The first full-length biography of the immensely productive and influential author, attorney, activist, and former editor of the Nation. A long-overdue book on the brilliant life and career of one of our greatest public intellectuals, American Prophet will introduce Carey McWilliams to a new generation of readers. Peter Richardson's absorbing and elegantly paced book maps the evolution of McWilliams through a deft interplay of correspondence, personal details about McWilliams and his professional and social milieu, McWilliams's own diary notes, his published writings, and his own and others' observations on a colorful and influential cast of characters from Hollywood, New York, Washington, D.C., and the American West. Among those making an appearance are H. L. Mencken (McWilliams's mentor and role model), Louis Adamic, John Fante, Robert Towne, Richard Nixon, Studs Terkel, J. Edgar Hoover, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Joseph McCarthy. "American Prophet" illustrates the arc of McWilliams's life and career, from his early writing through his law, business, and political careers in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, to his two decades as editor of the Nation.
This book makes the case for McWilliams's place in the Olympian realm of our most influential and prescient political writers. McWilliams was deeply involved in a wide array of social issues throughout his life: labor and race problems in Southern California, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, McCarthy's anti-communist witch hunt, and Richard Nixon's decline and fall. Anyone concerned about civil liberties during wartime, immigration, the environment, inequality, racial and ethnic diversity, and declining civic participation should read this book.