performance is stunning. The tale is timeless and the masterpiece taken as a whole will haunt a listener who is sufficiently mature to value the entirety of its nuance. Every other book I hear will be judged against All The King's Men.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 07-22-17

Read this even if you didn't like the Movie

I had put off reading this book for years because I had seen the old movie many years ago. The movie was not bad, but did not inspire me to read the book. Nevertheless this was on the Modern Library top 100 list I have been going through so I gave it a listen. The book is a true classic and the movie does not do it justice, Subtle and moving with a very different emotional outlook. The prose are outstanding and the story is engaging, both real and allegorical.

This is a great book for the age of Trump. The story tells of a population sickened by a corrupt political system turning to a strongman populist willing to do whatever it takes to get things done.

This is a great book worth reading and re-reading. The narration is spectacular, expressing the inner states of the narrator as the novel progresses. There have been quite a few great reads on the Modern Library list, and this is one of the best so far.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • B.J.
  • Minneapolis, MN, United States
  • 05-19-11

I expected politics, but got life intead

No wonder this book is on every "Best Books of the 20th Century" list you see. It's brilliant. I knew it was based loosely on Huey Long, so I expected politics. What I didn't expect was the shift about a third of the way into the book into life: love, loss, betrayal, disappointment, loyalty and more. I can't say more than the thousands of reviews already say. It's beautifully written and the narration suits it perfectly.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Fantastic, but a little too Long.

Robert Penn Warren was something of a god among men during his career. He was both a novelist and a poet, and he was literally great at both. This is his masterpiece. It is the story of Huey Long, the governor of Louisiana during the 1930s, and a PR man named Jack Burden. Long is given the name Willie Stark. The actual governor's election slogan was "Every man a king," which might give you something of an idea of what a master of political rhetoric he was. He was a mercurial man, a mighty politician, loved by many and scorned by many for the corruption of his administration. The twin stories of Jack and Willie are brilliantly intertwined. Michael Emerson is a truly wonderful narrator. His ability to convey all the characters of this rich story is remarkable. His Southern accents are perfect. His portrayal of Willie as a man of profound gifts is just magnificent: we are lucky to be able to listen to such a performance.
The stories of Willie Stark and Jack Burden are a bit too long (sorry for the pun), and a sub-plot involving the history of Cass Mastern et al is really a distraction. Jack's mother is a perfect southern archetype: from the hills of Arkansas to New Orleans society by way of both her fragile beauty and her steely wiles with men, Jack shows us a picture of his mother that is poignant and startling. Warren creates a panoply of actors who are fully ranged from low-life slimy craven Southern politicians to the intellectual and incorruptible Judge Irwin, to the triangular relationship among Jack, and Adam and Anne Stanton. This book is really way too wonderful to depict it with credibility in a brief review; I could go on for pages, but I'll spare you. The two most important women in Willie's life, his wife Lucy and his white-hot political assistant Sadie Burke: both of them are in their own ways tormented by Willie's gigantic appetites. Warren's gifts are so many that it's arbitrary to list just a few. His ability to show us what politics really was like at the time, so full of human ambition, frailty, corruption, double- and triple-dealing; it is like having a front row seat to one of the greatest dramas of the twentieth century. Many Northerners know little about the real South; listening to Warren's work and Emerson's amazing performance provides us with the absolute best in learning by being entertained. You have to commit a number of hours to this book, but it is one of the most worthwhile commitments you can make. I can't imagine any Audible reader not loving this book. Really.

21 of 26 people found this review helpful