Published in the dark days immediately before World War II, Capital City is Mari Sandoz's angriest and most political novel. Like many important American novels of the 1930s—John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, John Conroy's The Disinherited, Robert Cantwell's Land of Plenty—Capital City depicts the troubles and responses of working people trapped in the Great Depression. It is a unique portrayal of the depression in the Great Plains, and a study of the forces that bitterly contended for wealth and power. Sandoz researched the daily life and behind-the-scenes operations of several state capitals in the thirties before drawing them together in this novel, part allegory, part indictment, part warning. Famous for her passionate writing, Sandoz gave Capital City the full measure of ferocity and rage.
Mari Sandoz worked for the Nebraska State Historical Society in the basement of the Nebraska State Capital Building where she was able to slide among the figures involved in Nebraska’s political life. When this book was published, Sandoz was still living in Lincoln and received threats from individuals who felt some of her characters were a little too close to current figures in Nebraska politics.