The Anarchist cover
The Anarchist
On a stifling afternoon in September 1901, a young anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, waits in line to meet President William McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. Czolgosz’s right hand is wrapped in a handkerchief and held across his chest as though it were in a sling. But the handkerchief conceals a .32-caliber revolver. When the president greets him, Czolgosz fires two shots. The nation quickly plummets into fear and anger. A week later, a rioting mob attempts to lynch McKinley’s assassin, and across the country, political dissidents such as the notorious Emma Goldman are arrested. Driven by a sense of duty and his love for a beautiful Russian prostitute, Czolgosz’s confidant, Moses Hyde, infiltrates an anarchist group as it sets in motion a deadly scheme designed to push the country into a state of terror. The Anarchist brilliantly renders a haunting and belligerent twentieth-century landscape teeming with corrupt politicians, dissidents, and immigrants eager for a fresh start in an America where every allegiance is questioned, and every hope and aspiration comes at a price.
Subjects: Fiction
Publication Date: January 1st, 2018
346 pages| 6 in x 9 in
John Smolens has published ten works of fiction, most recently Wolf's Mouth, which has been selected as a Library of Michigan Notable Book. In 2010 he was the recipient of the Michigan Author of the Year Award from the Michigan Library Association.

Early Praise

“In this moody yet thrilling novel, based on the assassination in 1901 of President William McKinley, the clockwork turns, and the fateful act looms. Here McKinley and his intimates emerge as complex, flawed individuals while Czolgosz, his accidental comrades, and even his jailers are granted similar depth. The incoming president, Theodore Roosevelt—and the political change he represents—is also pithily captured. There are no surprises if you know your history, but the subtlety and vigor with which Smolens evokes this turbulent era makes The Anarchist far more than a superior adventure.”
The Boston Globe
“Intense, moody, and engrossing . . . this is a well-written novel that works both as a political thriller and as a depiction of a tumultuous era in our history.”
“Carefully crafted prose whose quiet authority is bolstered by a firm grasp of period detail. A character-driven historical novel that transcends genre and provides a fascinating perspective on the current spate of populist discontent with Washington.”
Kirkus Reviews
“Fiction so shapely and finely wrought: dark history inexorably bound to repeat itself—The Anarchist is another gem from a master of the storyteller’s arts.”
—National Book Award finalist Thomas Lynch, author of The Undertaking
“John Smolens has written a historical novel with the quick-beating heart of a thriller. Written in crisp, cinematic prose, The Anarchist has echoes of the best noir, while at the same time invoking a terrifyingly empathetic portrait of the young assassin Leon Czolgosz, who, in Smolens’s hands, has a kind of Dostoyevskian complexity. Before reading this book, the McKinley assassination existed in my mind as only a dry fact. The Anarchist has brought these events to rich, bloody, teeming life.”
Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply
“If you have ever been fascinated by the name and deed of one Leon Czolgosz, John Smolens’s The Anarchist will be a good friend to you. If you have never heard of the name and deed of one Leon Czolgosz, John Smolens’s The Anarchist will likely be a revelation. With his portrait of a bygone America both out for blood and at its own throat, Smolens has written an intelligent, often troubling warning disguised as a first-rate thriller, as though Sinclair Lewis has fused with Alan Furst.”
Tom Bissell, author of The Father of All Things

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