All the King’s Men

By Robert Penn Warren

Words from the achiever

“Probably one of my favorite books is All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren’s book about political corruption in Louisiana, and about a reporter who watches this and gets to participate and see, but doesn’t have all of the full consequences of the action fall on him. It’s the nature of the business. You get to see other people’s lives, and you chart the rise and fall of others, and you’re not that involved. You are an observer, and you have to work pretty hard to preserve your outsider status, but that is what you get to do as a reporter.”

About the book

Set in the 1930s, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel traces the rise and fall of demagogue Willie Stark, a fictional character who resemble 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 and caught between dreams of service and an insatiable lust for power.

It all began, as I have said, when the Boss, sitting in the black Cadillac which sped through the night, said to me (to Me who was what Jack Burden, the student of history, had grown up to be) “There is always something.”

And I said, “Maybe not on the Judge.”

And he said, “Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something.”