Fast, Howard (Melvin) 1914-2003
FAST, Howard (Melvin) 1914-2003
(E. V. Cunningham, Walter Erickson, Walter Ericson)
PERSONAL: Born November 11, 1914, in New York, NY; died March 12, 2003, in Old Greenwich, CT; son of Barney (an ironworker, cable car gripper, tin factory worker, and dress factory cutter) and Ida (a homemaker; maiden name, Miller) Fast; married Bette Cohen (a painter and sculptor), June 6, 1937 (died November, 1994); married Mimi O'Connor, June 17, 1999; children: (first marriage) Rachel, Jonathan; stepchildren: three. Education: Attended National Academy of Design. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: "Home, my family, the theater, the film, and the proper study of ancient history. And the follies of mankind."
CAREER: Worked at several odd jobs and as a page in the New York Public Library prior to 1932; writer, beginning 1932. Foreign correspondent for Esquire and Coronet, 1945. Taught at Indiana University, 1947; member of World Peace Council, 1950-55; American Labor Party candidate for U.S. Congress, 23rd New York District, 1952; owner, Blue Heron Press, New York, 1952-57; film writer, 1958-67; chief news writer, Voice of America, 1982-84. Gave numerous lectures and made numerous appearances on radio and television programs. Military service: Affiliated with U.S. Office of War Information, 1942-44; correspondent with special Signal Corps unit and war correspondent in China-India-Burma theater, 1945.
MEMBER: Century Club, Fellowship of Reconciliation.
AWARDS, HONORS: Bread Loaf Literary Award, 1937; Schomberg Award for Race Relations, 1944, for Freedom Road; Newspaper Guild award, 1947; National Jewish Book Award, Jewish Book Council, 1949, for My Glorious Brothers; International Peace Prize from the Soviet Union, 1954; Screenwriters annual award, 1960; annual book award, National Association of Independent Schools, 1962; American Library Association notable book citation, 1972, for The Hessian; Emmy Award for outstanding writing in a drama series, American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1975, for episode "The Ambassador," Benjamin Franklin; Literary Lions Award, New York Public Library, 1985; Prix de la Policia (France), for books under name E. V. Cunningham.
Two Valleys, Dial (New York, NY), 1933.
Strange Yesterday, Dodd (New York, NY), 1934.
Place in the City, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1937.
Conceived in Liberty: A Novel of Valley Forge, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1939.
The Last Frontier, Duell, Sloan & Pearce (New York, NY), 1941, reprinted, North Castle Books (Armonk, NY), 1997.
The Romance of a People, Hebrew Publishing (New York, NY), 1941.
Lord Baden-Powell of the Boy Scouts, Messner (New York, NY), 1941.
Haym Salomon, Son of Liberty, Messner (New York, NY), 1941.
The Unvanquished, Duell, Sloan & Pearce (New York, NY), 1942, reprinted, M. E. Sharpe (Armonk, NY), 1997.
The Tall Hunter, Harper (New York, NY), 1942.
(With wife, Bette Fast) The Picture-Book History of the Jews, Hebrew Publishing (New York, NY), 1942.
Goethals and the Panama Canal, Messner (New York, NY), 1942.
Citizen Tom Paine, Duell, Sloan & Pearce (New York, NY), 1943.
The Incredible Tito, Magazine House (New York, NY), 1944.
Tito and His People, Contemporary Publishers (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada), 1944.
Freedom Road, Duell, Sloan & Pearce (New York, NY), 1944, new edition with foreword by W. E. B. DuBois, introduction by Eric Foner, M. E. Sharpe (Armonk, NY), 1995.
Patrick Henry and the Frigate's Keel, and Other Stories of a Young Nation, Duell, Sloan & Pearce (New York, NY), 1945.
The American: A Middle Western Legend, Duell, Sloan & Pearce (New York, NY), 1946.
(With William Gropper) Never Forget: The Story of the Warsaw Ghetto, Book League of the Jewish Fraternal Order, 1946.
(Editor) Thomas Paine, Selected Works, Modern Library (New York, NY), 1946.
The Children, Duell, Sloan & Pearce (New York, NY), 1947.
(Editor) Theodore Dreiser, Best Short Stories, World Publishing (New York, NY), 1947.
Clarkton, Duell, Sloan & Pearce (New York, NY), 1947.
My Glorious Brothers, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1948, new edition, Hebrew Publications (New York, NY), 1977.
Departure and Other Stories, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1949.
Intellectuals in the Fight for Peace, Masses & Mainstream (New York, NY), 1949.
The Proud and the Free, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1950.
Literature and Reality, International Publishers (New York, NY), 1950.
Spartacus, Blue Heron (New York, NY), 1951, reprinted with new introduction, North Castle Books (Armonk, NY), 1996.
Peekskill, U.S.A.: A Personal Experience, Civil Rights Congress (New York, NY), 1951.
(Under pseudonym Walter Erickson) Fallen Angel, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1951.
Tony and the Wonderful Door, Blue Heron (New York, NY), 1952.
Spain and Peace, Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, 1952.
The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti: A New England Legend, Blue Heron (New York, NY), 1953.
Silas Timberman, Blue Heron (New York, NY), 1954.
The Last Supper, and Other Stories, Blue Heron (New York, NY), 1955.
The Story of Lola Gregg, Blue Heron (New York, NY), 1956.
The Naked God: The Writer and the Communist Party (memoir), Praeger (New York, NY), 1957.
Moses, Prince of Egypt, Crown (New York, NY), 1958, with new introduction by the author, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2000.
The Winston Affair, Crown (New York, NY), 1959.
The Howard Fast Reader, Crown (New York, NY), 1960.
April Morning, Crown (New York, NY), 1961.
The Edge of Tomorrow (stories), Bantam (New York, NY), 1961.
Power, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1962.
Agrippa's Daughter, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1964.
The Hill, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1964.
Torquemada, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1966.
The Hunter and the Trap, Dial (New York, NY), 1967.
The Jews: Story of a People, Dial (New York, NY), 1968, Cassell (London, England), 1960.
The General Zapped an Angel, Morrow (New York, NY), 1970.
The Crossing (based on his play of the same title), Morrow (New York, NY), 1971, New Jersey Historical Society, 1985.
The Hessian, Morrow (New York, NY), 1972, reprinted with new foreword, M. E. Sharpe (Armonk, NY), 1996.
A Touch of Infinity: Thirteen Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Morrow (New York, NY), 1973.
Mohawk (screenplay; short film), Paulist Productions, 1974.
Time and the Riddle: Thirty-one Zen Stories, Ward Richie Press (Pasadena, CA), 1975.
The Immigrants, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1977.
The Art of Zen Meditation, Peace Press (Culver City, CA), 1977.
The Second Generation, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1978.
The Establishment, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1979.
The Legacy, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1980.
The Magic Door (juvenile), Avon (New York, NY), 1980.
Max, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1982.
The Outsider, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1984.
The Immigrant's Daughter, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1985.
The Dinner Party, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1987.
The Call of Fife and Drum: Three Novels of the Revolution (contains The Unvanquished, Conceived in Liberty, and The Proud and the Free), Citadel, 1987.
The Pledge, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1988.
The Confession of Joe Cullen, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1989.
Being Red: A Memoir, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1990.
The Trial of Abigail Goodman: A Novel, Crown (New York, NY), 1993.
War and Peace: Observations on Our Times, M. E. Sharpe (Armonk, NY), 1993.
Seven Days in June: A Novel of the American Revolution, Carol (Secaucus, NJ), 1994.
The Bridge Builder's Story, M. E. Sharpe (Armonk, NY), 1995.
An Independent Woman, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1997.
Redemption, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1999.
Greenwich, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2000.
Masuto Investigates (contains Samantha and The Case of the One-Penny Orange; also see below), ibooks (New York, NY), 2000.
Author of weekly column, New York Observer, 1989-92; also columnist for Greenwich Time and Stamford Advocate.
The Hammer, produced in New York, NY, 1950.
Thirty Pieces of Silver (produced in Melbourne, 1951), Blue Heron (New York, NY), 1954.
George Washington and the Water Witch, Bodley Head (London, England), 1956.
The Crossing, produced in Dallas, TX, 1962.
The Hill (screenplay; produced for television by A&E, 1999), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1964.
The Hessian, 1971.
David and Paula, produced in New York at American Jewish Theater, November 20, 1982.
Citizen Tom Paine: A Play in Two Acts (produced in Williamstown, MA, then in Washington, DC, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 1987), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1986.
The Novelist (produced in Williamstown, MA, then Mamaroneck, NY, 1991), published as The Novelist: A Romantic Portrait of Jane Austen, Samuel French (New York, NY), 1992.
Also wrote for television series Benjamin Franklin, Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), 1974 and How the West Was Won, American Broadcasting Companies (ABC), 1978-79.
NOVELS; UNDER PSEUDONYM E. V. CUNNINGHAM
Sylvia, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1960, published under name Howard Fast, Carol, 1992.
Phyllis, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1962.
Alice, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1963.
Shirley, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1963.
Lydia, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1964.
Penelope, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1965.
Helen, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1966.
Margie, Morrow (New York, NY), 1966.
Sally, Morrow (New York, NY), 1967, published under name Howard Fast, Chivers, 1994.
Samantha, Morrow (New York, NY), 1967.
Cynthia, Morrow (New York, NY), 1968.
The Assassin Who Gave Up His Gun, Morrow (New York, NY), 1969.
Millie, Morrow (New York, NY), 1973.
The Case of the One-Penny Orange, Holt (New York, NY), 1977.
The Case of the Russian Diplomat, Holt (New York, NY), 1978.
The Case of the Poisoned Eclairs, Holt (New York, NY), 1979.
The Case of the Sliding Pool, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1981.
The Case of the Kidnapped Angel, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1982.
The Case of the Angry Actress, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1984.
The Case of the Murdered Mackenzie, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1984.
The Wabash Factor, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1986.
Author of introduction for Saving the Fragments: From Auschwitz to New York, by Isabella Leitner and Irving A. Leitner, New American Library (New York, NY), 1985; Red Scare in Court: New York versus the International Workers Order, by Arthur J. Sabin, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1993; and The Sculpture of Bette Fast, M. E. Sharpe (Armonk, NY), 1995.
ADAPTATIONS: The film Rachel and the Stranger, RKO Radio Pictures, 1948, was based on the novels Rachel and Neighbor Sam; Spartacus was filmed in 1960 by Universal Pictures, directed by Stanley Kubrick and Anthony Mann, and starred Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Tony Curtis, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, and Peter Ustinov. Other works by Fast have been adapted to film, including Man in the Middle, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1964, based on his novel The Winston Affair; Mirage, based on a story he wrote under the pseudonym Walter Ericson, Universal, 1965; Fallen Angel, based on his novel of the same title; Sylvia, Paramount, 1965, based on the novel of the same title; Penelope, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), 1966, based on the novel of the same title written under the pseudonym E. V. Cunningham; and Jigsaw, Universal, 1968, based on the screenplay for Mirage which was based on Fast's novel Fallen Angel. Writings by Fast have also been adapted for television, including The Face of Fear, CBS, 1971, based on the novel Sally, written under the pseudonym E. V. Cunningham; What's a Nice Girl Like You. . . ?, ABC, 1971, based on his novel Shirley; 21 Hours at Munich, ABC, 1976, based on a story by Fast; The Immigrants, syndicated, 1978, based on his novel of the same title; Freedom Road, National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), 1979, based on the novel of the same title; April Morning, broadcast as a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, CBS, 1988, based on the novel of the same title; and The Crossing, Arts and Entertainment (A&E), 2000, based on the novel of the same name. The Crossing was recorded on cassette, narrated by Norman Dietz, Recorded Books, 1988; The Immigrant's Daughter was recorded on cassette, narrated by Sandra Burr, Brilliance Corporation, 1991; Spartacus was adapted for a miniseries, USA cable network, 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: A prolific writer, Howard Fast published novels, plays, screenplays, stories, historical fiction, and biographies in a career that dated from the early days of the Great Depression until his death in 2003. Fast's works have been translated into eighty-two languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. Some observers have ranked him as the most widely read writer of the twentieth century. Los Angeles Times contributor Elaine Kendall wrote: "For half a century, Fast's novels, histories, and biographies have appeared at frequent intervals, a moveable feast with a distinct political flavor." Washington Post correspondent Joseph McLellan found Fast's work "easy to read and relatively nourishing," adding that the author "demands little of the reader, beyond a willingness to keep turning the pages, and he supplies enough activity and suspense to make this exercise worthwhile."
The grandson of Ukrainian immigrants and son of a British mother, Fast was raised in New York City. His family struggled to make ends meet, so Fast went to work as a teen and found time to indulge his passion—writing—in his spare moments. His first published novel, Two Valleys, was released in 1933 when he was only eighteen. Thereafter Fast began writing full time, and within a decade he had earned a considerable reputation as an historical novelist with his realistic tales of American frontier life. Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor Anthony Manousos commented, "As a storyteller, Fast has his greatest appeal: his knack for sketching lifelike characters and creating brisk, action-packed narratives has always insured him a wide readership, despite occasionally slipshod writing."
Fast found himself drawn to the downtrodden peoples in America's history—the Cheyenne Indians and their tragic attempt to regain their homeland (The Last Frontier), the starving soldiers at Valley Forge (Conceived in Liberty: A Novel of Valley Forge), and African Americans trying to survive the Reconstruction era in the South (Freedom Road). In Publishers Weekly, John F. Baker called these works "books on which a whole generation of radicals was brought up." A Christian Science Monitor contributor likewise noted: "Human nature rather than history is Howard Fast's field. In presenting these harassed human beings without any heroics he makes us all the more respectful of the price paid for American liberty." Freedom Road in particular was praised by the nation's black leaders for its depiction of one race's struggle for liberation; the book became a best-seller and won the Schomberg Award for Race Relations in 1944.
During the World War II, Fast worked as a correspondent for several periodicals and for the Office of War Information. After the conflict ended he found himself at odds with the Cold War mentality developing in the United States. At the time Fast was a member of the Communist Party and a contributor of time and money to a number of antifascist causes. His writing during the period addressed such issues as the abuse of power, the suppression of labor unions, and communism as the basis for a utopian future. Works such as Clarkton, My Glorious Brothers, and The Proud and the Free were widely translated behind the Iron Curtain and earned Fast the International Peace Prize in 1954.
Baker noted that Fast's political views "made him for a time in the 1950s a pariah of the publishing world." The author was jailed for three months on a contempt of Congress charge for refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities about his political views. Worse, he found himself blacklisted to such an extent that no publishing house would accept his manuscripts. Fast's persecution seemed ironic to some observers, because in the historical and biographical novels he had already published—like Conceived in Liberty: A Novel of Valley Forge and The Unvanquished—as well as in his work for the Office of War Information, Fast emphasized the importance of freedom and illuminated the heroic acts that had built American society. As a correspondent for the radio program that would become the Voice of America, he was entrusted with the job of assuring millions of foreigners of the country's greatness and benevolence during World War II.
Fast makes the relatively unknown or forgotten history of the United States accessible to millions of Americans in books like The Last Frontier, in which he writes a fictional account of the real-life 1878 rebellion by a tribe of northern Cheyenne Indians. According to Twentieth-Century Western Writers contributor David Marion Holman, "Starved and denuded of pride, the small group of 300 men, women, and children illegally leave the reservation to return to their ancestral homeland. After eluding the U.S. cavalry for weeks . . . part of the tribe is eventually captured. As a result of their unwavering determination not to return to the Oklahoma reservation, the imprisoned Indians suffer from starvation and exposure, and are eventually massacred when they attempt a desperate escape." Because of this tragedy, the Secretary of the Interior eventually grants the rest of the tribe its freedom. Holman concluded, "Throughout the novel, Fast impresses upon the reader the inherent racism of American settlers' treatment of the Indian and points out the irony of double standards of freedom in a democracy."
Fast subsequently learned of Stalin's atrocities and broke his ties with the Communist Party in 1956; but he did not regret the decision he had made in 1944. His experience as the target of political persecution evoked some of his best and most popular works. It also led Fast to establish his own publishing house, the Blue Heron Press. In a discussion of Fast's fiction from 1944 through 1959, Nation correspondent Stanley Meisler contended that the "older writings must not be ignored. They document a unique political record, a depressing American waste. They describe a man who distorted his vision of America to fit a vision of communism, and then lost both." Fast published Spartacus under the Blue Heron imprint in 1951. A fictional account of a slave revolt in ancient Rome, Spartacus became a best-seller after it was made into a feature film in 1960.
Fast went on to publish five books chronicling the fictional Lavette family, beginning with The Immigrants in 1977. The Immigrants and its sequels represent some of his most popular work. The first book of the series is set mostly in San Francisco, where Dan Lavette, the son of an Italian fisherman, lives through the great earthquake in that city and goes on to build a fortune in the shipping business. The fates of an Irish family and a Chinese family are also entwined with those of the Lavettes. The Immigrant's Daughter relates the story of Barbara Lavette—Dan Lavette's daughter—and her political aspirations. Denise Gess in the New York Times Book Review called The Immigrant's Daughter "satisfying, old-fashioned storytelling" despite finding the novel occasionally "soap-operatic and uneven." Barbara Conaty, reviewing the novel in Library Journal, called Fast a "smooth and assured writer." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that, "smoothly written, fast-paced, alive with plots and subplots, the story reads easily." With the publication of The Immigrant's Daughter, the series appeared to reach its conclusion, but in 1997, Fast surprised readers with a sixth installment in the saga, An Independent Woman. This book relates the final years of Barbara Lavette's life. Barbara has some things in common with her creator: like him, she is a reporter, a victim of McCarthyism, and a worker for civil rights. The twilight years of her life continue to be dynamic. She battles injustice and cancer, finds romance, and astonishes her family by marrying again. A Kirkus Reviews writer called An Independent Woman "a muted, somewhat puzzling, addenda to a lively (and successful) series."
Fast published another politically charged novel in 1989, with The Confession of Joe Cullen. Focusing on U.S. military involvement in Central America, The Confession of Joe Cullen is the story of a C.I.A. pilot who confesses to New York City police that, among other things, he murdered a priest in Honduras, and has been smuggling cocaine into the United States. Arguing that the conspiracy theory that implicates the federal government in drug trafficking and gun running has never been proved, Morton Kondracke in the New York Times Book Review had reservations about the "political propaganda" involved in The Confession of Joe Cullen. Robert H. Donahugh, however, highly recommended the novel in Library Journal, calling it "unexpected and welcome," and lauding both the "fast-moving" storyline and the philosophical probing into Catholicism. Denise Perry Donavin, in Booklist, found the politics suiting the characters "without lessening the pace of a powerful tale."
Fast focuses on another controversial subject, the issue of abortion, in his 1993 novel, The Trial of Abigail Goodman. As a Publishers Weekly critic noted, Fast views America's attitude toward abortion as "parochial," and is sympathetic to his protagonist, a college professor who has an abortion during the third trimester in a southern state with a retroactive law forbidding such acts. Critical reaction to the novel was mixed. Ray Olson in Booklist argued that "every anti-abortion character" is stereotyped, and that Fast "undermines . . . any pretensions to evenhandedness," and called the novel "an execrable work." A Publishers Weekly critic, on the other hand, found The Trial of Abigail Goodman "electrifying" and considered Fast "a master of courtroom pyrotechnics." Many critics, including Susan Dooley in the Washington Post, viewed the novel as too polemical, failing to flesh out the characters and the story. Dooley argued that Fast "has not really written a novel; his book is a tract for a cause, and like other similar endeavors, it concentrates more on making converts than creating characters." A reviewer for Armchair Detective concluded that the novel would have been much stronger if "there were some real sincerity and some well-expressed arguments from the antagonists." A Rapport reviewer commented, "Fast is more than capable of compelling character studies. There's a kernel of a powerful trial novel here, but this prestigious writer chooses not to flesh it out."
Fast returns to the topic of the American Revolution in Seven Days in June: A Novel of the American Revolution. A Publishers Weekly critic summarized: "Fictionalizing the experiences of British commanders, loyalists to the crown and a motley collection of American revolutionaries, Fast . . . fashions this dramatic look at a week of profound tension that will erupt [into] the battle of Bunker Hill." Some critics saw Seven Days in June as inferior to Fast's April Morning, also a novel about the American Revolution, which was considered by some to be a minor masterpiece. Charles Michaud in Library Journal found that Seven Days "is very readable pop history, but as a novel it is not as involving as . . . April Morning."A Kirkus Reviews critic faulted the novel for repetitiveness and a disproportionate amount of focus on the sexual exploits of the British commanders, concluding that Seven Days "has a slipshod, slapdash feel, cluttered with hurried, lazy characterizations." The critic for Publishers Weekly, however, argued that the novel "ekes genuine suspense" and lauded Fast's "accomplished storytelling."
The Bridge Builder's Story tells of Scott Waring and his young bride, Martha, who honeymoon in Europe during the Nazi era and find themselves persecuted by Hitler's thuggish minions. After Martha is killed by the Gestapo, Scott makes his way to New York, where his ensuing sessions with a psychiatrist provide much of the narrative. Albert Wilheim, writing in Library Journal, thought that the novel tested "the limits of credibility," but praised Fast's "skillful narration." And Alice Joyce, in Booklist, opined that in The Bridge Builder's Story "Fast's remarkable prowess for storytelling" results in a "riveting tale, sure to satisfy readers."
Fast's time as a communist in Cold War America provided him with an extraordinary story to share in his autobiographical works, which included Being Red: A Memoir. Charles C. Nash of Library Journal called Being Red "indispensable to the . . . literature on America's terrifying postwar Red Scare." Fast once told CA: "There is no way to imagine war or to imagine jail or to imagine being a father or a mother. These things can only be understood if you live through them. Maybe that's a price that a writer should pay." Fast told Ken Gross in People that he wrote the book at the request of his son Jonathan, who wanted to share the story with his own children. Rhoda Koenig of New York magazine remarked that Fast's story is "a lively and gripping one," and that he "brings alive the days of parochial-school children carrying signs that read 'KILL A COMMIE FOR CHRIST.'"
With a critical eye, Ronald Radosh claimed in Commentary that Being Red contains information and perspectives that contradict portions of Fast's 1957 memoir, The Naked God: The Writer and the Communist Party. In Radosh's opinion, Being Red was the author's attempt to "rehabilitate" the Communist Party he had admonished in The Naked God. "Now, nearly thirty-five years later, it almost sounds as though Fast wants to end his days winning back the admiration of those unreconstructed Communists," Radosh asserted, even calling them "some of the noblest human beings I have ever known."
In 1999 Fast published Redemption, a suspense novel featuring Ike Goldman, a character who seems to be the author's alter ego. Goldman is a retired professor, highly intelligent, and the veteran of numerous political and social struggles. Driving through New York City one night, he sees a woman, Elizabeth, about to jump from a bridge. He talks Elizabeth out of her desperate act and, in the weeks that follow, finds himself falling in love with her. The two are planning to wed, when Elizabeth's ex-husband is found dead in suspicious circumstances, making her a suspect. Goldman does all he can to aid in her defense, but as the evidence against her mounts, his own doubts about her innocence increase. "The story moves along sedately in Fast's most relaxed style ever, with the author . . . plainly enjoying and indulging himself in this smoked salmon of romantic fantasy, adding plot dollops to keep the reader alert. . . . Fast's followers won't be disappointed," advised a contributor to Kirkus Reviews. The following year, Fast published Greenwich, a tale of eight people invited to a high-society dinner party in Greenwich, Connecticut. The comfortable life they enjoy masks an evil undercurrent; Fast suggests that guilt is widespread, and redemption is vital. Although faulting the book as stylistically "bland," a Kirkus Reviews writer nevertheless added: "It doesn't have to be a classic if it comes from the heart."
Fast also published a number of detective novels under the pseudonym E. V. Cunningham, for which he was awarded with a Prix de la Policia. Many of these novels feature a fictional Japanese-American detective named Masao Masuto, who works with the Beverly Hills Police Department. Fast told Publishers Weekly, "Critics can't stand my mainline books, maybe because they sell so well, [but] they love Cunningham. Even the New Yorker has reviewed him, and they've never reviewed me." In the New York Times Book Review, Newgate Callendar called detective Masuto "a well-conceived character whose further exploits should gain him a wide audience." Toronto Globe and Mail contributor Derrick Murdoch also found Masuto "a welcome addition to the lighter side of crime fiction." "Functional and efficient, Fast's prose is a machine in which plot and ideals mesh, turn and clash," Los Angeles Times contributor Elaine Kendall concluded, adding, "The reader is constantly being instructed, but the manner is so disarming and the hectic activity so absorbing that the didacticism seldom intrudes upon the entertainment."
Fast's voice interpreted America's past and present and helped shape its reputation at home and abroad. One of his own favorites among his novels, April Morning, has been standard reading in public schools for generations. The film Spartacus has become a popular classic, and Being Red offers an account of American history that Americans may never want to forget, whether or not they agree with Fast's perspectives. As Victor Howes commented in Christian Science Monitor, if Howard Fast "is a chronicler of some of mankind's most glorious moments, he is also a register of some of our more senseless deeds."
Upon Fast's death in 2003, Holly J. Morris wrote an obituary in the U.S. News & World Report recounting a story demonstrating that readers did not have to agree with Fast's politics. At a 1987 party, Pat Buckley, wife of William Buckley, told Fast she read all of his books. Fast was doubtful, noting that his beliefs were diametrically opposite to the staunch conservative couple. According to Morris, Buckley replied, "'Oh, I don't care about that—I love your books.'" In a Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service obituary appearing in the Chicago Tribune, Ron Grossman noted that Fast never enjoyed the same popularity he did as a young writer, but his books will survive. Grossman opined, "Years from now, some young person, trapped in the poverty Fast knew, will find his books, preserved in those heavy library bindings, on a shelf somewhere. He or she will realize that others have made life's difficulty journey before them, while reading that remarkable passage in Freedom Road where those anxious women, who had so recently been slaves, see a distant sign of a better world to come." Brad Hooper perhaps summed up Fast's popularity best in Booklist, commenting, "The bottom line is that when it comes to reading Howard Fast, we continue to understand and appreciate that, simply, he could tell a darn good story."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 16, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1995.
Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Volume 18, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 23, 1983, Volume 131, 2000.
Contemporary Novelists, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Contemporary Popular Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1997.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 9: American Novelists, 1910-1945, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1981.
MacDonald, Andrew, Howard Fast: A Critical Companion, Greenwood (Westport, CT), 1996.
Meyer, Hershel, D., History and Conscience: The Case of Howard Fast, Anvil-Atlas (New York, NY), 1958.
St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Twentieth-Century Western Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1991.
Antioch Review, winter, 1993, review of Sylvia, p. 156.
Armchair Detective, spring, 1994, review of The Trial of Abigail Goodman, p. 218.
Atlantic Monthly, September, 1944; June, 1970.
Best Sellers, February l, 1971; September 1, 1973; January, 1979; November, 1979.
Booklist, June 15, 1989, p. 1739; July, 1993, review of The Trial of Abigail Goodman, p. 1916; October 1, 1995, review of The Bridge Builder's Story, p. 252; May 1, 1997, review of An Independent Woman, p. 1460; February 15, 1999, review of Redemption, p. 1003; February 1, 2000, review of Greenwich, p. 996.
Book Week, May 9, 1943.
Chicago Tribune, April 21, 1987; January 20, 1991, section 14, p. 7.
Christian Science Monitor, July 8, 1939; August 23, 1972, p. 11; November 7, 1977, p. 18; November 1, 1991, p. 12; August 12, 1999, review of Redemption, p. 20.
Commentary, March, 1991, pp. 62-64.
Detroit News, October 31, 1982.
Entertainment Weekly, August 1, 1997, review of An Independent Woman, p. 69; July 30, 1999, review of Redemption, p. 66.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), September 15, 1984; March 1, 1986; July 17, 1999, review of Redemption, p. D14.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 1993, review of The Trial of Abigail Goodman, p. 739; June 15, 1994, review of Seven Days in June, p. 793; July 15, 1995, review of The Bridge Builder's Story, p. 968; June 15, 1997, review of An Independent Woman, p. 909; May 1, 1999, review of Redemption, p. 650.
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People, January 28, 1991, pp. 75-79.
Publishers Weekly, August 6, 1979; April 1, 1983; July 19, 1985, p. 48; November 28, 1986, p. 66; July 22, 1988, p. 41; June 30, 1989, p. 84; June 21, 1993, review of The Trial of Abigail Goodman, p. 83; July 11, 1994, review of Seven Days in June, p. 66; September 4, 1995, review of The Bridge Builder's Story, p. 49; May 26, 1997, review of An Independent Woman, p. 64; May 17, 1999, review of Redemption, p. 54.
Rapport, number 1, 1994, review of The Trial of Abigail Goodman, p. 38.
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Saturday Review, March 8, 1952; January 22, 1966; September 17, 1977.
Saturday Review of Literature, July l, 1939; July 26, 1941, p. 5; May 1, 1943; December 24, 1949.
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Time, November 6, 1977.
Times Literary Supplement, November 11, 1939.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), February 8, 1987, pp. 6-7.
Washington Post, October 4, 1979; September 26, 1981; September 25, 1982; September 3, 1985; February 9, 1987; March 3, 1987; September 6, 1993, p. C2.
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New York Times,http://www.nytimes.com/ (March 13, 2003).
OBITUARIES, AND OTHER SOURCES:
Booklist, May 15, 2003, Brad Hooper, "A Tribute to Howard Fast," p. 1639.*
Chicago Tribune (Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service), March 18, 2003, Ron Grossman, "Howard Fast, The Last of the Proletarian Writers."
Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2003, p. B13.
New York Times, March 13, 2003, p. C12.
Times (London, England), March 20, 2003.U.S. News & World Report, March 24, 2003, Holly J. Morris, "The Steadfast Howard Fast," p. 8.*