All the King's Men is a 1946 novel by Robert Penn Warren. Its title is drawn from the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty". The novel tells the story of charismatic populist governor Willie Stark and his political machinations in the Depression-era Deep South. It is commonly thought to have been loosely inspired by the real-life story of U.S. Senator Huey P. Long, who was assassinated in 1935.
Warren won the Pulitzer Prize for All the King's Men in 1947. It was later adapted into two films of the same name, in 1949 and 2006; the 1949 version won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The novel has received critical acclaim and remained perennially popular since its first publication. It was rated the 36th greatest novel of the 20th century by Modern Library, and it was chosen as one of Time magazine's 100 best novels since 1923.
All the King's Men portrays the dramatic and theatrical political rise and governorship of Willie Stark, a cynical populist in the 1930s American South. The novel is narrated by Jack Burden, a political reporter who comes to work as Governor Stark's right-hand man. The trajectory of Stark's career is interwoven with Jack Burden's life story and philosophical reflections: "the story of Willie Stark and the story of Jack Burden are, in one sense, one story."
The novel evolved from a verse play that Warren began writing in 1936 entitled Proud Flesh. One of the characters in Proud Flesh was named Willie Talos, in reference to the brutal character Talus in Edmund Spenser's late 16th-century epic poem The Faerie Queene.
A 2002 version of All the King's Men, re-edited by Noel Polk, keeps the name "Willie Talos" for the Boss as originally written in Warren's manuscript, and is known as the "restored edition" for using this name as well as printing several passages removed from the original edit.
Warren claimed that All the King's Men was "never intended to be a book about politics".