The Jungle was Sinclair’s first success and remains his most powerful and popular book; the remainder of his work is now virtually unread. While critics agree that much of Sinclair’s writing is notable primarily for its uneven quality, one of the author’s novels deserves mention both for its literary merits and its thematic similarities to The Jungle. In 1914 the National Guard was called to Ludlow, Colorado, to break a strike by United Mine Workers. The Guard fired into a tent camp, killing several women and children. Sinclair visited Colorado and found the plight of the miners as moving as the Chicago wage slavery that inspired his earlier masterpiece. Three years after the Ludlow massacre, he published King Coal, the story of a wealthy young student, Hal Warner, who poses as a miner to investigate working conditions in the Colorado mines. Warner becomes a union advocate and plays a leading role in organizing the workers before returning to college with a new purpose in his life: “To fight for the working people.” Warner’s experiences present a panorama of an industry as corrupt, oppressive, and dangerous as any Sinclair took arms against, and the author had high hopes for the novel’s success. Its reception, however, was disappointing.
Only two of Sinclair’s works have been adapted for film. The Gnomobile: A Gnice Gnew Gnarrative with Gnonsense but Gnothing Gnaughty (1936), a children’s story that reveals a surprising nonsense side to the author of The Jungle, was adapted to film by Walt Disney Studios in 1966. While entertaining, the film is not one of Disney’s major successes. The son of an alcoholic father, Sinclair drew heavily on his own experience for The Wet Parade, a 1931 novel about the tragedy of alcohol abuse written in response to growing public disenchantment with Prohibition. Robert Young starred in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1932 adaptation, a film of historical rather than artistic interest.