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J Edgar Hoover: The Man and His Secrets

3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  578 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews

"The cumulative effect is overwhelming. Eleanor Roosevelt was right: Hoover’s FBI was an American gestapo."—Newsweek

Shocking, grim, frightening, Curt Gentry’s masterful portrait of America’s top policeman is a unique political biography. From more than 300 interviews and over 100,000 pages of previously classified documents, Gentry reveals exactly how a paranoid director c
Kindle Edition, 848 pages
Published (first published 1991)
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Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
Personally, I LOVED this book, but I would not recommend it if you're looking for something quick and dirty because it is not a cheap and tawdry or gossipy kind of peek at peccadilloes. That kind of stuff is not why I chose this book, and in fact, I've avoided reading the ones that make tittilation the focus.

First and foremost, you have to read this book through the end. Reading it slowly was a plus. I found myself often going to the internet to get a brief look at topics the author had fleshed
Mikey B.
Jul 26, 2013 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A detailed and scathing history of J. Edgar Hoover and his bureau. Seldom in American history has an unelected official so dominated and influenced the trajectory of the United States.

As suggested above, the F.B.I. and Hoover we’re one and the same thing. And when Hoover wanted his organization to do something, it got done: if there were communists they were to be persecuted; if organized crime didn’t exist, let’s just arrest more communists, civil rights workers…

Mr. Gentry provides a multitude
Nick Black
Jun 30, 2015 Nick Black rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-nyc
surprisingly dreary given the colorful events surrounding the subject, and the author (coauthor with Bugliosi of Helter Skelter). it's interesting to read about Felt before it was known that he was Deep Throat. i wish the book had focused more on the actual geopolitical movers and shakers affected by Hoover than his interest in salacious and tawdry details of random people's lives (there's effectively nothing about the prosecution of Oppenheimer, for instance). with that said, the COINTELPRO ag ...more
Sep 11, 2015 Theresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-dad
Fascinating book about one of the United States' biggest chunks of sentient sh*t.
Jill Hutchinson
The author packs a lot of information into 800+ pages as he dissects the life and autocratic rule of the FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. He refrains from speculating on the relationship between Hoover and his "constant companion", Clyde Tolson, thereby avoiding turning this biography into a gossip fest so loved by some modern authors. But don't be misled, it is full of gossip about government secrets.....wiretapping, breaking and entering, bribes, and political favors, all of which were under Hoov ...more
John Harder
A recent edition of the book boasts on the cover that it is the basis for the motion picture. This is a fib. I saw the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio (not sitting with him – I mean he was up on the screen) and the movie spends a lot of time dwelling and/or alluding to J. Edgar’s presumably repressed homosexuality. The book is penetrating but it hardly mentions any, er…well – penetration, homosexual or otherwise.

The focus, however, is on the obsessive, methodical acquisition of information and powe
Oct 13, 2015 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a frightening look at corruption inside the FBI. Hoover ran this organization with an iron fist. He collected dirt on everyone and anyone, and used it to further his goals. Those goals being maintaining a shining image of his precious FBI. Attaining appropriations every time he wanted more money. And blackmailing any politician who stood in his way. He didn't stop there though. He ordered his agents to break into homes, ( called "blackbag" jobs by agents.) and illegally tap the phones of ...more
Danny Sarubin
Sep 29, 2015 Danny Sarubin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love all jeh books, less fact based the better
When a person in power is unfair, unjust, willing to use any and every means in his power to finish off enemies by any route whatsoever, using illegal means and lies without any compunction, things have the potential to become no less frightening than they were in fascist or nazi or any other totalitarian dictatorship where one must put away one's own mind, thoughts, capability of thinking and perception, and either dumb down if that is allowed or be forced to actively participate and promote th ...more
Gerry Beane
I thought that I knew a fair amount about J Edgar Hoover. As it turns out, I had only been aware of the very tip of the iceberg about this complex and long serving director of the FBI. During the 60s I had been aware of some of the over reaches by the FBI, about their involvement in the JFK assassination investigation, about their blackmail of the Kennedy brothers, and about their possible investigations of members of Congress. But this book reveals the extent of these efforts and the flawed rea ...more
Craig Adamson
This book was okay. I would only go back and read it again to gain a later historical perspective for something else i might read.

I had thought it was going to be more dirty or titilating or something. There was really nothing shocking in this book in regards to scandal. Even though I'm dissing the book because of the lack of taudry details on various things, it might be a better book by not going into all that garbage.

The shock to me had more to do with Hoover and his personal use of the FBI t
Jo Stafford
May 01, 2016 Jo Stafford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have long been convinced that no individual in US history did more to obstruct Americans exercising their constitutional rights than J. Edgar Hoover. Curt Gentry's monumental biography of Hoover has confirmed my opinion.

This book is detailed and information-packed and requires concentrated reading. It is a frightening look at how the FBI under Hoover's decades-long directorship snooped, burgled, wiretapped, invaded people's privacy, and cold-bloodedly destroyed reputations and lives.

Hoover e
Feb 21, 2016 Nikmaack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly dense, well researched, extensively footnoted book that will have you turning to the Internet every few minutes to do additional research. Hoover is a fascinating monster of a man, so complex and weird. This book provides so much detail, information and insight, it has sparked an interest in me for all sorts of subjects.

Now I want to read about Watergate, the pentagon papers, the Kennedy assassination, Martin Luther King, the Black Panthers - and all sorts of other American history
Jul 13, 2014 Apple rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am SO happy to be finished with this book. Don't get me wrong, it was a good, detailed read, but there was so much information that each page needed several minutes of reading. If I could sum it up in several words, Hoover was an ambitious, determined, shrewd person whose dedication to his job and his keen foresight and efforts to cover his butt secured him almost 50 years in the highest investigative body in the US government. It has to be mentioned that he achieved this by instilling fear in ...more
Ashley Webb
This book was a surprise to me, I was really taken aback by how much influence Hoover had over the American Political establishment, he was able to manipulate Presidents and both houses of Congress, often preventing anything he disagreed with from being passed. The FBI's, more often than not illegal, surveillance of American politicians, activists and anyone he didn't approve of, allowed him to blackmail people to get his way. This has a modern parallel with the recent Snowden revelations. Presi ...more
Nov 25, 2011 Dennis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For 48 years Hoover ruled the FBI. He built it into an institution that had its tentacles into nearly every branch of government, including the White House. He had files on thousands of individuals from the Presidents under whom he served, to Congressmen and Senators, to movie stars to important business leaders. The material in his files struck fear in the hearts of those he investigated and upon whom he eavesdropped. His power was largely due to the dirty little secrets he had on these indivi ...more
Dec 28, 2013 Kip rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: don-t-read
Curt Gentry's biography of the FBI's first and longest-tenured director reads like one of Hoover's famously lengthy memos - a bloated chore. While well researched, Gentry shows little affection for the lay reader, introducing voluminous casts of characters that pop up periodically without warning or explanation, requiring frequent page-turning for those not well-versed in the history of the Bureau - or the federal government for that matter - from the years 1925-1990. What begins as great promis ...more
Dec 30, 2009 Clif rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We live in an age of cynicism born of realism. It got its start some time ago due to the revelations made about American history up to the end of the Vietnam war.

Surely eligible for the top spot in the gallery of rogues that rose to power is J. Edgar Hoover, a man who deliberately used his position to further his own goals and consolidate his personal power, only incidentally impacting the real criminal activity that he was supposed to pursue. He built an empire of fear - not of the law, but of
Oct 31, 2012 Kayris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Holy moly.

First of all, it took me a month to read this book. I picked it up after I saw the movie J. Edgar, with Leonardo Dicaprio, and wondered how historically accurate the movie was. I also realized that while my education taught me a lot about the American Revolution, the Civil War, and tons of European history, it was woefully inadequate when it comes to recent US history.

Also, there were several reasons it took so long, besides the fact that it's 700+ pages long.

The author spent 15 years
Jul 15, 2008 Shawn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hoover knew who killed the Kennedys, saw it coming, and didn't do anything because he hated Ivy League Liberals, and how they reminded him of where he came from. It's a tragedy that his secret files never saw the light of day. Hoover was a criminal, but he was also brilliant. He was one of the first who realized that controlling the flow of spurious information about powerful people was where true power lay. He had the goods on everyone, helped elect several Presidents, and kept his job as head ...more
Dec 17, 2009 Takipsilim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lengthy bio on this most complicated man. Gentry relates Hoover's beginnings to his ascent and eventual dominance of the F.B.I.. The numerous characters that surrounded Hoover's life are considerably featured: Dillinger, Eleanor Roosevelt, the Rosenbergs, Joseph McCarthy, the Kennedys, etc.. The author reveals the many-faceted sides of Hoover's personality, from ardent patriot and founder of the modern F.B.I. to a vindictive and malignant control-freak responsible for the ruination of numerous i ...more
Jan 22, 2012 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can think of no better book to read after completing the 48 Laws of Power. J. Edgar Hoover exemplified every one of those laws. I read this book to understand how someone could survive under eight presidents (and 18 attorneys general). This book provided the answers.

However, one point early on left me wondering the accuracy of the facts presented in the book. The author claims that Hoover's family could have watched Woodrow Wilson's inaugural parade from their home on Seward Square "since Penn
May 11, 2014 Rod rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always been fascinated with J. Edgar Hoover, certainly since childhood. This book was a pretty interesting read. It did reveal a lot about the man and his inner workings. For some reason, however, it didn't captivate me as much as I thought it might. It seemed like there were lulls at times. But overall, I did enjoy it. Just not a favorite.
Clayton Brannon
Jul 15, 2015 Clayton Brannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is as much a history of the FBI as it is of its famous director. Well written with lots of information about not only Hoover but also the many people his life influenced for good or evil. A man to be feared and at the same time admired for his complete control of the agency that he founded. How much more there is to his life, others lives, will never be know because of the almost fanatical destruction of his thousands of his files by his secretary. After reading the book one almost com ...more
Jun 07, 2011 Rhe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
this was an amazing biographical/historical type book. Amazing. I learned a lot I didn't know, I learned more about things I already knew. The one downside is that it is an extremely information dense book. Wow. This book took me awhile to read because I occasionally had to take some breaks from reading it, and read something else to let my brain take a rest. I would recommend this book to someone that likes this type of book. Keep your smartphone or laptop near by because you're going to want t ...more
Jack Coleman
Jun 11, 2016 Jack Coleman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascism in America surprising ,maybe not check it out.
Hoover got a head start in the police state business, a 40 year head start. Now thanks to terrorism
there isn't a Western government that isn't a police state.
Seems to to be the modern dilemma Fascism or terrorism or both.
Nov 23, 2010 Ned rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The history of the man and his bureau. Lots of juicy stories but not what you might think. Definitely above the law, definitely unregulated, and often definitely unjust. Why was Pearl Harbor a surprise attack? Why was the JFK assassination investigation including the Warren Commission horribly botched? Why did Nixon get a couple stooges to break into a hotel in DC? All probably because of J Edgar Hoover. But, whose Bureau was responsible for capturing John Dillinger? Who prosecuted Prohibition a ...more
Greg Fanoe
Jun 26, 2016 Greg Fanoe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The fundamental thing I will remember about this book is that it was super boring.

J Edgar Hoover expended a lot of effort to make sure that nobody knew anything beyond the official story of what happened at the FBI and no one knew anything about his personal life. Everything else is just the word of one whistle-blower (William Sullivan) and a whole lot of speculation about unknowable facts.

Nevertheless I learned a lot. 3 stars is what I give educational but boring books.
May 07, 2015 Sheila rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good book but I couldn't finish it. After watching the movie, I lost interest. The writing is much better than the movie, of course. If you like history that almost reads like fiction, give it a chance; it's well regarded for good reason.
Wes Phelan
Sep 28, 2014 Wes Phelan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My opinion of J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets depends on the part of the book we're discussing. I learned American history that was disturbing and valuable. The book left me feeling that the "good old days" in America are a myth. According to the author, the widespread corruption in our government and the FBI has been ongoing for at least a century. Honest people are few. Efforts to do what is right are blocked and attacked. Constitutional rights are ignored.
There is an inconsistent th
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Curt Gentry is an American writer. He is best known for co-writing the book Helter Skelter with Vincent Bugliosi (1974), which detailed the Charles Manson murders.

Frame-Up was a nominee for the 1968 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Fact Crime book.

Helter Skelter won a 1975 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Fact Crime book.

J.Edgar Hoover won the 1992
More about Curt Gentry...

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