cover image The Director: My Years Assisting J. Edgar Hoover

The Director: My Years Assisting J. Edgar Hoover

Paul Letersky, with Gordon Dillow. Scribner, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-982164-70-6

Former FBI special agent Letersky debuts with a fond look back at his law enforcement career, which included a two-year stint on the personal staff of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who led the bureau from 1924 until his death in 1972. Letersky portrays Hoover as a perfectionist who “never backed down from anybody” and outlived the age he helped to define. Though the criticisms of Hoover are mild and somewhat grudgingly offered (“By today’s standards I suppose he was a racist”), Letersky provides insight into how the agency’s “top brass,” including “Watergate leaker” W. Mark Felt, vied for power and influence, and sheds light on the day-to-day workings of the bureau as he recounts airplane hijackings, kidnappings, and other cases he worked on as a field agent in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Alexandria, Va. Letersky also offers intriguing profiles of FBI associate director Clyde Tolson and Hoover’s longtime assistant Helen Gandy, who exerted her influence to protect a young Letersky after Hoover berated him for an early misstep. Ultimately, Letersky’s unique vantage point and colorful anecdotes are undermined by his unwillingness to provide more than a superficial critique of Hoover’s abuses of power. This rose-colored reminiscence disappoints. (July)