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from the dust jacket of the 1947 Duell, Sloan & Pearce first edition


...With some initial attempt at historical recollection, the main street was called Concord Way, but practicality came with the big plant, and the avenues that paralleled it were simply known as First and Second and Third and Fourth Avenues, while the cross-streets were impersonally named after trees, Linden and Chestnut and Maple and so forth. A sharp, cold wind from the Berkshires had blown away the threat of snow, bringing cold instead, the biting winter cold that seems to freeze the stars into a stage-setting of a sky. Most of the merchants closed up early this night, realizing that it was not and could not very well become a night for shopping, and as they dimmed their lights, the glow of red-hot salamanders at the end of Concord Way, where the main gate of the plant was, became more apparent, as if troops of some sort were camped down there in the valley alongside the millpond -- giving that sort of fanciful suggestion added reality in the fine frame of stars and tumbled hills.

This was Clarkton, on the first of four tense days in December, 1945. After those days had passed, it was something else again -- not altered by any natural disaster, but changed in the way the soul of George Clark Lowell, who owned it, had been changed. For the story of Clarkton was the story of the master of its single industry. What that industry faced was a taut, danger-laden strike situation. What George Clark Lowell did about that strike made the change in the heart of his town.

To know the characters Howard Fast has created in Clarkton is to know what is going on in America today. Here every feature of modern industrial society is carefully portrayed: George Clark Lowell, the inheritor of great power and wealth who would accept the comforts but not the demands of his position; his family -- a wife disregarding his marital transgressions, a daughter disregarding his authority; the practical manager of his plant; the police chief whose first duty is to protect him. Here, too, the people who both depend upon him and fight him: his best friend, who supports the strike; Santana, the local barber-philosopher; Max Goldstein, the fat, disillusioned lawyer who regains belief; the communist-bedeviled strike leader; and the union men who warm their hands in front of the salamanders.

To understand Clarkton is to understand the responsibility of the American dream.