Howard Fast (November 11, 1914 - March 12, 2003) was an American novelist and television writer. Born in New York City, his mother was British and his father the son of Ukrainian immigrants. When his mother died in 1923 and his father became unemployed, Howard's youngest brother, Julius, went to live with relatives, while Howard and his older brother Jerome worked by selling newspapers. He also begged and stole food to survive.
Young Howard began writing at an early age. While hitchhiking and riding railroads around the country to find odd jobs, he wrote. His first novel, Two Valleys, was published when he was 18, in 1933. His first popular work was Citizen Tom Paine, a fictional account of the life of Thomas Paine. Always interested in American history, he also wrote The Last Frontier, about an attempt by Cheyennes to return to their native land; and Freedom Road, about the lives of former slaves during Reconstruction.
Fast spent World War II working with the United States Office of War Information, writing for Voice of America. But he had joined the American Communist Party in 1944, and was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He refused to disclose the names of contributors to a fund for a home for orphans of American veterans of the Spanish Civil War (one of the contributors was Eleanor Roosevelt), and he was imprisoned in 1950 for contempt of Congress.
It was while he was in jail that he began writing his most famous work, Spartacus, the novel about an uprising among Roman slaves. Blacklisted for his Communist activities and his criminal record, Fast was forced to publish the novel by his own Blue Heron Press. Unable to publish under his own name, he used various pseudonyms, including E.V. Cunnigham, under which he published a series of popular detective novels starring a Nisei detective with the Beverly Hills, California Police Department.
In 1952, Fast ran for Congress on the American Labor Party ticket. During the 1950s he also worked for the Communist Party newspaper, the Daily Worker. In 1957, he was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize. But, later in the decade, Fast broke with the Party over issues of condition in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
In 1974, Fast and his family moved to California, where he wrote television scripts, including such television programs as How the West Was Won. In 1977, he published The Immigrants, the first of a six-part series of novels.
Fast's son Jonathan, himself a novelist, was the husband of novelist Erica Jong.