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OBITUARY: HOWARD FAST
Novels that honor struggles for justice

By Deborah Roberts | April 4, 2003 | Page 9

HOWARD FAST, internationally acclaimed, best-selling writer of historical and popular novels, died on March 12.

At the age of 88, Fast had published 90 novels. Fast's period of greatest creativity began during the Depression, when he became an antifascist and antiwar activist, and developed an intense interest in left politics.

A member of the Communist Party (CP) from 1943 to 1956, Fast said that his childhood poverty was at least in part his reason for joining the CP. He left, as did many thousands of other CP members, after Kruschev's devastating revelations of Stalinist repression, terror and anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union.

In 1948, Fast was a leader of the defense guard for Black singer and communist Paul Robeson when racist thugs attacked his concerts in Peekskill, N.Y. Fast was blacklisted in the 1950s because of his CP membership and his refusal to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee. He spent three months in prison.

Throughout the blacklist, Fast's books continued to be best-sellers. Socialist Worker readers should check out his novels written before 1958, especially these: The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti, Freedom Road (on the period of Reconstruction as time of Black renaissance and its destruction by the KKK), Citizen Tom Paine, Spartacus, Conceived in Liberty (a passionate celebration of the American War of Independence) and The Last Frontier (about the forced migration and the Cheyenne Indians).

Fast's early historical fiction is accessible, fascinating and will stimulate readers to further research and action.

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