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J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  499 ratings  ·  69 reviews
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 created the fraudulent myth of an invincible, incorruptible FBI. For almost fifty years, Hoover held virtually unchec ...more
Paperback, 848 pages
Published February 17th 2001 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1991)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,144)
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Nancy Oakes
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
...more
Mikey B.
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
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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
...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
Apple
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
Dennis
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
Kip
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
Clif
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
...more
Kayris
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
...more
Shawn
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
Takipsilim
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
Amanda
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
...more
Rod
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.
Rheanna
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
Ned
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
Sheila
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
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
...more
Michael Myers
Wow. talking about a bureaucrat with too much power and no restraint. Partnering with presidents, senators and others to void the law for their own self interest and enrichment. I was perplexed by the complicity of the media and ACLU.
Pat
I am a history buff as well as a teacher and I found this book comprehensive of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI during his close to 50 year reign. Hoover created the FBI but was corrupted by the power he gained by using telephone taps, reading mails unbeknownst to the receiver and sender, and violating the 4th amendment rights of most Americans. His techniques of gathering information is being used to this day with use of the Patriot Act enacted after 9/11 which has evolved with the revolution of te ...more
Tom Wilda
This was my second time through this fascinating, detailed, and well-documented book. The question I asked myself while reading it was, "Does Hoover deserve to have his name on the FBI building in Washington?" He was an excellent administrator who built the FBI into a formidable and effective organization. So maybe the answer is yes. But he was also a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, vainglorious man who thought the "niceties of the law" should not stand in the way of him doing his ...more
Greg
A very detailed biography of one of the most powerful men in Washington for many decades. On one hand he was instrumental in developing the FBI, on the other he misused his power to insure it's continued funding--the penultimate bureaucrat. To achieve his objectives he magnified the treat of Communism, while ignoring real problems like the Mafia and drugs. He collected information about law abiding citizens, and then used it to blackmail these people to his will.
The saddest part is the lives he
...more
Kasey
This book paints a very bad picture of Hoover and his unending power trip. But the book was long and it was difficult to keep up with all of the people.
Simon Fletcher
An exhaustive and exhausting read.
Don't get me wrong Gentry is a great writer and knows his subject well. The problem though is that he is not prepared to comment or offer his own opinion on anything. He simply lays the information out and let's the reader decide what to think. take for instance Hoover's supposed homosexuality, yes he touches on it but offers no opinion on the veracity of the charges.
Now for some that's fine but for me it's less than fulfilling.
Hadrian
A compelling and thorough account of America's Policeman.

It's very frightening to see how long one man can endure at such a high reach of power for so long, and be thought as indispensable and terrifying at once. His utterly calculating and harshly efficient personality led him through crises from disgruntled WWI veterans' riots through to the Watergate coverup - it was arguably his death that led to a collapse in Nixon's defenses, and his later resignation.

With all of these scary details, the
...more
Lily
An in-depth (& dense! hoo boy) look at the life of a man who was the director of the FBI for 40+ years. Took me awhile to get through, but I'm glad I read it. Apparently there is a movie coming out next year about him, with Hoover being played by Leonardo DiCaprio. It will be interesting to see how they show the Hoover/Tolson relationship at the very least. And now when I go I can be that nerd that educates her companions on the background information to the movie :P
Richelle


An excellent and detailed overview of the life of one of America's longest reigning and most controversial civil servant. Chalk full of history as seen through the lens of the FBI. If you are looking for a book criticizing Hoover's personal life, as in the recent film, this is not the book for you. This is instead a generous recounting of an expansive political career and the outlying history that surrounded it. A true five star read.
Colleen
interesting- as many awful things as Hoover did, I felt like the author took every chance he could to speculate on the fact that he was probably more awful, even though proof was not yet available.That felt inappropriate.
The things that evidence exists for filled hundreds of pages with some prettyupdetting reading. an education
Ryan Lingsweiler
A very detailed, thorough look at Hoover's work with the FBI. Not much about his personal life is acknowledged (perhaps because his work WAS his life), but I didn't feel like I was missing anything in that regard; the shock of how closely the FBI resembled agencies like the Gestapo and KGB more than made up for this! Definitely a fascinating read, just be prepared to be disturbed by what you find!
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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
More about Curt Gentry...
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