You know him for penning his working-class conquest The Jungle. But there’s a multi-novel saga Upton Sinclair penned from 1940 to 1953 you may have never heard of with a loyal following. It’s been out of print for years and just about forgotten, until Open Road Integrated Media is brought back all 11 tales as e-books in 2016.
So just what is it about this historical fiction series that had fans printing and selling the books themselves?
The series’s main character, the debonair art dealer Lanny Budd, finds himself in the midst of some of the most dramatic events from 1913 to 1947, taking readers through two World Wars, star-crossed romances, and countless run-ins with some of the globe’s most infamous world leaders. Now, thanks to Lanny Budd’s return, you can have a front row seat to the most major events of the 20th century.
World’s End, 1913-1919
Meet Lanning “Lanny” Budd, a teenager who’s coming-of-age innocence gets shattered when bombs start to drop and the body count of WWI starts to build. Son to an American arms dealer and his mistress, Lanny goes from a chic life in the French Riviera to joining the Paris Peace Conference.
Between Two Worlds, 1919-1929
The second in Sinclair’s series is a mash-up of history, romance, and culture that takes readers across the pond. The Europe of Lanny’s childhood is gone: The Treaty of Versailles is in effect, the Roaring Twenties are in full swing, and Adolf Hitler is occupying Germany. So Lanny marries, then moves to the States.
Dragon’s Teeth, 1929-1934
If there’s one book you choose to read from Sinclair’s series, it’s this one. Sinclair’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1943 novel depicts the rise of Hitler’s party, while sending Lanny, now a wealthy art dealer, to Nazi Germany to visit relatives. And into the den of the monster.
Wide Is the Gate, 1934-1937
Unable to deny the nightmare happening in Germany, Lanny plays with fire as a double agent with a few select others to bring down Nazism and Fascism. The result: a dangerous game that takes him from Germany to Spain on a life-threatening mission just before the Spanish Civil War.
Presidential Agent, 1937 & 1938
With a new gig as Presidential Agent for FDR, Lanny is assigned to the Third Reich during a time when the Allied Powers were to cede Czechoslovakia to Hitler to avoid war. But that’s not even the worst of Lanny’s problems: His latest love interest is being held by the Gestapo.
Dragon Harvest, 1938-1940
Lanny’s well into his appointed position as secret agent and has managed to earn a seat at Hitler’s table. So when he learns of the Führer’s plans, he warns European leaders, but to no avail. Nothing can stop the Nazis control. And they are steamrolling on to Paris.
A World to Win, 1940-1942
The Nazis occupy France; the Vichy is in order; and Lanny, aka Presidential Agent 103, now has a target on his back by the very French Resistance he’s fighting to assist. Meanwhile, Japan drops bombs on Pearl Harbor, and FDR’s nation is forced to enter the war.
Presidential Mission, 1942 & 1943
As the war rages on, Lanny’s needed more than ever. Adventures in Algiers, where he is to fool the German High Command on the U.S.’s strike plans; Russia, where he parachutes from a totaled aircraft into Moscow; and a trek through the Sahara Desert ensue.
One Clear Call, 1943 & 1944
The Third Reich is faltering; the Allies are poised to retake Europe. But for Lanny, news isn’t so good. Since 1938, he has had the trust of Hitler and his inner circle. But that’s about to change, as Heinrich Himmler, Hitler’s Gestapo chief, has just learned of Lanny’s true loyalties. Time to go.
O Shepherd, Speak!, 1944-1946
In what was originally to be the finale to the series, Lanny watches the collapse of the Nazi Germany, the destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the death of FDR, and the outcomes of the Nuremberg trials. Loose ends are tied up, the denouement is told, but the legend of Lanny Budd continues.
The Return of Lanny Budd, 1946-1949
And it continues with our favorite spy coming out of retirement to go undercover to infiltrate the Russian control sector, where he learns about Stalin’s sinister plans. And it’s here where Lanny realizes his work—unlike Sinclair’s beloved series—is far from over.