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Alger Hiss: Why He Chose Treason

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  22 ratings  ·  8 reviews
In 1948, former U.S. State Department official Alger Hiss was accused of being a Soviet spy. Because the statute of limitations on espionage had run out, he was convicted only of perjury. Decades later—after the Hiss trial had been long forgotten by most—archival evidence surfaced confirming the accusations: a public servant with access to classified d ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 17th 2012 by Threshold Editions
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Scott Burrell
Background on Hiss and Chambers was well researched and written and interesting. The end of the book rehashing and reciting the documentary evidence struck me as sort of strange. Made the case very well for Hiss's guilt and had interesting theories on Hiss's motivation.

Hiss, Hiss, Hiss
What a naughty caper
Foiled by Chambers
And the pumpkin papers
I haven't read much about Hiss though I have run across his name before and was vaguely familiar with him. The book tells the story and then talks about why and how Hiss could have chosen the course that he took. Betraying his country and then lying about it for years. The author does make the case that Hiss was guilty of perjury (lying to Congress about his activities as a communist spy) and his underlying even worse conduct of passing on state secrets and giving aid to the Soviets. The author ...more
Mary Thompson
Much of the book appears to be a straightforward account of Hiss's life, his perjury case, and the evidence that he was a Soviet agent. But there are many lines in the book where the author expresses her rabidly right-wing politics. She equates all support of the New Deal with rabid communism and warns against supposed modern-day socialism, implying that the US and Europe are barely a step away from Stalin's USSR. I thought I was learning something, but I can't really trust what I learned, since ...more
The American Conservative
'Shelton’s book probes a question many observers of Alger Hiss have long wondered about: why did Hiss doggedly maintain his innocence of charges that he was a spy for the Soviet Union, not only after he was accused by Whittaker Chambers in 1948, but after his federal conviction in 1950, even until his death in 1996?

Shelton’s verdict on Hiss’s refusal to recant or apologize is that he believed as a matter of conscience in the rational constructive project of communism. For Hiss, the vindication
May 14, 2012 ellen rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nobody
Shelves: 2012, reviewed, nonfiction
I had been looking forward to reading this book since I first read about it in one of the library journals I read at work, which probably made my disappointment even stronger. Instead of an informed discussion of Hiss' actions, this book instead seemed to be a platform for the author to air her grievances against the American left, conflate communism and fascism, and discuss many issues secondary to Hiss and what he did. I came away from it not knowing much more about Alger Hiss than I did befor ...more

An interesting perspective on the atmosphere of the period, with some fascinating points about the depth of Soviet penetration into US policymaking circles. Unfortunately, the author periodically derails from the historical subject matter to indulge in subjective remarks about current day liberals in the US. It's a distraction from the topic. Finally, much of the material is organized topically, which results in a poor mix of primary and secondary sources at the expense of the narrative.
Naomi Young
A bit dry, but still enlightening. Shelton presents -- to the point of tedium -- the many strands of evidence that lead any reasonable person to believe Alger Hiss was indeed a Soviet spy. If you have read Whittaker Chambers' Witness, not much of the book will be new to you. Shelton's main contribution is to explore what factors led to a belief in Hiss's innocence from the 1930s up until today. For the enthusiast primarily, not as one's first book on the topic, I think.
Curt Schroder
Another great book proving the treachery of Alger Hiss and the heroism of Whittaker Chambers.
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