A Fever in the Heartland: The Ku Klux Klan's Plot to Take Over America, and the Woman Who Stopped Them (Hardcover)
This is essentially the story of human failure focused on one sadistic, brutal man, but Egan turns it into an encompassing and oddly surprising portrait of 1920s America. David C. Stephenson boldly set out to reinvent himself and create a country where the heights of power would be reached by white people considered racially pure. In the process, he successfully spread the KKK much wider and grew it much stronger than I knew, into my own back yard, while making himself rich. It’s stunning. How did I not know about this? Egan did essential homework and conveys it with dramatic style. The connections and references he weaves had me doing triple-takes, and frankly they got me through the moments when these violent predators terrified me. The bigger problem is, I open my news apps today and see people saying the same racist things and committing extreme acts of violence exactly 100 years later. Progress is not progressive enough, and I don’t have long-term patience. Still, I needed to know this story, and Egan makes it spellbinding. I was determined to see how it ended, and I was rewarded with an inspiring conclusion.
— Tim McCarthy
National Book Award and Pulitzer winner (the latter for his newspaper work) Timothy Egan takes on the second (and probably not last) coming of the Klu Klux Klan in America. In the 1920s, a combination of factors, including the migration of Confederate sympathizers and a White population scared by new waves of immigration, emboldened by the success of Prohibition, led to a resurgence of this organization that was most profound not in the South, but in the Midwest and West. Egan focuses on Indiana, a state that had perhaps the most KKK domination (though one should not exclude Ohio, Colorado, and Oregon, which have their own stories) and in particular, on D.C. Stephenson, who wound up having much of Indiana under his control. A ruthless criminal, a sexual predator, and a charlatan, Steve, as he was known, was seemingly unstoppable, until maybe he wasn’t. Egan’s meticulous research and lively storytelling combine for a powerful work with obvious contemporary parallels. I’m definitely going to be reading more Egan!— Daniel Goldin
"With meticulous detective work, Timothy Egan shines a light on one of the most sinister chapters in American history—how a viciously racist movement, led by a murderous conman, rose to power in the early twentieth century. A Fever in the Heartland is compelling, powerful, and profoundly resonant today." -- David Grann, author of THE WAGER and KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON
A historical thriller by the Pulitzer and National Book Award-winning author that tells the riveting story of the Klan's rise to power in the 1920s, the cunning con man who drove that rise, and the woman who stopped them.
The Roaring Twenties--the Jazz Age--has been characterized as a time of Gatsby frivolity. But it was also the height of the uniquely American hate group, the Ku Klux Klan. Their domain was not the old Confederacy, but the Heartland and the West. They hated Blacks, Jews, Catholics and immigrants in equal measure, and took radical steps to keep these people from the American promise. And the man who set in motion their takeover of great swaths of America was a charismatic charlatan named D.C. Stephenson.
Stephenson was a magnetic presence whose life story changed with every telling. Within two years of his arrival in Indiana, he’d become the Grand Dragon of the state and the architect of the strategy that brought the group out of the shadows – their message endorsed from the pulpits of local churches, spread at family picnics and town celebrations. Judges, prosecutors, ministers, governors and senators across the country all proudly proclaimed their membership. But at the peak of his influence, it was a seemingly powerless woman – Madge Oberholtzer – who would reveal his secret cruelties, and whose deathbed testimony finally brought the Klan to their knees.
A FEVER IN THE HEARTLAND marries a propulsive drama to a powerful and page-turning reckoning with one of the darkest threads in American history.
About the Author
Timothy Egan is a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter and the author of nine other books, most recently the highly acclaimed A Pilgrimage to Eternity and The Immortal Irishman, a New York Times bestseller. His book on the Dust Bowl, The Worst Hard Time, won a National Book Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. His account of photographer Edward Curtis, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, won the Carnegie Medal for nonfiction.
"With narrative elan, Egan gives us a riveting saga of how a predatory con man became one of the most powerful people in 1920s America, Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, with a plan to rule the country—and how a grisly murder of a woman brought him down. Compelling and chillingly resonant with our own time." —Erik Larson, author of The Splendid and the Vile
"Timothy Egan's history of the Ku Klux Klan's rise and fall is absolutely gripping. It is also terrifyingly relevant." —Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Sixth Extinction
"Egan has done it again, mastering another complicated American story with authority and surprising detail. The Klan here are not the nightriders of the late 19th century, but a retooled special interest group and unusually potent political power. The influence they wielded over states and policy should put a chill in every American. Bravo.” —Ken Burns
"With meticulous detective work, Timothy Egan shines a light on one of the most sinister chapters in American history—how a viciously racist movement, led by a murderous conman, rose to power in the early twentieth century. A Fever in the Heartland is compelling, powerful, and profoundly resonant today." —David Grann, author of The Wager and Killers of the Flower Moon
"[A] riveting exposé." —Booklist, starred review
“Riveting history…..excellently rendered.” —Kirkus, starred review