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The King of California: J. G. Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empireby Mark Arax and Rick Wartzman
Synopses & Reviews
J. G. Boswell is the biggest farmer in America. Over the past fifty years he has built a secret empire while thumbing his nose at nature, politicians, labor unions and every journalist who ever tried to lift the veil on the ultimate "factory in the fields." Now eighty years old, with an almost pathological bent toward privacy, Boswell has spent the past few years confiding one of the great stories of the American West to Mark Arax and Rick Wartzman. The King of California is the previously untold account of how a Georgia slave-owning family migrated to California in the early 1920s,drained one of America 's biggest lakes in an act of incredible hubris and carved out the richest cotton empire in the world. Indeed, the sophistication of Boswell 's agricultural operation — from lab to field to gin — is unrivaled anywhere.
Much more than a business story, this is a sweeping social history that details the saga of cotton growers who were chased from the South by the boll weevil and brought their black farmhands to California. It is a gripping read with cameos by a cast of famous characters, from Cecil B. DeMille to Cesar Chavez.
"Written in a lively style that matches the bigger-than-life qualities of its subject, the book is far more exciting than you might think the story of a cotton farmer would be." Booklist
"[The King of California] has that feel of authenticity that only comes with shoe leather. It deserves notice." The Oregonian
"[A] remarkably detailed and eye-opening portrait." The Washington Post
"Passionate, fair-minded, thought-provoking and groundbreaking...Thoroughly moving, deeply rendered and utterly trustworthy." Los Angeles Times
"[A] meticulous narrative of the rise of the cotton magnate James G. Boswell." The New Yorker
Book News Annotation:
A reporter and an editor from the Los Angeles Times chronicle the little-known story of the rise of a cotton baron in 1920s California. Labor and water rights are among the issues explored. Photos include the Boswell mansion, where several movies were filmed.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A rich, colorful history of California centering on the untold story of America's biggest farmer, J.G. Boswell, who controls more than $1 billion worth of water rights and real estate in the heart of the state.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 521-531) and index.
About the Author
Mark Arax is an award-winning reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and is the author of the critically acclaimed In My Father's Name, about his search to find his father 's killers.
Rick Wartzman is the Los Angeles Times business editor. He was previously with The Wall Street Journal, where for fifteen years he served in a variety of posts, including White House correspondent and founding editor of the paper's weekly California edition. He lives in Los Angeles.
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