Reviews for Prequel

by Rachel Maddow

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A history of America’s admirers and enablers of the Third Reich, from fellow travelers in Congress to Nazi spies and other enemies of democracy. Politicians espousing civil war. Radio hosts howling about the liberal domination of culture. Militias training to hunt down Jews, leftists, and Democrats. If it all sounds like a run-up to Jan. 6, 2021, there’s a reason. As MSNBC host Maddow demonstrates in this sharp-edged history, the fascist strain in America runs deep. The author opens her contextually rich narrative with George Sylvester Viereck, whose 1907 novel, The House of the Vampire, “is seen today by precisely no one as the world’s greatest gay vampire fiction,” though it certainly was a pioneer of the genre. The German-born Viereck was also a Nazi agent who dispensed money to pro-Hitler publications, many of whose talking points found their way into the mouths of politicians on Capitol Hill. Fascists pinned great hopes on Huey Long, who “ran Louisiana like a mob boss,” but who was assassinated before he could exercise national power. Calvin Coolidge was a milquetoast president; however, as Maddow shows, within his administration were strong anti-immigration advocates, some of whose policies were adopted by the Nazis in Germany. Well-known supporters of fascism included Father Charles Coughlin, who mixed anti–New Deal fervor with antisemitism. “We want strong men,” said one militant acolyte. “Men to fight for America’s destiny and link it with the destiny of Adolf Hitler, the greatest philosopher since the time of Christ.” Frightening current-day parallels aside, a web of patriots rose to battle the fascists, taking down the most prominent pro-Nazis, even if many of their elected officials lived on to battle civil rights and other progressive causes. America beat fascism once. Maddow’s timely study of enemies on the homefront urges that we can do so again. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.