Sketchbook's Reviews > The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America--The Stalin Era

The Haunted Wood by Allen Weinstein
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
4708498
's review
Sep 24, 13


Catching up with modern American history : it's a jolt to realize that we had swarms of US-Commie agents from 30s-50s, but this explains the Red Scare and the flamboyant arrival of Joe McCarthy. Crackpot idealism drew some to spying; with others it was a desperate need feel important - the only route to identity.

The most famous deceiver was Alger Hiss. One pundit called him the greatest actor the US ever produced. This intriguing volume scoops up Hiss and other spies. Regrettably the writing is clotted. Coauthor Weinstein modestly suffers four photos of himself. Revelations herein came to light when documents fr the Stalinist era became available (nothing thrilled Stalin more than a good Purge, which explains his sitting-on-a-chamber pot smile).

Martha Dodd: this hothouse flower found herself in Berlin in the 30s where Dado was US ambassador. She adored German weiners, then switched to Russian pickles. A Soviet spy, she later had to flee the US and spend most of wicked her life in Eastern Europe. (Why does author Erik Larson omit her Commie behavior fr "In the Garden of Beasts"? Who's being placated...?) Julius Rosenberg passed out atomic secrets like peppermints. Found guilty w wife, his public relations was manipulated by Russ influence within the US media.

Blueblood Michael Straight had the ear of FDR and Eleanor. He diddled w Commies while in the State Department, but eventually disentangled himself and wound up working for the National Endowment for the Arts. (Why am I laughing--)

Then, there's Vassar grad Elizabeth Bentley whose older Russ beau was a
recruiter-group controller. As Moscow prepared to award him the Order of the Red Star, he expired in her apartment and she had to face the NYPD -- a scene that sounds like superb theatre. Drinking heavily, the secretive Bentley told Moscow that she was lonely. Moscow tried to come up with a bedmate. When she defected, '45, Moscow next tried to come up w ways of getting rid of her : subway fall, fake suicide, slow-acting poison?

Great - cautionary - stories. Hollywood won't touch Stalin. Historians say Stalin killed about 20 million. Pls, explain his 'protective' pr. Who's doing the pay off?








11 likes · likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Haunted Wood.
sign in »

Comments (showing 1-34 of 34) (34 new)

dateDown_arrow    newest »

Sketchbook I keep thinking about what I call Joe Stalin's "good pr" in the US. He kept his evil excesses hidden, but he was equal to or worse than Hitler.


message 2: by Jessica (new)

Jessica I don't know why we've had a blind spot for so long but I've noticed that some people seem unwilling to accept that there were atrocities equal to or worse (in numbers) than the Holocaust. I think the U.S. is very invested in the Holocaust (as number one top genocide of all time) to the exclusion of looking in full into other acts of genocide, whether recently or in history.


message 3: by Jessica (new)

Jessica and I guess there was some kind of romantic image thing going on w/ Stalin, for far too long. Esp. among the Left...


Sketchbook Where are the movies - and books - about the excesses of Stalin and his Empire of Evil?


message 5: by Sketchbook (last edited May 11, 2012 10:55AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sketchbook When you poke into history and then ponder media influence therein, one sees the Left has made serious errors. For decades the Alger Hiss case was a stumper. But to some scribes on the Left, Hiss was innocent, and - to them - probably still is.


message 6: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Sketchbook wrote: "Where are the movies - and books - about the excesses of Stalin and his Empire of Evil?"

Very good question!


Sketchbook Stalin has what's called "protective public relations" in his corner. You cant get into any trouble by referring to x or y as a "Joe Stalin." He's been neutralized.


message 8: by Jessica (new)

Jessica He definitely has.
This has to change!


message 9: by Sketchbook (last edited May 11, 2012 09:40AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sketchbook Stalin surely trumps Hitlie when it kums to horrors. Americans are oft chumps...dummies. As you say, to the
Left-(righteous) - (righteous, my addition)- Communism was a big "romantic" deal. It's discussed in the book.


message 10: by Jessica (new)

Jessica I think what gets people is Hitler's systematic extermination of jews (and gypsies, homosexuals, etc. as well). But Stalin had his gulags, no? I should read the book.


Sketchbook Further, FDR ignored fascism in 30s and communism in 40s. We now learn the US gov was riddled w Com-symps and outright Communists--. FDR was all-around paralyzed. It revolts me that old-school Lefties are such dimwits. As essayist Geo Steiner said of Com-spy Anthony Blunt: "Damn the man!"


message 12: by Sketchbook (last edited May 11, 2012 10:03AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sketchbook Timothy Snyder, NYRB, Mar 10, 2011 (online) wonders who was the bigger monster > Hitlie or Stalin? Stalin, he says, started ethnic killings. We're left, in any case, w Stalin "neutralized" today. Not good. We'll know the situ has changed when a film dir at Cannes mentions the Stalin name in a larky way and is then blacklisted.


message 13: by Sketchbook (last edited May 11, 2012 11:39AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sketchbook Jessica wrote: "I think what gets people is Hitler's systematic extermination of jews (and gypsies, homosexuals, etc. as well). But Stalin had his gulags, no? I should read the book."

Unkie Joe first murdered the Russ peasants--. Then he went amok. In secrecy.
Stalin d 1953. His pr persists.


message 14: by Alan (new)

Alan not sure you're right about Stalin's PR - I think he's now reviled, maybe not as much as 'Hitlie', but getting there I think..


Sketchbook Alan wrote: "not sure you're right about Stalin's PR - I think he's now reviled, maybe not as much as 'Hitlie', but getting there I think.."

You surely have a point, but no one "talks" about him. Where are the books & movies about his awfulness?


message 16: by Jessica (new)

Jessica also, attitudes toward him may be different in UK and US...(we're the more ignorant of world history).


Sketchbook You said it ! We dont even know American history--.


message 18: by Alan (new)

Alan yes there ain't that many books, and certainly very few movies (none that I can think of) about his large scale killings and crime. I know in the 60s he was still revered among the left here (UK), but his reputation has dived ever since. Lessing (Doris) talks about it in her autobiography (2nd volume) when she recalls visiting Russia in the late 50s (or was it the sixties, not sure...)


Sketchbook If a film dir at Cannes joked, "Stalin wasnt such a bad guy," he wouldnt be booted. I dont think it would even be reported in the Press.


message 20: by Mark (new)

Mark If you want to get yet more angry read :Mao's Great Famine: The History Of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, by Frank Dikotter. I read it a few months ago. Heartbreaking and again Mao has managed to escape the really deserved hatred and loathing. Maybe we can only take so many tyrants before our heads explode


Sketchbook On my List. Tx.


message 22: by Jessica (new)

Jessica and then there's North Korea too, speaking of great famine...
and Pol Pot in Cambodia as well.


message 23: by Sketchbook (last edited May 14, 2012 02:38PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sketchbook The list is endless, no doubt, but not all tyrants had spies in US trying to influence US policies. (How's Wendi Murdoch?)


message 24: by Jessica (new)

Jessica true.


message 25: by Lynne (last edited Sep 07, 2013 10:26PM) (new) - added it

Lynne King This is an excellent review Sketchbook.

My father had a great hatred for communism and as a result of this he read everything about it and the USSR and due to him I've also read a lot about Stalin and that period. Yes he was inherently evil and I'm surprised that anybody from other nations had anything to do with him at the time. He is nevertheless an historical figure to be reminded to all...

Do you remember that famous photo when the secret Yalta agreement was signed on February 11, 1945 by Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin? Stalin in this actually looks like a lovable rogue! Looks can indeed be deceiving. Always look at the eyes though - you can always spot the villain, well the majority of times anyway.

It's just as well this book is not on Kindle or else I would have purchased it. Too many books at the moment...


message 26: by Petra X (last edited Sep 08, 2013 06:32AM) (new)

Petra X Jessica wrote: "I don't know why we've had a blind spot for so long but I've noticed that some people seem unwilling to accept that there were atrocities equal to or worse (in numbers) than the Holocaust. I think..."

I don't think it is a blind spot. I think it is that the Holocaust was quite unique, it was the industrialisation of the annhilation of a people. And it is that industrialisation that is a greater horror than other massacres. The other massacres, all, are equal in terror and damage, but they do not inspire the horror of the idea of building factories that exist only to kill people and strip them of anything on their person that might be of value. Where the killing is not of the moment, but planned and coldly carried out by people who do not see people, the enemy, in front of them, but cockroaches that need to be stamped out.

But then there are quite a few people who would seek to minimise the Holocaust. Or say it was a long time ago. I feel quite a lot of those people probably agree with Roald Dahl's sentiments, "Even a stinker like Hitler didn't just pick on the Jews for no reason."


message 27: by Petra X (new)

Petra X Mark wrote: "If you want to get yet more angry read :Mao's Great Famine: The History Of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, by Frank Dikotter. I read it a few months ago. Heartbreaking and again Mao has manag..."

I read
Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962 which covers the same ground so exhaustively I don't think I could do another one on the same subject. I remember your review though Mark, it was really good.


Sketchbook Lynne wrote: "This is an excellent review Sketchbook.

My father had a great hatred for communism and as a result of this he read everything about it and the USSR and due to him I've also read a lot about Stalin..."


Famous pic : Stalin w his chamber pot smile.


Sketchbook Good point, Petra, abt the "industrialization" of death.


message 30: by Jessica (new)

Jessica good points Some Cat Lady. And I had no idea Dahl said that. How awful.


Sketchbook Some Cat Lady wrote: "Jessica wrote: "I don't know why we've had a blind spot for so long but I've noticed that some people seem unwilling to accept that there were atrocities equal to or worse (in numbers) than the Hol..."

The Roald Dahl comment : A pal who's working on a long Dahl essay asked if I could find out where and when this comment was made. Would apprech, tks.


message 32: by Petra X (new)

Petra X Roald Dahl: A biography, Jeremy Treglown (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1994), pp. 255–256.

http://thisrecording.com/today/2011/6...
http://www.monstersandcritics.com/peo...
http://www.nytimes.com/1990/12/07/opi...


He was from Cardiff, as many of my family were. He was well known for being outspoken and proud of his attitudes towards Jews, women and Blacks.


message 33: by Sketchbook (last edited Sep 09, 2013 06:31PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sketchbook My thanks, Cat/Petra. Will pass along. O, o, hullo, Dahlly, indeed...He met Patricia Neal at a party given by Lillian Hellman. ~~ La jeunesse s'amuse beaucoup.


message 34: by Helen (new)

Helen Some Cat Lady wrote: "I don't think it is a blind spot. I think it is that the Holocaust was quite unique, it was the industrialisation of the annhilation of a people. And it is that industrialisation that is a greater horror than other massacres. "

You outlined it beautifully, Cat Lady. Thank you.

As for Roald Dahl--he didn't write a word until he experienced a head injury in a plane crash. Could explain his gifts...and his madness.


back to top