Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies

Marc Aronson. Candlewick, $25.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5025-4
“[T]his book is not and should not be just about Hoover,” Aronson (Trapped) tells readers in the epilogue to this wide-ranging, extensively researched, and detailed biography of the controversial 20th-century FBI director. He’s not kidding: Hoover’s story unfolds against the tumultuous immigrant history of the U.S. and the growth of the FBI, which Hoover molded for more than 40 years. Hoover emerges as a magnified example of abusive governmental power, portrayed as a controlling conformist who was organized, intelligent, sexually suppressed, and manipulative. Aronson’s stimulating questions (“[W]ho is the bigger liar: the capitalist who teases the poor with images of goods they cannot afford or the Communist who hypnotizes the masses with empty slogans and false ideals?”), and his occasional use of first- and second-person, will wake up readers accustomed to less in-your-face historical narratives. The book does an excellent job of creating parallels between America’s anticommunist efforts and the current fight against terrorism as it questions the price of security and the media’s roles in keeping secrets. Period photographs, movie posters, cartoons, and FBI documents supplement a biography abounding in historical context. Ages 14–up. Agent: Ken Wright, Writers House. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/20/2012
Release date: 04/10/2012
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