Frank Campenni Papers, 1932-1977


Frank Campenni

Frank Campenni was an English professor at UWM for thirty-six years, 1956-1992. He received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Wisconsin (Madison) in 1971.

Howard Fast

Howard Fast was a prolific author of historical novels, biographies, popular histories, children's stories, film scripts, plays, detective fiction, and science fiction. Fast also wrote under the pseudonym E. V. Cunningham. In the 1940s, and again in the 1970s and 1980s, he achieved best-seller status with novels explicitly promoting left-wing ideas.

The son of Ukrainian immigrants, Barney and Ida Miller Fast, Fast attended George Washington High School in New York City and graduated in 1931 at the age of sixteen. In 1932, Fast published his first work, Two Villages, a romantic novel. Within a few years, he had written more than half a dozen historical novels about the American Revolutionary War period, including Conceived in Liberty (1939), The Last Frontier (1941), The Unvanquished (1942), and Citizen Tom Paine (1943).

He married his wife Bette in 1937, and in 1943 joined the American Communist Party. In 1950 the House of the Un-American Activities Committees (HUAC) ordered Fast to provide names of fellow members of the American Communist Party. Fast refused, citing his 1st Amendment right, and was subsequently sentenced to three months in prison. While in prison he wrote his most famous novel, Spartacus (1953), about a slave revolt in ancient Rome. Blacklisted upon his release, he established his own publishing company, the Blue Heron Press. In 1952 he ran for Congress on the American Labor Party ticket, and in 1954 he was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize.

Fast left the Communist Party in 1956, disillusioned by the Soviet Union's own stunning revelations of Stalin's terror and by the spread of anti-Semitism there. In conjunction with leaving the Party he wrote a book about his political experience, The Naked God (1957). In 1957 he moved to Hollywood to begin a career as a scenarist, and in 1960 Spartacus was made into a successful movie starring Kirk Douglas.

During his lifetime Fast published more than forty books under his own name and twenty as E.V. Cunningham. Howard Fast died in Greenwich, Connecticut, on March 12, 2003.