I am a big Steinbeck fan. I've loved him since I read Grapes of Wrath in high school. It wasn't until recently that I had the time to rediscover him though. My long trip started with East of Eden earlier this year and by the numbers I'm sure this will be a Steinbeck year for me.
The moon is down was Steinbeck's try at war propaganda. The US was in WWII and Steinbeck's way of supporting the war effort was writing this book. At the age of 40, the military probably didn't have much use for him so instead he worked with 2 organizations that preceeded the CIA. To gather information for this novel, Steinbeck interviewed refugees from countries that were occupied by Nazi Germany during the war. The novel was originally set in America, but before being published Steinbeck changed the setting to an unnamed country in Europe. This ended up being a good choice because when the novel was reprinted and reprinted in every possible language and handed out in occupied and soon-to-be-occupied nations.
The history surrounding this novel is as interesting as the novel itself. The book is very simple. It is about a country invading another and occupying a coal-mining town in order to receive free labor and free coal. The unnamed town is a democracy and so they prevail through hard-times (this is a piece of propaganda and the obvious message is democracy=GOOD).
Other writers and critics bashed the novel for it's obviousness and for humanizing Nazi's. The book however was noticed for being very realistic especially for being written by a man who lived across the ocean from Nazi occupation. The novel was edited for the stage and the screen.