When Erskine Caldwell published his first full-length novel in 1932, he was soon launched as one of the South's most widely read novelists and storytellers. He reached his peak in the late 1930s and 40s, declining after World War II. Now, he almost totally neglected by students of American literature. In the 1940s William Faulkner ranked Caldwell, along with Thomas Wolfe, among the greatest 20th-century American novelists, and was considered for the Nobel Prize for literature. Studded throughout his stories and non-fiction is the recurring theme of folklore, most learned from the African Americans and farm hands he work with as a youth.