If you were a middle-class White mom in 1976 with copies of lifestyle magazines piled in the corner of a green shag-carpeted room designed by a Dorothy Draper protégé, you probably also had a few thick Taylor Caldwell novels tucked in the bookshelf by the hi-fi stereo. Chances are you subscribed to a book club as well as those magazines—some of which promoted Caldwell paperbacks. Because you loved those books, you were one of the millions enticed by that new programming phenomenon, the miniseries, which brought fiction bestsellers to life on network television. A new miniseries based on Alex Haley’s Roots would soon be broadcast, and you might tune in because the first miniseries you watched, a few months back, was so good.
That one was called Captains and the Kings, a nine-hour series broadcast over eight days, which was adapted from Taylor Caldwell’s fiction for NBC and aired only four months prior to Haley’s more famous program. Both miniseries told epic family stories of coming to America and the generational struggles that followed. But while Roots brought the horrors of slavery into family living rooms and was deemed a national reckoning on race, Captains and the Kings was a bodice-ripping saga of the political rise of America’s first Irish Catholic presidential hopeful. The program obviously recalled John F. Kennedy, but with a rightward twist. The Irish Catholic men of Captains and the Kings endured discrimination and degradation but through their individual entrepreneurial grit they persevered until a spooky cabal undermined them. Captains and the Kings was a story in which White folks could see their historical roots as a supposedly subjugated people under the tyranny of liberal policies and so-called international bankers. If you were a middle-class White mom in 1976, you probably loved watching Captains and the Kings alongside celebrations of the nation’s bicentennial. That was 1976.
As we in the current day consider the actions of Women for America First—the main organizers of the January 6, 2021, rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol—or the number of middle-class White women who perpetuate QAnon conspiracism, we can benefit from studying Caldwell’s writing and activism. Caldwell was prolific in her political writings as well with her fiction. She wrote for right-wing periodicals including John Birch Society’s American Opinion, the Dan Smoot Report, and Liberty Lobby’s The Spotlight. She published 40 novels, most of them bestsellers, and she collaborated with conservatives and far-right strategists from the 1960s through the ‘80s. She is probably the most overlooked important Cold War writer. She was highly influential because of not only what she wrote but also how she wrote it. She spun conspiracy-theory straw into bestselling gold. The middle-class White moms may not have known that they were soaking up far-right perspectives as they turned those many pages of the latest Taylor Caldwell. But that was, according to those right-wing strategists who admired and worked with her, the very point.
Willis Carto, the influential antisemite of the Far Right, gushed to Caldwell in a 1977 letter: “Your reputation over the years has been and is tremendous. By your art you educate. Your books have surely created a proper ‘mood’ in millions of people. I am sure that your persuasiveness has touched many more people than those who read The Spotlight, and you’ve done it with only yourself whereas we have 40 hungry people on the staff. I’d write a novel myself if I knew how!” Knowing how to write a novel, Caldwell not only conveyed the basic plots of conspiracy theories that people such as Carto espoused. She also conferred the all-important feeling of tenderness, betrayal, longing, and belonging—the emotional affect we call sentimentalism—to her readers. This sentimentalism is crucial for us to understand today.
Sentimentalism and resentment are twin engines of populism , which is currently sweeping the globe. While scholars of right-wing movements—mainly sociologists and political scientists—have for decades elucidated the politics of resentment, humanities scholars have paid more attention to the powers of sentimentalism. To understand how White nationalism is emerging via populist campaigns, we need to follow the lead of humanists, narratologists, and scholars of affect in recognizing the role of sentimentalism. Whiteness is a felt identity that is narrated through cultural practices rather than dictated or learned through religious/philosophical principles or ideological doctrine. While she disdained women and what she called “mommy novels” full of “maudlin gushings,” Caldwell was a master at crafting stories through which readers feel that being White in America is a heroic effort. Her work exemplifies how, as scholars have argued, “sentimental fiction not only seeks to ‘move’ its readers affectively through a highly emotional appeal but also uses the display, creation, and calibration of feelings as a means to emphasize its strong claim to moral truth and authenticity.”
In the analysis that follows, we see how Caldwell breathed life into anti-Communist conspiracy theories and anti-statist by-the-bootstrap plots, motivated right-wing women to take political action, and supported efforts to oppose racial uprisings at home and abroad, specifically in Rhodesia, the southern African country now known as Zimbabwe. In these ways, Caldwell is less remembered but arguably more influential than her contemporary Ayn Rand, both of whom wrote novels that promoted the optimistic cruelty characteristic of a bourgeoning neoliberalism and White nationalism.
The Optimistic Cruelty of Caldwell’s Fiction
In 1907, at six years old, Taylor Caldwell emigrated from Manchester, England, to Buffalo, New York. The child of Scots-Irish parents who did not sentimentalize childhood or poverty, she grew up testing and championing the values of her family, and by age 18 moved to eastern Kentucky with her first of four husbands. In 1938, she published her first book, Dynasty of Death, a novel about a Pennsylvania family producing and selling munitions from just before the Civil War to just before World War I. This book, and the subsequent two novels that continued Dynasty’s familial trajectory, launched a long career of producing fat tomes of pulpy fiction marketed as epic narratives about biblical figures and multigenerational family sagas in which invented personas and historical figures interact. Although she was a remarkable commercial success, critics trashed her work in reviews, faulting it for historical inaccuracies, sensational plots, and preachy internal thoughts of characters who clearly represented different aspects of political debate, winners of which skewed Right, and sometimes Far Right.
Some may object that Caldwell’s ideas, like Ayn Rand’s, were “too crude and derivative to matter,” as Lisa Duggan put it in Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed. Although they both might be regarded as peripheral hacks who churned out cartoonish mouthpieces for political propaganda, they should not be underestimated. As Duggan writes, Rand’s “core contributions to neoliberal political culture do not consist of ideas,” but rather “are conversion machines that run on lust. They create feelings of aspiration and desire in readers,” providing “a structure of feeling… that morphs throughout the twentieth century and underwrites the form of capitalism on steroids that dominates the present.” The culture of greed Rand reflected, Duggan argues, is built on a kind of “optimistic cruelty”—a feeling that propels aspirational will at all costs to others, allowing for ruthless capitalism that exacerbates poverty, exploits labor, and dominates the weak in a vision quest for wealth and power.
That same sensibility drives many of Caldwell’s novels. Her characters and plotlines promote an aspirational entrepreneurialism and an ascendant ethno-nationalist optimism that demonstrate how to subordinate weaklings and amass fortune. As I detail below, Captains and the Kings is a great example; it chronicles one protagonist’s decision “to become a ‘ruthless Entreprenuer’ as soon as possible.” Reviewers who dismissed Caldwell’s fiction as hack writing because it is circuitous, repetitious, or abrupt, were missing the point of how Caldwell’s work exemplified the conventions of right-wing fiction, and sometimes set their standard. Examining “heroes on the right,” literary scholar Jack Sattel notes that within right-wing fiction, “the most important literary quality of these novels is their density and attention to concrete detail of day-to-day life.” Rejecting “the abstract and theoretical,” right-wing writers champion “what is already known,” and their novels “serve to repeat and reflect the material conditions of life in the rightist movement.” What reviewers in mainstream presses faulted Caldwell for—like overwrought description and heavy-handed didacticism—were actually assets for conservative readers. “The moralism of the didactic style, easily dismissed by the intellectual or the avant garde, strengthens the appeal and validity of the literature to the rightist reader.” In this way, Caldwell’s novels, like Rand’s, provided “a model set of values which serve to guide the rightist political actor.”
Because Caldwell was more prolific and mainstream than Rand, her influence was arguably greater, and not only for the fact that Caldwell was writing for new audiences through 1980 while Rand stopped producing novels after 1957 and ceased her philosophical writings around 1976. Caldwell’s writing career spanned the late ‘30s to 1980, a period during which the conservative movement began embracing what they called absolutist truths and then evolved into a neoliberalism increasingly described as “post-truth.” Caldwell’s imaginative works of fiction sometimes rewrote history and sometimes speculated the future—but always it was with emotional force, manufacturing feelings for generations of readers and moving them to take political action.
The Devil’s Advocate and Mothers of Conservatism
According to historian Michelle Nickerson, women in the 1950s who garnered support for anti-statist issues and against liberal policies of the New Deal were the forebears of the modern conservative movement, playing a great but often unacknowledged role in shaping the postwar Right. These “mothers of conservatism” accomplished much of this influential organizing through the written word in print material and book culture. They excelled at letter writing campaigns, created meeting spaces in patriotic bookstores that they staffed voluntarily, and read the latest by subscribing to book clubs that would select the next new thing and send it directly to your house. They organized study groups and activist organizations to keep patriotic women alert. Groups in Southern California such as Minute Women USA and American Public Relations Forum (APRF) were especially influential, and they kept women there abreast of “a national conversation raging through conservative newsletters.”
Nickerson paints a picture of what these spaces looked like, with Minute Women bulletins stacked on coffee tables, and reading rooms displaying anticommunist magazines and APRF newsletters and, most intimate of all, “on nightstands across Los Angeles County sat a novel by the English best-selling writer Taylor Caldwell—perhaps The Devil’s Advocate, a dystopian thriller about communist world domination.” Indeed, Caldwell’s plots, especially that of The Devil’s Advocate, not only promoted the free enterprise, anti-Communist thinking that spurred “patriotic” book culture. They also spoke specifically to these “suburban warriors” and “kitchen table activists” who used them as direct enticement for people to get involved in protest campaigns.
APRF formed the same year that The Devil’s Advocate was published, 1952, when anti-Communist fears were at fever pitch. Thanks to the 1951 publication of Edward Hunter’s Brainwashing in Red China: The Calculated Destruction of Men’s Minds, which was heavily promoted through networks of “patriotic” newsletters and reports, the women of APRF were especially concerned about brainwashing as a military technique supposedly migrating to civilian society. In Mothers of Conservatism, Nickerson provides a detailed account of how these women organized to thwart legislation that appeared to impose “psychopolitics” on ordinary Americans.
In 1955, according to Nickerson, representatives of the U.S. territory of Alaska proposed a long-sought after measure to roll back an “archaic federal civil code of procedure” and allow local government, rather than federal government, to oversee care of patients in need of psychiatric care. The goal was to stop wasteful and harmful processing of the mentally ill, which, before that time, could entail actually shipping patients off—that is, on a boat—in straightjackets to the Lower 48 where institutions could provide appropriate care. The lawmakers penning the bill inadvertently supplied vague descriptions for who could be admitted as a mentally ill patient, what counted as a psychiatric disease, and why they were asking for “one million acres from the public lands of the United States in Alaska…to lease and make conditional sales of such selected lands.” Their reasoning for this last request was expressed well enough: they wanted to use the proceeds from such sales or leases to foot the bill for creating institutions there in Alaska so they would not have to move psychiatric patients down to Oregon. The patriotic women of APRF jumped on all these aspects of the bill, arguing that nefarious neighbors and family members could institutionalize people against their will, that anything could be deemed a disease to justify such institutionalization, and that the request for public lands was to create a gulag-type concentration camp on the frozen terrain of Alaska. Noting the geographic proximity of Alaska to the Soviet Union and building on fears of brainwashing and other “psychopolitics” coming to America from “Lenin,” they claimed that passing this bill in the name of mental health was actually granting permission for the creation of “Siberia, U.S.A.”
The campaign against this bill in 1955 was swift and surprisingly effective, testifying to the political power these women wielded via networks built through “patriotic” print culture: the bookstores, the book clubs, the newsletters, magazines, reports, and bulletins produced by and for these mothers of conservatism. Ultimately the fight against the Alaska bill was defeated, but it took a heavy hitter—Barry Goldwater himself—to quash the far-out, far-right theory that this particular mental health legislation was a Soviet conspiracy. Nickerson’s careful excavation of historical records demonstrates that far from being a “lunatic-fringe,” these women were builders of a conservative movement in its ascendancy. These housewife populists, as she calls them, used the privileges of suburban life to combine “postwar domestic ideology to postwar conservative anti-statism in newsletters, speeches, and organizations” that monitored and shaped proposed legislation, school curricula, and electoral politics. APRF and other opponents of mental health legislation, Nickerson makes clear, were not irrational alarmists but methodical and highly effective organizers. So, when other bills regarding mental health measures emerged in California a few years after the approved Alaska bill, the APRF responded quickly. And one weapon deployed against “mental health”—which they saw as a euphemism for Communist mind games, brainwashing, and psychopolitics—was Taylor Caldwell. In 1959, they invited her to speak and utilized excerpts from The Devil’s Advocate in their bulletin.
Set nearly 20 years in the future, The Devil’s Advocate takes place in 1970, decades after a Russian takeover of the United States, and deep into the life of protagonist Andrew Durant, a dissident just old enough to remember how the world used to be in the 1930s, before Roosevelt’s New Deal led to a Communist overthrow by a tyrannical power called The Democracy. Caldwell’s imagining of how Russian Communists toppled the U.S. is cartoonishly heavy-handed. As a New York Times reviewer scoffed in 1952, the novel is full of “downright offenses to common sense. For example, we are told that in the monstrous third and fourth world wars only the United States used atomic weapons—and was itself untouched by a single bomb.” But Caldwell’s military acumen was unimportant, since The Devil’s Advocate asserts that Russia didn’t engineer its victory through military might, but rather through psychopolitics. To APRF, The Devil’s Advocate was less fiction than exposé, as the organization promised that Caldwell:
has documentation of the plot to overthrow this nation under the guise of “mental health.” She can prove to you that many of the people at the top in this movement which is sweeping the country are subversive and are carrying out Lenin’s orders to the letter. They are getting legislation passed on a wholesale scale that will incarcerate the sane minds of our nation, including our trusted representatives that stand out against communism.
In the same 1959 bulletin, APRF excerpted The Devil’s Advocate as prophecy but also as a reflection of the kind of legislation that they had unsuccessfully worked to destroy in 1955. The four-page APRF bulletin insisted that the novel spoke of the very recent past even though it is set in the future:
So much of this book has come to pass now. In fact, most of it, and upon re-reading it, one can immediately see why “they” made it almost impossible for the author to get it published, and then more difficult for the American citizen to obtain it. She had been able to expose their plans in the formation, and it was extremely important that the sleepy citizen never see it. She saw that America would become a slave nation under a military dictatorship.
The Devil’s Advocate therefore palpably shaped history for the women whom Caldwell’s work spoke to, even though it was set in the future. Moreover, the back-to-the-future temporality involved in APRF’s stated fear that “America would become a slave nation” points to Caldwell’s ability to speak simultaneously to a variety of White anxieties about supposed Communist psychopolitics, about racial integration contemporary to that anti-Communism, and about who was and could be a slave.
Writing White Plight
Caldwell deploys the idea of slavery in the same way that many White writers did in the 1950s and ‘60s. Depicting New Deal progressivism as the enslavement of White people, conservatives often compared slavery with liberalism. The Devil’s Advocate warned readers about becoming slaves in the future. Years later, Caldwell’s Captains and the Kings used the recent past to warn readers of a nefarious international cabal of spooky, subhuman, supernatural financiers.
Published in 1972, Captains and the Kings is an epic describing the White familial saga of the first potential Catholic American president. The protagonist, Rory, is clearly modeled after John F. Kennedy; his Irish immigrant father is, like Kennedy’s father, named Joseph. Joseph’s story represents the first generation of Irish immigrants whose assimilation in America expanded the idea of Whiteness as a social and racial category. Joseph’s son, Rory, represents a more synthetic Whiteness that homogenized ethnicities that were, prior to World War II, more distinct. Irishmen and Jews in particular “became” White throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, a fact that informs Captains and the Kings, in which Rory’s story builds on Joseph’s experiences of White victimization and rugged individualist perseverance. Again and again, Rory and Joseph withstand discrimination, epithets, and violence as White Irish. While there is no denying the anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic degradation and discrimination that Irish Americans suffered historically, Captains and the Kings expresses a feeling of White peril, a racial resentment that is affectively narrated.As the plot moves forward, Joseph’s wealth and Rory’s political ascendance are rewards for overcoming White subjugation with shrewd and often cruel business practices.
Moreover, Captains and the Kings promotes a vision of the past that mainstreams three related White supremacist ideas.Through didactic speeches and dramatic dialogues, Caldwell’s characters assert an understanding of slavery as “a choice” and a mere “stigma” that people can “live down” if they have the “fortitude” to do it, as did the “English who were slaves also.” The novel also perpetuates the antisemitic idea that world events are puppeteered by an international secret cabal of financiers. Caldwell pairs examples of prejudice against Jews and the Irish to neutralize allegations of antisemitism in a way similar to how her redefinition of slavery neutralized allegations of racism. Repeatedly Caldwell’s fiction and essays deny blatant bigotry, using sentimental themes to evoke sympathy for her explanations of why White people can amass wealth and power when other groups cannot, and how White people are therefore heroic in their besieged state.
In addition to Caldwell’s 1972 novel and the 1976 miniseries based on it, other right-wing fiction written around the same time, such as William Pierce’s The Turner Diaries and Jean Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints, equated liberalism with “slavery”—by which, of course, they meant not the real legacy of U.S. chattel slavery, but the decimation of civilization, implicitly or explicitly understood to be White and Western. Although Caldwell’s work is categorically different from these underground, militant books, many of them partake in the portrayal of White victimhood as a matter of national belonging and promote fears of America succumbing to tyrannical minority rule in which Whites occupy the bottom rung of racial hierarchy.
Friends of Rhodesian Independence: Exporting White Nationalism
One important geopolitical backdrop to these fear-mongering fictions of the 1970s was the decolonization of Africa, particularly the struggle in Rhodesia, which to the U.S. Right symbolized a dual contest against both racial uprising and spreading Communism. Taylor Caldwell was the president of the Friends of Rhodesian Independence, a group supporting White minority rule in Southern Africa.
According to historian Gerald Horne, the 1968 election of Richard Nixon owed as much to the Southern African Strategy as to the Southern Strategy. Playing “to the racial fears of Euro-Americans discomfited by the pace of racial change, be it south of the Mason-Dixon line or at the southern tip of Africa,” both strategies were grounded in Cold War hysteria that depicted Black people on both continents as Communist agents or dupes. Colonized in the late 1890s by Britain’s Cecil Rhodes, Rhodesia in 1965 became a hotbed of concern for anti-Communists when Prime Minister Ian Smith issued a unilateral declaration of independence from Great Britain. A White man of British descent born in Rhodesia, Smith sought independence while intending to maintain White minority rule. Insurrection erupted when indigenous Africans sought majority rule. The United Nations and the United States officially supported majority rule. Smith enlisted mercenaries, including many U.S. veterans who had served in Vietnam, to prolong the conflict. Some of them were members of John Birch Society and neonazi groups who were using their military or paramilitary training to build a White power movement. For many on the U.S. Right, the fight for White rule in Rhodesia became analogous to the fight against integration in the States. Some also saw it as a United Nations invasion, another piece of evidence of creeping globalist Communism.
As President of the Friends of Rhodesian Independence, Caldwell participated in political organizing with mainstream Republicans as well as more radical right-wingers such as Carto and his Liberty Lobby. She was seen as a prominent intellectual articulating rationales for helping White regimes in Katanga and Rhodesia “illegally evade decolonization under left-leaning African nationalists,” according to historians. It was Southern congressmen who supported Rhodesia, backed by “groups associated with The National Review magazine,” according to historian Josiah Brownell, who also noted that these mainstream conservatives were sometimes at odds with “the more radical groups linked with the John Birch Society and the Liberty Lobby.” Caldwell clearly belonged to the latter sort, but she avoided the in-group fighting that Carto could not. Her work with the Conservative Party of New York in the pro-Rhodesia effort, for example, demonstrates the versatility she had to operate in a variety of right-wing registers. So, too, does her involvement as advisory board member to Billy James Hargis’ Christian Crusade, which also promoted Rhodesia. She moved in and out of anti-Communist and conservative circles to grease the various wheels of the pro-Rhodesia machine. Regardless of the variety of Rightist inclination, many pro-Rhodesian forces supported the White nationalism Ian Smith meant to entrench in Southern Africa.
Moreover, they deployed a rhetoric of global settlerism in which U.S. citizens, nostalgic for their own past glories of conquest and independence, saw Rhodesia as a frontier. Taylor Caldwell excelled at this rhetoric, which sentimentalized White resentment of Black uprisings in Rhodesia as well as in the U.S. by tugging on the heartstrings of American patriots who treasured narratives of pioneering and revolution. A newsletter written during Caldwell’s tenure as leader of the Friends of Rhodesian Independence attests to the colonialist allure with which Americans should seek investment in Rhodesia, deploying that optimistic cruelty of exploiting the “virgin land” and “friendly natives.” “Almost anything can be purchased in Rhodesia, usually at prices under those in the U.S. …Rhodesia today resembles nothing so much as the American West of a hundred years ago. There are fantastic reaches of virgin land; incredible untapped natural resources; new cities springing up and wild beasts and friendly natives aplenty.” Indeed, Rhodesia was routinely depicted as an American frontier so much so that a Rhodesian-born white soldier recalled playing cowboys and Indians as well as Boers versus Brits in his youth. In casting Rhodesia as “Apache country,” the various factions of the U.S. Right redeployed colonialist logic in a way that bolstered the “law and order” rationale for opposing civil rights at home.
Caldwell’s colonialist fantasy of “friendly natives” apparently appealed to U.S. women who traveled to the Rhodesian capital city of Salisbury as part of a tour organized by Friends of Rhodesian Independence, advertisements for which featured Caldwell’s name and photograph. Such trips were organized by both the American Far Right and Southern segregationists who orchestrated the tours with overt symbolism that equated Rhodesia’s present with America’s past. The gift of a Liberty Bell, lavish Independence Day celebrations, and ubiquitous references to “pioneer country” and the American Revolution made the visits “deeply emotional” encounters for U.S. citizens who felt themselves to be patriots rooting for Rhodesian freedom fighters.
One account of such a tour reveals how narrating Rhodesia as the American West worked hand-in-hand with narrating White victimhood in the midst of U.S. racial unrest of the mid-1960s. Having “just entertained in Salisbury twenty-three women from the US Friends of Rhodesian Independence chapter,” their escort reported that “two of the elderly ladies confided to me (after two Martinis) that they really were delighted to be here as it gave them a month away from the ‘terror of our racial riots!’” Such trips to Rhodesia were advertised in publications from Hargis’s organization, The Christian Crusade, and in other print media that those mothers of conservatism consumed and fed to their families and friends. Like the women’s networks that were so effective in opposing mental health legislation, women networking transnationally were active in the fight against decolonizing Southern Africa.
The political work of these pro-Rhodesia endeavors eventually faltered. As the ‘70s rolled on, with the armed struggle against Ian Smith most intense in 1974 and thereafter, President Carter repeatedly refused to lift sanctions, much to the outrage of conservatives in Congress. Those sanctions played a large part in Smith’s defeat in 1980, as Rhodesia became Zimbabwe and ended White minority rule, and it did not help Carter with his doomed re-election effort the same year. The political ties that we see in Caldwell’s serving as president of the Friends of Rhodesian Independence demonstrate the ideological and membership links among different factions of an ascendant U.S. right-wing. She cross-pollinated the far-right Liberty Lobby with the emerging Christian politics foreshadowed by Hargis’s Christian Crusade and the establishment electoral politics represented by the Conservative Party of New York.
In addition to this political activism, the cultural work of Caldwell’s narrating a transnational White supremacism that right-wing forces could mobilize, ironically, in the service of White nationalism had lasting impact. Prime Minister Smith failed because he could not embrace and deploy a U.S.-style “synthetic whiteness” that transcended “tension between and among those of European descent” in the service of uniting against people of color, according to historian Gerald Horne. He contends that “the forces from the United States—not just soldiers but films and the entire U.S. ethos—symbolized a synthetic ‘whiteness’” that Smith’s regime could not achieve because Smith’s foes were not only Black Africans but White Europeans. Summarizing decades of critical studies of Whiteness, Horne reminds us that throughout the 20th Century, “in the United States such tensions among various Europeans were mediated by a construction of a ‘white’ identity that was grounded in antipathy toward those of a darker hue.” The mercenaries in Rhodesia “were a living symbol that ethnic antagonisms could be overcome in the interest of ‘whiteness.’” For the folks at home, especially White middle-class women, Caldwell’s characters symbolized something similar. Her work as a political actor fighting for Rhodesia as well as her relentless work as a novelist forged a White American patriotism that contributed to “transnational networks in which such nationalist movements cooperate, somewhat paradoxically, in the name of isolationism and nationalism with clear imperial underpinnings.” To recognize the longevity of this deadly colonialist legacy, one need only recall that the White supremacist who murdered a prayer group in 2015 at the Charleston, South Carolina, Emanuel AME Church titled his webpage “The Last Rhodesian.” Since then, racist nostalgia for Rhodesia has swept the internet, appealing to militant White nationalists around the world.
Caldwell’s voice spoke to soldiers of fortune as well as to ladies of book clubs, to Christian anti-Communists as well as Holocaust deniers. Her novels immersed a wide readership in validating affect, a feeling of belonging and entitlement, however imperiled by evil forces plotting to eradicate it for White people whose individual grit and entrepreneurial determination would save them from tyranny. Creating “a proper mood,” as Willis Carto fawningly wrote, for the Far Right for more than half a century, Caldwell mainstreamed conspiracist fears about international cabals, illegitimate governments, nefarious curricula, and White subjugation. Except when packaged as fiction, such conspiracism was considered “extreme” when Caldwell was alive. It has since proliferated as the global Right gains power, and as the granddaughters of kitchen table activists, suburban warriors, and housewife populists work like their grandmothers to organize—with feeling—along anti-statist lines.
 The author gratefully acknowledges use of archives at the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies, research assistance from Kendall Sewell, and feedback on drafts from Alan Nadel, Michelle Nickerson, and Srimati Basu.
 Caldwell’s books were featured in several book clubs, the most mainstream of which was the Literary Guild, which in the 1970s advertised their selections in magazines such as Cosmopolitan, American Home, and Ladies Home Journal. According to reports on book club publishers, Literary Guild embraced a female readership: “while the Book-of-the-Month-Club offered more nonfiction to a more heavily male audience, the Literary Guild featured more fiction choices for a membership dominated by women.” See Doreen Carvajal, “Well Known Book Clubs Agree to Form Partnership,” The New York Times, March 2, 2000. Ads for Caldwell’s Captains and the Kings are obviously geared for women, as you can see in a yellow double-page spread featured in the article “Take Your Pick from These Vintage Book Clubs” posted July 17, 2017, on the website Flashbak: https://flashbak.com/take-your-pick-from-these-vintage-book-clubs-38318….
 Correspondence from Willis Carto to Taylor Caldwell, February 27, 1977, Willis A. Carto Library, http://willisacartolibrary.com/2017/06/25/taylor-caldwell/.
 Heike Paul, “Authoritarian populism, White Supremacy, and Volkskorper-Sentimentalism” in The Comeback of Populism Transatlantic Perspectives, edited by Heike Paul, Jurgen Beghardt, and Ursula Prutsch (Heidelberg, Germany: Universitatsverlag Winter 2019), 137.
 Exemplars in the first case are Jean Hardisty, Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999) and, in the second case, Lauren Berlant, The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008).
 See George F. Smith’s 1978 interview with Taylor Caldwell, http://georgefsmith.blogspot.com/2009/08/interview-with-taylor-caldwell….
 Katharina Gerund and Heike Paul, “Sentimentalism,” Handbook of the American Novel of the Nineteenth Century, edited by Christine Gerhardt, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2018, pp. 17-33, https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110481327-002. Key resources for sentimental literary studies in the 20th Century include: Lauren Berlant, The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (Durham: Duke UP, 2008); Janice Radway, A Feeling for Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire (Chapel Hill; University of North Carolina Press, 1997); Rebecca Wanzo, The Suffering Will Not be Televised: African American Women and Sentimental Political Storytelling (Albany: SUNY Press, 2009); Jennifer Williamson, Twentieth-Century Sentimentalism: Narrative Appropriation in American Literature (New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2014).
 Lisa Duggan, Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2019): 5.
 Duggan, 5.
 Duggan, 5. Riffing on literary critic Lauren Berlant, who devised a concept of “cruel optimism” to recognize the conundrum of wanting what will only harm you in a time of sustained crisis, Duggan described Rand’s fiction as promoting “optimistic cruelty.” See Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011).
 Captains and the Kings (1972): 80. Readers receive recurring free market lessons as they follow the protagonist Joseph on his ascent. In the same vein, Karl Marx is repeatedly dismissed with explanations such as, “Remove profits and you remove incentive, and barbarism results. It is human nature to work for rewards” (233).
 Jack W. Sattel, “Heroes on the Right,” Journal of Popular Culture XI, no. 1 (1977): 124.
 Sattel, 124.
 Sattel, 124.
 Sattel, 111.
 Michelle M. Nickerson, Mothers of Conservatism: Women and the Postwar Right (Princeton University Press, 2012). This line of scholarship is indebted to Jean Hardisty, Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999). See also Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001); Elizabeth Gillespie McRae, Mothers of Massive Resistance: White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018); Marjorie J Spruill, Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women’s Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017).
 Nickerson, Mothers, 50.
 Nickerson, Mothers, 50.
 McGirr; Hardisty. While it is clear from advertisements from the 1970s that Caldwell’s novels were marketed to middle-class, middle-aged women explicitly, the author proudly claimed that her readership expanded well beyond that demographic. “At least 50% of my readers,” she boasted in 1978, “now are young people, especially young men between the ages of 18 and 30.” See Smith’s interview with her: http://georgefsmith.blogspot.com/2009/08/interview-with-taylor-caldwell….
 These fears percolated for several years in different forms and formats, a key transformation being a pamphlet secretly penned by scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and titled “Brain-washing: A Synthesis of the Russian Textbook on Psychopolitics.” The pamphlet summarized purported Soviet plans to infiltrate U.S. minds, fears about which crystallized when new mental health legislation was proposed. APRF circulated this pamphlet to its members. American Public Relations Forum, Inc., Bulletin, no. 38 (November 1959) in Freedom of Information Act FBI file, “American Public Relations Forum.”
 Nickerson, Chapter IV, “Siberia U.S.A.” in Mothers, 103-135. See also, Michelle Nickerson, “The ‘Lunatic Fringe’ Strikes Back: Conservative Opposition to the Alaska Mental Health Bill of 1956,” in The Politics of Healing: Histories of Alternative Medicine in Twentieth-Century North America, 117-152. Edited by Robert D. Johnston. Abingdon-on-Thames, England, UK: Routledge, 2004.
 Nickerson, Mothers, 104.
 Nickerson, Mothers, 34.
 Charles Lee, “Minute Men Of 1970,” The New York Times, May 4, 1952.
 Much like today’s manufactured panic over critical race theory—which recently has morphed into an alarm sounded by concerned parents against “emotional and mental health initiatives” in schools—Caldwell and her fellow Minute Women and APRF members in the 1950s warned that incorporating mental health measures into school curricula and social programs was a nefarious plot to overwhelm vulnerable minds and undermine traditional values. The history of education and curricular disputes in the U.S. reveal many variations on this theme of manufacturing panic and mobilizing concerned parents with it. One of the most important disputes contemporary with Caldwell’s writing was the West Virginia textbook conflict of 1974, in which the left-leaning protest culture of Appalachia moved rightward as parents shifted their opposition to a multiethnic language arts curriculum from race-based arguments to arguments about secular humanism. See Carol Mason, Reading Appalachia from Left to Right: Conservatives and the 1974 Kanawha County Textbook Controversy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009).
See also Mike Hixenbaugh’s Twitter thread documenting current objections to mental health initiatives in schools: https://twitter.com/mike_hixenbaugh/status/1460294798800302081?s=12.
 American Public Relations Forum, Inc., Bulletin, no. 38 (November 1959) in Freedom of Information Act FBI file, “American Public Relations Forum.”
 American Public Relations Forum, Inc., Bulletin, no. 38, 3 (emphasis added).
 William F. Buckley Jr.’s 1959 book, Up From Liberalism, directly puns on Booker T. Washington’s 1901 autobiography, Up from Slavery, for instance. Using slavery as analogy has a dual function; it both 1) imagines racial injustice slaves in the U.S. suffered and 2) displaces the political and historical reality of living as a slave. For a sustained discussion of the logic of using slavery as analogy, see Yogita Goyal, Runaway Genres: The Global Afterlives of Slavery (New York: New York University Press, 2019).
 The term “synthetic whiteness” is from Gerald Horne, whose discussion I take up later. The concept of Whiteness as an identity that is amalgamated from a variety of ethnicities is the historical basis of critical studies of Whiteness. See, for example, David R. Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (London: Verso, 1999); David R. Roediger, Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White: The Strange Journey from Ellis Island to the Suburbs (New York: Basic Books, 2005).
 Karen Brodkin, How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says about Race in America (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1998); Noel Ignatiev, How the Irish Became White (New York: Routledge, 2008).
 Although Irish immigrants certainly endured extreme prejudice, Caldwell does not examine the plights of her Irish characters amid the overarching anti-immigration laws and attitudes at the turn of the 20th Century. Nor does she compare the Irish, for example, to the Chinese, who were at the time targeted by legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Avoiding these comparisons, she instead exploits Irish victimization to evoke feelings of injustice in her contemporary readers, and repeatedly links Joseph’s plight to that of Black people, who came to America through coerced enslavement, rather than purposeful immigration. Even in expressing sympathy with descendants of Africa enslaved in the South, Joseph understands their situation in the context of his Irishness: “To deal in flesh and blood, even if it were ‘black,’ had always seemed to Joseph to be the vilest and most unpardonable of crimes. Oppressed, himself, from birth, his rare cold sympathies had been with the fleeing slaves, who could now be captured and returned to their owners in the South [for pay]” (56-57). Despite his sympathy, however, Joseph sells munitions to the Confederacy during the Civil War as a matter of entrepreneurship; see for example chapter 24.
 Taylor Caldwell, Captains and the Kings, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1972).
 In a “discussion of racial origins,” Caldwell’s protagonist in Captains and the Kings explains that “The British… are composed of the Celtic races, the Irish, the Scots and the Welsh, who are really one race. The English, on the contrary, are not British. They are mere Anglo-Saxons, who were brought as slaves to England by their masters and slaveowners, the Normans.” He continues to assert that, “there is hope for the Negro, too, that he will live down the stigma of once being a slave. After all, Colonel, he has just to remember the English who were slaves also.” (209-210).
 Although Caldwell defended herself against accusations of being an antisemite, Captains and the Kings’ depiction of the men comprising the worldwide cabal, those members of the Committee for Foreign Study and the Scardo Society, dog-whistles to the tune of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the forged antisemitic tract Henry Ford used to popularize for Americans the false idea that an international secret society of financiers regularly conspires to shape world events. Having been married to a Jewish businessman in Buffalo, Caldwell was very tempered in her deployment of typically antisemitic tropes implying a Jewish-Communist conspiracy of “globalists.” Although she believed that, throughout the ages, those in power changed, she felt that the conspiracy perpetuated. Her 1958 exchange of letters with Willis Carto suggests that she was sympathetic with his sentiment that he “[doesn’t] blame Jews individually” while nevertheless seeing a vast Jewish network, consisting of the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, retail moguls, Hollywood producers, and news media reporters and owners, that works particularly against them. As recently as 2018, conservative journalists praise Caldwell’s seeming exposure of the supposed secret international cabal: “The organization that served as the chief front for the one-world coterie, and that effected [sic] many of its designs, was (and is) the Council on Foreign Relations, which Caldwell exposed in her 1972 novel Captains and the Kings under the fictional names of the Committee for Foreign Studies and the Scardo Society.” William F. Jasper, “Deep State Subversion: ‘A Murderer Is Less to Be Feared,’” The New American 34, no. 10 (2018): 44. See also Warren Mass, “Taylor Caldwell: She Taught the World to Learn from History,” The New American 29, no. 16 (2013): 34-38.
 William Pierce created The Turner Diaries as a serialized potboiler published in the neonazi tabloid Attack! beginning in 1975. Later published as a novel, The Turner Diaries describes a dystopia much like that of The Devil’s Advocate; both fictions feature macho members of a secret order withstanding torture and tests of loyalty to stave off an illegitimate government subjugating White people. Now notorious as the blueprint for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and an inspiration for the January 6, 2021, insurrection, The Turner Diaries echoed for the paramilitary Right the anti-statist ideology that Caldwell promoted to a mainstream readership. Also exemplifying such anti-statism in the 1970s is Jean Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints, a xenophobic novel that presents unregulated immigration as the reason for his dystopic depiction of enslaved White Europeans. Today often cited as an inspiration for numerous Trump supporters and Alt Right influencers, The Camp of the Saints is another 1970s fiction that spread fear of a White race subjugated by non-Christians and non-Whites. For more on The Camp of the Saints, see http://www.politicalresearch.org/2020/08/31/battle-bullet-advancing-vis….
 Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 1965-1980 (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2015): 7.
 For more in addition to Horne on the role that far-right mercenaries played in building a transnational White Power movement, see Kathleen Belew, Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2018).
 Horne, 105. Josiah Brownell, “Diplomatic Lepers: The Katangan and Rhodesian Foreign Missions in the United States and the Politics of Nonrecognition,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies, 2014, Vol. 47, no. 2: 209.
 Brownell, 2014, 232.
 Brownell notes that scholars have too easily conflated the different U.S. pro-Rhodesia groups, recognizing that the more “radical” or far-right organizations were seen as embarrassments to conservatives who nevertheless worked with them in political solidarity. See Brownell 2014, 232. But even among those Brownell deems radical there was in-fighting. In particular, the Friends of Rhodesian Independence (FRI) actually changed its name to the American Southern African Council (ASAC) according to FBI records. Carto, who founded FRI officially as the National Coordinating Committee of the Friends of Rhodesian Independence, named Caldwell as president in 1966. But the group in 1967 changed its name to ASAC and distanced itself from Carto, who received a blistering condemnation in the group’s 1970 newsletter. Caldwell escapes any mention. Friends of Rhodesian Independence. FOIA file. HG 105-153080. The Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies, University of California, Berkeley, California.
 Josiah Brownell, “Out of Time: Global Settlerism, Nostalgia, and the Selling of the Rhodesian Rebellion Overseas,” Journal of Southern African Studies 2017 vol. 43, no. 4: 805-824.
 Horne, 105.
 Horne 35-36.
 Horne, 36.
 “Rhodesia Tours Planned” Liberty Letter no. 107 January 1970.
 Brownell, 2017, 819.
 Horne, 81.
 Horne, 6.
 Horne, 9.
 For more on Hargis’s relation to the rise of the Christian Right, see chapter 4, “Billy James Hargis: Sinister, Satanic Sex” in Carol Mason, Oklahomo: Lessons in Unqueering America (SUNY Press, 2015): 81-111.
 Horne, 26. Luise White’s research is consistent with Horne’s analysis on this point. Whiteness in Rhodesia, she attests, never functioned as “an immutable fact” as it eventually did in the United States, and “being white in Rhodesia was never in and of itself the right to rule or to do much else.” See Luise White, Unpopular Sovereignty: Rhodesian Independence and African Decolonization (University of Chicago Press, 2015): 34-35.
 Horne, 26.
 Horne, 36.
 Horne, 26.
 Heike Paul, “Authoritarian Populism, White Supremacy, and Volkskörper-Sentimentalism,” in The Comeback of Populism: Transatlantic Perspectives. Edited by Heike Paul, Jürgen Gebhardt, and Ursula Prutsch. Heidelberg, (Germany: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2019). 127-156.
 John Ismay, “Rhodesia’s Dead But White Supremacists Have Given It New Life Online,” The New York Times April 10, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/10/magazine/rhodesia-zimbabwe-white-sup….