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Howard Fast
BornHoward Melvin Fast
(1914-11-11)November 11, 1914
New York City, U.S.
DiedMarch 12, 2003(2003-03-12) (aged 88)
Greenwich, Connecticut, U.S.
Pen nameE.V. Cunningham
Walter Ericson
Period20th century
GenreHistorical fiction
Notable worksThe Last Frontier, Spartacus, April Morning
SpouseBette Cohen (1937–1994; her death; 2 children)
Mercedes O'Connor (1999–2003; his death)

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Howard Melvin Fast (November 11, 1914 – March 12, 2003) was an American novelist and television writer. Fast also wrote under the pen names E.V. Cunningham and Walter Ericson.


Early life

Fast was born in New York City. His mother, Ida (née Miller), was a British Jewish immigrant, and his father, Barney Fast, was a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant who shortened his name from Fastovsky upon arrival in America. When his mother died in 1923 and his father became unemployed, Howard's youngest brother, Julius, went to live with relatives, while he and his older brother, Jerome, sold newspapers. Howard credited his early voracious reading to a part-time job in the New York Public Library.

Fast began writing at an early age. While hitchhiking and riding railroads around the country to find odd jobs, he wrote his first novel, Two Valleys, published in 1933 when he was 18. His first popular work was Citizen Tom Paine, a fictional account of the life of Thomas Paine. Always interested in American history, Fast also wrote The Last Frontier (about the Cheyenne Indians' attempt to return to their native land, and which inspired the 1964 movie Cheyenne Autumn)[1] and Freedom Road (about the lives of former slaves during Reconstruction).

The novel Freedom Road is based on a true story and was made into a miniseries of the same name starring Muhammad Ali, who, in a rare acting role, played Gideon Jackson, an ex-slave in 1870s South Carolina who is elected to the U.S. House and battles the Ku Klux Klan and other racist organizations to keep the land that they had tended all their lives.

Contribution to constitutionalism

Fast is the author of the prominent "Why the Fifth Amendment?"[2] essay. This essay explains in detail the purpose of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Fast effectively uses the context of the Red Scare to illustrate the purpose of the "Fifth."


Fast spent World War II working with the United States Office of War Information, writing for Voice of America. In 1943, he joined the Communist Party USA and in 1950, he was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities; in his testimony, he refused to disclose the names of contributors to a fund for a home for orphans of American veterans of the Spanish Civil War (one of the contributors was Eleanor Roosevelt), and he was given a three-month prison sentence for contempt of Congress.[3]

While he was at Mill Point Federal Prison, Fast began writing his most famous work, Spartacus, a novel about an uprising among Roman slaves.[3] Blacklisted by major publishing houses following his release from prison, Fast was forced to publish the novel himself. It was a success, going through seven printings in the first four months of publication. (According to Fast in his memoir, 50,000 copies were printed, of which 48,000 were sold.)

He subsequently established the Blue Heron Press, which allowed him to continue publishing under his own name throughout the period of his blacklisting. Just as the production of the film version of Spartacus (released in 1960) is considered a milestone in the breaking of the Hollywood blacklist, the reissue of Fast's novel by Crown Publishers in 1958 effectively ended his own blacklisting within the American publishing industry.

In 1952, Fast ran for Congress on the American Labor Party ticket. During the 1950s he also worked for the Communist newspaper, the Daily Worker. In 1953, he was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize. Later that decade, Fast broke with the Party over issues of conditions in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, particularly after Nikita Khrushchev's report "On the Personality Cult and its Consequences" at a closed session of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in February 1956, denouncing the personality cult and dictatorship of Joseph Stalin,[4] and the Soviet military intervention to suppress the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 in November. In his autobiographical work titled The Naked God: The Writer and the Communist Party published in 1957, he wrote: There was the evil in what we dreamed of as Communists: we took the noblest dreams and hopes of mankind as our credo; the evil we did was to accept the degradation of our own souls—and because we surrendered in ourselves, in our own party existence, all the best and most precious gains and liberties of mankind—because we did this, we betrayed mankind, and the Communist party became a thing of destruction.[5]

In the mid-1950s, Fast moved with his family to Teaneck, New Jersey.[6] In 1974, Fast and his family moved to California, where he wrote television scripts, including such television programs as How the West Was Won. In 1977, he published The Immigrants, the first of a six-part series of novels.

In 1948, author Harry Barnard accused Fast of copyright infringement, charging he "borrowed liberally" from Barnard's biography of John Peter Altgeld for his own book about Altgeld, The American. Fast settled for $7,500 ($93,725 in 2022 dollars). His publisher also agreed to republish Barnard's book. [7]

Personal life and death

Fast married his first wife, Bette Cohen, on June 6, 1937. Their children were Jonathan and Rachel. Bette died in 1994. During the marriage, Fast had a relationship in the 1950s with Isabel (Dowden) Johnson, former wife of Lester Cole and later wife to Alger Hiss.[8][9] In 1999, he married Mercedes O'Connor, who survived him. Mercedes brought three sons to the marriage.

Fast's son Jonathan Fast, himself a novelist, was married to novelist Erica Jong; their daughter is the pundit Molly Jong-Fast. The writer Julius Fast was his younger brother.

Fast died in his home in Old Greenwich, Connecticut.[10]



  1. The Crossing (1971)
  2. Bunker Hill (2001). Prequel
  1. The Immigrants (1977)
  2. Second Generation (1978)
  3. The Establishment (1979)
  4. The Legacy (1981)
  5. The Immigrant's Daughter (1985)
  6. An Independent Woman (1997)

Novels under the pseudonym Behn Boruch

Novels under the pseudonym E.V. Cunningham

  1. Lydia (1964)
  2. Cynthia (1967)
  1. Penelope (1965), adapted from Penelope (film)
  2. Margie (1966)
  1. Samantha, AKA The Case of the Angry Actress (1967)
  2. The Case of the One-Penny Orange (1977)
  3. The Case of the Russian Diplomat (1978)
  4. The Case of the Poisoned Eclairs (1979)
  5. The Case of the Sliding Pool (1981)
  6. The Case of the Kidnapped Angel (1982)
  7. The Case of the Murdered Mackenzie (1984)

Short story collections

Short stories

Uncollected short stories.







  1. ^ Fast, Being Red (1990) pp. 162–63.
  2. ^ "Howard Fast: Why the Fifth Amendment?". Retrieved 2020-07-11.
  3. ^ a b Burnsworth, Jodi (March 9, 2012). "The Forgotten Prison on Kennison Mountain – Part 3 of 4". The Inter-Mountain. Elkins, West Virginia. Archived from the original on September 15, 2014. Retrieved September 15, 2014.
  4. ^ "Happy Anniversary, Nikita Khrushchev". Washington Post. 22 February 2006. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  5. ^ Howard Fast, The Naked God: The Writer and the Communist Party, Google Books.
  6. ^ Und Spartakus, Berliner Zeitung, 15 March 2003. Article in German relating the decision to move to Teaneck.
  7. ^ "Paying Up," Newsweek, January 19, 1948
  8. ^ Remnick, David (1986-10-12). "Alger Hiss Goes Ungently Into That Good Night". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2022-02-01.
  9. ^ Sorin, Gerald (2012-11-05). Howard Fast: Life and Literature in the Left Lane. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-00732-2.
  10. ^ Rothstein, Mervyn (2003-03-13). "Howard Fast, 88, Best-Selling Novelist, Dies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-02-14.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Cuningham, E.V. (1960). Sylvia (in French) (1st ed.). New York City: Doubleday. ASIN B0006AWMWI.
  14. ^ Cuningham, E.V. (1962). Phyllis (1st ed.). New York City: Doubleday. ASIN B000GLYLX0.
  15. ^ Cuningham, E.V. (1963). Alice (1st ed.). London: André Deutsch. ASIN B0000CLXJ6.
  16. ^ Cuningham, E.V. (1964). Shirley (1st ed.). New York City: Doubleday. ASIN B000EON3GA.
  17. ^ "May Day". Retrieved 2020-07-11.
  18. ^ "Spain and peace : Fast, Howard, 1914-2003. : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming". Internet Archive. Retrieved 2020-07-11.
  19. ^ Fast, Howard (1944). The Incredible Tito. Magazine House.
  20. ^ "Intellectuals in the fight for peace : Fast, Howard, 1914-2003 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming". Internet Archive. Retrieved 2020-07-11.