I got hooked on Robert A. Caro when his first volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson was published in 1982. What I thought was going to be trilogy began with The Path to Power. I received it as a gift and was soon completely absorbed into it. Mr. Caro took me into the Hill Country of Texas, and made me feel what it was like to be a settler there and how that formed LBJ. The further I read the more I appreciated the painstaking research behind it.
Previous to the Lyndon Johnson series, Mr. Caro wrote The Power Broker, 1,246 meticulously-researched pages about Robert Moses, the man who for better, or many say, worse, shaped New York City into what it is. Moses is the man responsible for parks, bridges, roads and housing projects. Mr. Caro, a native New Yorker, meticulously documents the early life of Robert Moses, how he came to a position of unchallenged power and the changes he wrought in New York.
The second Lyndon Johnson volume, Means of Ascent, came out in 1990, eight years after the first. Master of the Senate was released twelve years later, in 2002. The most recent, The Passage of Power, published in 2012, chronicles the period 1958 through 1964, from Johnson’s aborted run for his party’s presidential nomination, becoming a political non-entity as John F. Kennedy’s vice-president, to taking full command after Kennedy’s assassination.
The New York Times in 2012 published a profile of Robert A. Caro. Mr. Caro has not adopted the word processor. The article includes a photo essay of Caro’s office and his painstaking writing procedure. His first drafts are hand-written on legal pads. He then types his revisions on a portable electric typewriter.
The next volume – no publication date set – will take us through LBJ’s presidency, his triumphs with the Great Society and landslide re-election, and his downfall brought on by Viet Nam.
Mr. Caro is 79 years old. At his current pace, he will be 84 when the presumed-to-be final volume is published. I hope he is taking good care of himself.