All the King's Men
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All the King's Men

4.4 45
by Robert Penn Warren

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Set in the 1930s, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel traces the rise and fall of Willie Stark, who resembles the real-life Huey "Kingfish" Long of Louisiana. Stark begins his political career as an idealistic man of the people but soon becomes corrupted by success. Generally considered the finest novel ever written on American politics, All the King's Men is a…  See more details below


Set in the 1930s, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel traces the rise and fall of Willie Stark, who resembles the real-life Huey "Kingfish" Long of Louisiana. Stark begins his political career as an idealistic man of the people but soon becomes corrupted by success. Generally considered the finest novel ever written on American politics, All the King's Men is a literary classic.

Editorial Reviews

NY Times
Willie in all his personal relationships is a fascinating man and often a winning man, too...What is right and what is wrong? Mr. Warren makes a stimulating inquiry into that troublesome question
NY World Telegram & Sun
ALL THE KING'S MEN went off with a roofshaking bang...This is the most engrossing drama seen off Broadway in months.
Cue Magazine
This drama by Robert Penn Warren is a blockbuster. It is a major Off-Broadway event...A subtle and rich study of man in society.
Library Journal
This reconstituted edition of the 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning dissection of Louisiana politics gets a serious makeover by scholar Polk, who rescues the cuts and alterations made by the original editors as well as returning protagonist Willie Stark to his original name, Willie Talos. There is also an appendix and editorial notes. Considering this title's importance in American letters and the quite reasonable price, libraries should invest in this edition. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Diana Trilling
I doubt indeed whether it could be matched in American fiction.

--The Nation

From the Publisher

"To read it in this new edition is to be struck again by its raw power, its urgency and relevance."—New Orleans Times-Picayune

"The original editors adjusted the novel to the tastes and styles of the time, but now we can read it as it was written. The result is a more complicated and emotionally charged—and longer—story."—Chicago Tribune

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Harvest Book Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.24(d)
1130L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt

All the King's Men [2006 Movie Tie-In Edition]

By Warren, Robert Penn

Harvest Books

Copyright © 2006 Warren, Robert Penn
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0156031043


To get there you follow Highway 58, going northeast out of the city, and it is a good highway and new. Or was new, that day we went up it. You look up the highway and it is straight for miles, coming at you, with the black line down the center coming at and at you, black and slick and tarry-shining against the white of the slab, and the heat dazzles up from the white slab so that only the black line is clear, coming at you with the whine of the tires, and if you don't quit staring at that line and don't take a few deep breaths and slap yourself hard on the back of the neck you'll hypnotize yourself and you'll come to just at the moment when the right front wheel hooks over into the black dirt shoulder off the slab, and you'll try to jerk her back on but you can't because the slab is high like a curb, and maybe you'll try to reach to turn off the ignition just as she starts the dive. But you won't make it, of course. Then a nigger chopping cotton a mile away, he'll look up and see the little column of black smoke standing up above the vitriolic, arsenical green of the cotton rows, and up against the violent, metallic, throbbing blue of the sky, and he'll say, "Lawd God, hit's a-nudder one done done hit!" And the next nigger down the next row, he'll say,"Lawd God," and the first nigger will giggle, and the hoe will lift again and the blade will flash in the sun like a heliograph. Then a few days later the boys from the Highway Department will mark the spot with a little metal square on a metal rod stuck in the black dirt off the shoulder, the metal square painted white and on it in black a skull and crossbones. Later on love vine will climb up it, out of the weeds.

But if you wake up in time and don't hook your wheel off the slab, you'll go whipping on into the dazzle and now and then a car will come at you steady out of the dazzle and will pass you with a snatching sound as though God-Almighty had ripped a tin roof loose with his bare hands. Way off ahead of you, at the horizon where the cotton fields are blurred into the light, the slab will glitter and gleam like water, as though the road were flooded. You'll go whipping toward it, but it will always be ahead of you, that bright, flooded place, like a mirage. You'll go past the little white metal squares set on metal rods, with the skull and crossbones on them to mark the spot. For this is the country where the age of the internal combustion engine has come into its own. Where every boy is Barney Oldfield, and the girls wear organdy and batiste and eyelet embroidery and no panties on account of the climate and have smooth little faces to break your heart and when the wind of the car's speed lifts up their hair at the temples you see the sweet little beads of perspiration nestling there, and they sit low in the seat with their little spines crooked and their bent knees high toward the dashboard and not too close together for the cool, if you could call it that, from the hood ventilato Where the smell of gasoline and burning brake bands and red-eye is sweeter than myrrh. Where the eight-cylinder jobs come roaring around the curves in the red hills and scatter the gravel like spray, and when they ever get down in the flat country and hit the new slab, God have mercy on the mariner.

On up Number 58, and the country breaks. The flat country and the big cotton fields are gone now, and the grove of live oaks way off yonder where the big house is, and the white-washed shacks, all just alike, set in a row by the cotton fields with the cotton growing up to the doorstep, where the pickaninny sits like a black Billiken and sucks its thumb and watches you go by. That's all left behind now. It is red hills now, not high, with blackberry bushes along the fence rows, and blackjack clumps in the bottoms and now and then a place where the second-growth pines stand close together if they haven't burned over for sheep grass, and if they have burned over, there are the black stubs. The cotton patches cling to the hillsides, and the gullies cut across the cotton patches. The corn blades hang stiff and are streaked with yellow.

There were pine forests here a long time ago but they are gone. The bastards got in here and set up the mills and laid the narrow-gauge tracks and knocked together the company commissaries and paid a dollar a day and folks swarmed out of the brush for the dollar and folks came from God knows where, riding in wagons with a chest of drawers and a bedstead canted together in the wagon bed, and five kids huddled down together and the old woman hunched on the wagon seat with a poke bonnet on her head and snuff on her gums and a young one hanging on her tit. T sang soprano and the clerk in the commissary passed out the blackstrap molasses and the sowbelly and wrote in his big book, and the Yankee dollar and Confederate dumbness collaborated to heal the wounds of four years of fratricidal strife, and all was merry as a marriage bell. Till, all of a sudden, there weren't any more pine trees. They stripped the mills. The narrow-gauge tracks got covered with grass. Folks tore down the commissaries for kindling wood. There wasn't any more dollar a day. The big boys were gone, with diamond rings on their fingers and broadcloth on their backs. But a good many of the folks stayed right on, and watched the gullies eat deeper into the red clay. And a good handful of those folks and their heirs and assigns stayed in Mason City, four thousand of them, more or less.

You come in on Number 58, and pass the cotton gin and the power station and the fringe of nigger shacks and bump across the railroad track and down a street where there are a lot of little houses painted white one time, with the sad valentine lace of gingerbread work around the eaves of the veranda, and tin roofs, and where the leaves on the trees in the yards hang straight down in the heat, and above the mannerly whisper of your eighty-horsepower valve-in-head (or whatever it is) drifting at forty, you hear the July flies grinding away in the verdure.

That was the way it was the last time I saw Mason City, nearly three years ago, back in the summer of 1936. I was in the first car, the Cadillac, with the Boss and Mr. Duffy and the Boss's wife and son and Sugar-Boy. In the second car, which lacked our quiet elegance reminiscent of a cross between a hearse and an ocean liner but which wouldn't make your cheeks burn with shame in the country-club parking lot, there were some reporters and a photographer and Sadie Burke, the Boss's secretary, to see they got there sober enough to do what they were supposed to do.

Sugar-Boy was driving the Cadillac, and it was a pleasure to watch him. Or it would have been if you could detach your imagination from the picture of what near a couple of tons of expensive mechanism looks like after it's turned turtle three times at eighty and could give your undivided attention to the exhibition of muscular co-ordination, satanic humor, and split-second timing which was Sugar-Boy's when he whipped around a hay wagon in the face of an oncoming gasoline truck and went through the rapidly diminishing aperture close enough to give the truck driver heart failure with one rear fender and wipe the snot off a mule's nose with the other. But the Boss loved it. He always sat up front with Sugar-Boy and looked at the speedometer and down the road and grinned to Sugar-Boy after they got through between the mule's nose and the gasoline truck. And Sugar-Boy's head would twitch, the way it always did when the words were piling up inside of him and couldn't get out, and then he'd start. "The b-b-b-b-b-" he would manage to get out and the saliva would spray from his lips like Flit from a Flit gun. "The b-b-b-b-bas-tud-he seen me c-c-c-" and here he'd spray the inside of the windshield-"c-c-com-ing." Sugar-Boy couldn't talk, but he could express himself when he got his foot on the accelerator. He wouldn't win any debating contests in high school, but then nobody would ever want to debate with Sugar-Boy. Not anybody who knew him and had seen him do tricks with the .38 Special which rode under his left armpit like a tumor.

Copyright 1946 by Robert Penn Warren
Copyright renewed 1974 by Robert Penn Warren

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.


Excerpted from All the King's Men [2006 Movie Tie-In Edition] by Warren, Robert Penn Copyright © 2006 by Warren, Robert Penn. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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All the King's Men 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 70 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read a lot for school and for fun. By far, though, this is the best book I have ever read! This is the story of Willie Stark and Jack Burden. Two, not so different people. Robert Penn Warren is a poet, and at times it seems like All the King's Men is just one long is just that beautiful. There is so much to it and not sentance is wasted. Every detail, every description has a purpose. It does however take a mature reader to really appreciate and understand the philosophy and themes behind this master piece. Don't be discouraged though, anyone can enjoy this book and I recomend this book above all others.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not only are the characters excellent, but the language is captivating. ATKM contains the best definition of love I have ever read: 'When we get in love we are made all over again...' it begins. This is more a story of Jack Burden's spiritual journal than of Willie Stark's rise to power and corruption. After reading this,you must read Micah's Child, which is about a woman searching for her own Jack Burden. Micah's Child has many quotes from ATKM.
Xx1heart1kissxX More than 1 year ago
I love this book. It has since wrecked my literary life. I can't find any other book as good as this one! It's wonderfully well written and perfect in every way! It can be a tough, long read but it is well worth it. It captivates you. Easily.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not only is the plot of this novel well thought out and captivating, but the style is absolutely amazing. The language is just plain genius. I would recommend this book to anybody, because you do not have to be interested in politics to enjoy it. The characters are so relatable and you can actually- truly- feel for them. So while it does start out slow, work through it because if not you will miss out on one of the greatest books written during Warren's time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There is a clear purpose in the authors writing tha teaches us all to stay grounded no matter wha hierarchy of power we attain. The main character Willie Starks rises to the furthest mountain before he crashes his victory ship in apathetic waters. Sacriicing his family, friends,and self to the greedy engulfing monster that is himself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Robert Penn Warren¿s All the King¿s Men, Warren traces the life and experiences of Louisiana Populist, Huey Long, rewritten as Willie Stark. The book traces his rise and fall during the 1930¿s. All the King¿s Men is a remarkably well-written novel with extraordinary characters and an imaginative setting, a remarkable plot, and easy-to-make connections for any reader. Written in chapter format, All the King¿s Men is a 610 page fiction novel suitable for ages 13 and up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Have been meaning to read this for years and finally have, but chose to listen to the audiobook. The prose is beautiful and reminded me of the lyricism of The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. I can understand Warren's status as poet laureate. The subject is timeless and the reading of Michael Emerson is perfectly tuned to the era and the region.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best novel that I have read to date. It does what I feel that a novel should truly do, which is tell a story and through the story teach something. The story is truly fascinating. There is no emotion left untouched. It has comedy, drama, romance, suspense, action, politics, history and mystery. It also great a great cast of characters, great dialogue and an excellent setting. It is the only book to win the Pulitzer prize for fiction and have it's adaptation win best picture at the oscars. I was truly sad to finish this book, because I did not know if I would ever read one of it's caliber again
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow. Exactly my experience. READ IT IN TWELFTH GRADE ALSO. Its power never left me. It taught me how and why to appreciate great literature. That year I also read Gatsby, Cry the Beloved Country, Age of Innocence, Tale of Two Cities, and A Death in the Family. Needless to say I was in heaven. I felt like a geek, though. Everyone else in class was moaning and complaining. I just wanted more. Thanks to Mr Barsky for his great choices and engrossing lectures. By the way, the opening section/introduction to A Death in the Family is one of the most amazingly beautiful pieces of prose.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Some people criticize this man for his '2 page descriptions of town life' well maybe he had a reason? This man was a literary genius, maybe he knew what he was doing? And for you, person who believes the above, maybe it was a technique to show hey, in the town life is slow, and it might take 2 pages to summarize. The syntax and the diction lull you, it has an intended effect. This book is amazing, every single literary device imaginable is present in a cohesive, stimulating plotline. To the Yale student, its not a political novel, dig deeper, did you cvompletely ignore Jack Burden's quest. I question Yale's decision. To all high schoolers, read this book, first time through you WILL NOT enjouy, but you will learn to love it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had lots of fun reading this book. At first I though I would get stuck because the book is so long, but the events happen right after another. When their is so much going on at the same time it makes the book better. Robert Warren is a very good author hope to read another book by Warren.
Guest More than 1 year ago
To put it simply, it is impossible to understand American politics without having read All the King's Men. The story may be fictional, the themes and conflicts are real. For good and ill, this really is what part of American politics is about, the wonderful clash of trying to accomplish great things while being tempted by the dark side. The writing is mesmerizing; the story told in a unique way that makes it impossible to put this book down once you start reading. A masterpiece, pure and simple.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Warren successfully takes the complex elements of early twentieth century America and creates a work that accurates potrays the disillusionment and breakdown American politics suffered during the deprerssion years. Willie Stark's amibition, blindness and sincere compassion makes for very realisitic character and not simply a caricature of the idealistic statesmen or corrupt politician. For any historian or scholar seeking to understand the mentality of 1930s American politics needs to read this books. Its success emphasizes not only importance but also its impact on the very society Warren attempted to portray.
cs More than 1 year ago
&ldquo;A classic. Pulitzer Prize winner. Modern Library&rsquo;s 36th greatest novel of the 20th Century. The fictional rise of governor Willie Stark and the self-discovery of Jack Burden. Written in the classic voice of a true Southern writer. Prose reads like poetry.&rdquo; &ndash; Clay Stafford, author and founder of Killer Nashville
Guest More than 1 year ago
All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren details the rise and fall of Willie Stark as seen through the eyes of Jack Burden. The book also details Jack's history research, as well as his attempts to hide a destructive family secret. It is very philosophical, and Robert Penn Warren uses his ideas of life, the universe, and existence to make the book interesting. However, I found it very complicated as a result.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this for summer reading and I fell asleep every time I picked it up! There was hardly any plot. It consisted mostly of the main character, Jack Burden, thinking to himself or recalling memories of his past. I hope I never have to read it again, but maybe I didn't like it just because I'm not into politics. Oh well. At least it was better than the Odyssey
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a 17 year old girl and was forced to read this book for school. i have just finished it and have been left deeply affected. i don't know specific literary terms, or how to criticize it effectively, but i am giving you my emotions, which are, 'jesus christ.' R.P. Warren can write and brillantly. i recommend it a thousand times, even if it does take some will power in the beginning.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Robert Penn Warren gives the perfect answer to all solipsists and behaviorists who ever lived. Jack learns through Willie Stark, the powerful politician who fought corruption with corruption, that life is not all about 'me'. He sees through many meetings and partings, that we are all a part of something. Great reminder of Faulkner's voice: past, place, community and family; important things we often forget.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jack, the main character, sold into many different theories throughout the novel but by the end realized that there isn't just one truth to life. After the death of his friends and family members understands that each one of them lived and survived without sharing the same beliefs.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Yay i won
Anonymous 6 months ago
Before the 23ed!
Anonymous 7 months ago
Great book but probaly not for young kids.
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