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Howard Fast Biography

(1914–2003), Two Valleys, Conceived in Liberty: A Novel of Valley Forge, The Unvanquished

American novelist, born in New York City; he spent two years at the National Academy of Design but, convinced that he would never be an artist, he embarked on a career as a writer. His first novel, Two Valleys (1933), established his forte for historical fiction used to promote radical, leftwing politics. Two Valleys is a tale of the American frontier during the Revolutionary War, a historical setting Fast revisited in Conceived in Liberty: A Novel of Valley Forge (1939), The Unvanquished (1942), Citizen Tom Paine (1943), and The Proud and the Free (1950). Like many American intellectuals of his generation Fast was a communist sympathizer during the 1930s, and joined the Party in 1943. His works were immensely popular in the Soviet Union (his novel The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti, 1953, had an initial Soviet printing of 500,000 copies), but he resigned his membership of the Party in 1957, in part as a consequence of Premier Khrushchev's exposure of the barbarity of the Stalin years, and wrote a valuable account of his relationship to communism in The Naked God: The Writer and the Communist Party (1958); the story is enlarged in Being Red: A Memoir (1990). His other historical novels include The Last Frontier (1941), Freedom Road (1944), The American (1946), Clarkton (1947), and Silas Timberman (1954), all with American settings. Spartacus (1951), Moses, Prince of Egypt (1958), and Agrippa's Daughter (1964) were recreations of the ancient past, though some critics have argued that his attempts to find parallels between the distant past and the present are often anachronistic. Later novels include The Outsider (1984), Immigrant's Daughter (1985), The Dinner Party (1987), and The Pledge (1988). Fast also writes mystery fiction under the pseudonym E. V. Cunningham. See Proletarian Literature in the USA.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Englefield Green Surrey to William Faulkner Biography