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California Rising

The Life and Times of Pat Brown

Ethan Rarick (Author)


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January, 2005.
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It is now commonplace to say that the future happens first in California, and this book, the first biography of legendary governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, tells the story of the pivotal era when that idea became a reality. Set against the riveting historical landscape of the late fifties and sixties, the book offers astute insights into history as well a fascinating glimpse of those who charted its course—including Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, and the Brown family dynasty. Ethan Rarick mines an impressive array of untapped sources—such as Pat Brown's diary and love letters to his wife—to tell the unforgettable story of a true mover-and-shaker within his fascinating and turbulent political arena.

California Rising illuminates a singular moment in time with surprising intimacy. John Kennedy laughs with Pat Brown. Richard Nixon offers the governor a schemer's deal. Lyndon Johnson sweet-talks the governor on the phone and then ridicules him behind his back. And as context for the human drama, key events of the era unfold in gripping prose. There is Brown's struggle with the fate of Caryl Chessman, the convicted kidnapper who gained international attention by writing best-selling books on death row. There is the tale of intrigue and politics surrounding the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1964, and the violence and horror of the Watts Riots in 1965.

Through the story of the life and times of Pat Brown, we witness an extraordinary period that changed the entire country's view of itself and its most famous state.
Part I -- Rising
1. Go-Getters
2. A New Religion
3. The Chairs of Politics
4. Waiting
5. Victory

Part II -- Building
6. The Big Wallop
7. All These Students
8. Anguish
9. Cigar Smoke
10. Building a River
11. “By God I Can Beat That Son of a Bitch”
12. Race and Politics

Part III -- Falling
13. Rejection
14. Berkeley
15. Watts
16. Tired Old Governor
17. Dynasty


As a journalist, Ethan Rarick covered politics in California and Oregon for 15 years before writing California Rising. His work has appeared in many publications, including the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.
“A lively, balanced account of a governor who contributed mightily to California’s welfare, but overstayed his welcome with voters . . . an elegantly written story about a proud career politician.”—David Mark Campaigns & Elections
“Journalist Rarick’s biography of Brown is exceptionally well researched.”—T.H. Ferrel, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Choice: Current Reviews For Academic Libraries
“Meaty Pat Brown bio is lively, solid. . . . Rarick sets the stage for California's contemporary political scene with a well-researched story of the man at the helm of the Golden State as it grappled with rapid population growth, the anti-war movement and racial foment. . . . Rarick's book will stand alone as a solid account of the life and times of a governor whose actions still impact the lives of Californians today. Rarick successfully merges the person and the place, documenting an era through the eyes of the man in the driver's seat. Best of all, the book portrays Brown not as mythical hero, but as a human being who fought personal insecurities and suffered failures, yet still achieved greatness.”—Lisa Vorderbrueggen Contra Costa Times
“Excellent and important.”—Harold Meyerson LA Weekly
“A superb political biography.”—Karl Helicher Library Journal
“The life and career of Edmund G. Brown, the two-term governor universally known as "Pat," spans a tipping point in the state's history, as we are reminded in "California Rising," journalist Ethan Rarick's colorful and masterful biography of the lovable old pol.. . . . Rarick clearly loves politics as much as Brown did, and he writes expertly about the personalities, stratagems and rivalries that so absorbed the man.”—Jonathan Kirsch Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A splendid biography.”—Ken Rudin Npr
“Gov. Edmund G. ‘Pat’ Brown was surely one of the Golden State’s greatest governors. Fortunately, in political journalist Rarick, he has found a sure-penned, balanced and astute biographer. . . . Rarick tells the tale with great skill in this lively, fast-paced, critical and fully informed work.”—Publishers Weekly
“A smart book about a wonderful public servant.”—Richard Reeves Richard Reeves
“Excellent . . . engrossing.”—Dan Weintraub Sacramento Bee
“First-rate.”—Joshua Spivak San Francisco Chronicle
“Rarick has crafted an intellectually honest account that is admirably even handed in both tone and substance.”—Southern California Quarterly
"Engaging and important . . . Pat Brown is back in vogue. With a good half the state in need of reconstruction, the master builder's moment has come round again."—Harold Meyerson The American Prospect
“Celebrated its emergence . . .”—The Economist
"Edmund G. (Pat) Brown has long been considered one of the two or three most effective governors of California. Thanks to this exhaustively researched and vividly written study by Ethan Rarick, we can now grasp the true strength and charisma of this extraordinary governor and the highpoint of public value and performance he orchestrated in the creation of contemporary California. A seasoned reporter, Rarick left everything behind to research and write this book. He made the right decision."—Kevin Starr, University Professor of History, University of Southern California

"This is an impressive and important work--exhaustively researched, elegantly written. It's not only the biography of the central figure in modern California history, Governor Pat Brown, but the story of a crucial era in California and its place in the nation's imagination. California Rising is a major document in our understanding of the man and the place he helped make."—Peter Schrag, former editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee and author of Paradise Lost: California's Experience, America's Future

"Ethan Rarick has written a shrewd and lively account of the life of Pat Brown, California's most constructive governor in the last half-century. What a pleasant way to learn about the history of the golden state during the key period in which state government was confronted with the economic and social challenges of rapid modernization. A very impressive book."—Nelson W. Polsby, Heller Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

"An important and enjoyable book."—Bruce Cain, coeditor of Voting at the Political Fault Line

"Ethan Rarick's narrative of the life of Pat Brown is a fascinating look at the maturation of a political animal. We follow closely as Brown gladhands his way up California's political ladder and becomes his state's most progressive governor. In this meticulous study, Rarick fleshes out Brown's battles with Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan throughout the 1960s. California Rising profits from Rarick's broad understanding of California and his constructive use of Brown's personal notes and correspondence."—Douglas Brinkley, author of Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War

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