Allen Dulles

James Srodes, Author Regnery Publishing $34.95 (576p) ISBN 978-0-89526-314-8
In a conventionally organized but somewhat superficially sourced biography governed by a subtle patriotic tone, Srodes takes a generally approving view of the man who, more than anybody else, defined the mission of the Central Intelligence Agency. The book's organization is strictly chronological, touching on Dulles's prominent (but not wealthy) ancestry before it chronicles his life (1893-1969). A Washington, D.C., journalist, Srodes (Dream Maker: The Rise and Fall of John Z. De Lorean) undertook the Dulles biography at the urging of the spymaster's sister Eleanor, herself a well-known economist and diplomat until her death at age 101. Dulles has received less attention than his more famous brother, John Foster Dulles, secretary of state under President Eisenhower at the same time Allen was forming the CIA. While Dulles's contemporaries took his extramarital escapades, low profile and sense of humor as signs of frivolity, Srodes sees these actions and traits as just the exterior of a complex man. Furthermore, Srodes argues against the conventional wisdom that Dulles was largely a failure because of U.S. policy toward Cuba (especially the Bay of Pigs), Iran, Indonesia and Vietnam. Rather, Srodes presents Dulles as a capable, moral, loyal, persistent man who left the world a better place. Less notable for its insight into policy than into character, the book is distinguished largely by the access Srodes had to previously restricted family papers, access that gave him an advantage over Dulles's two previous biographers, Leonard Mosley and Peter Grose, neither of whom is mentioned in the bibliography. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/31/1999
Release date: 06/01/1999
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