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William Dudley Pelley
A Life in Right-Wing Extremism and the Occult

Scott Beekman

Cloth $34.95    |    0-8156-0819-5    |   2005

The first full-length biography of William Dudley Pelley, an important figure in the development of right-wing extremism in the United States called by detractors the "Star-Spangled Fascist."

"Scott Beekman expertly unravels the twists in Pelley’s life in Williams Dudley Pell: A Life in Right-Wing Extremism and the Occult. . . . Beekman has written a conherent, readable study. His epilogue, in particular, offers an excellent overview of the life and legacy of a man now seen as a hero by some current extremist groups."
dash Indiana Magazine of History

"Scott Beekman’s book urges historians to take William Dudley Pelley seriously. . . . He was one of the colorful cadre of far-right demagogues in the ideologically charged 1930s, and the author's goal was ‘to place Pelley within the context of this vibrant, extremist world.’ . . . This incisive biography is based on extensive research in archival sources, a close reading of Pelley’s voluminous writings, and informative interviews with his daughter and her husband. Many of its themes are familiar, but Beekman has explained the complexities of Pelley's private life and his insecurities better than previous writers."
dash The Journal of American History

"Likely to stand as the authoritative work on Pelley. [Beekman] has done a wonderful job of constructing the complex narrative of Pelley's lifedasha life with some striking continuities but also numerous zigzags."
dash Michael Barkun, author of A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America and Religion and the Racist Right

William Dudley Pelley was one of the most important figures of the anti-Semitic radical right in the twentieth century. Best remembered as the leader of the paramilitary "Silver Shirts," Pelley was also an award-winning short story writer, Hollywood screenwriter, and religious leader. During the Depression Pelley was a notorious presence in American politics; he ran for president on a platform calling for the ghettoization of American Jews and was a defendant in a headlinegrabbing sedition trial thanks to his unwavering support for Nazi Germany.

Scott Beekman offers not only a political but also an intellectual and literary biography of Pelley, greatly advancing our understanding of a figure often dismissed as a madman or charlatan. His belief system, composed of anti-Semitism, economic nostrums, racialism, neo-Theosophical channeling, and millenarian Christianity, anticipates the eclecticism of later cult personalities such as Shoko Asahara, leader of Aum Shinrikyo, and the British conspiracy theorist David Icke.

By charting the course of Pelley's career, Beekman does an admirable job of placing Pelley within the history of both the anti-Semitic right and American occult movements. This exhaustively researched book is a welcome addition to the growing body of scholarship on American extremism and esoteric religions.

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Scott Beekman is visiting assistant professor of history at Ohio University.

6 x 9, 292 pages, 1 photograph

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