Friends in High Places: The Bechtel Story: The Most Secret Corporation and How It Engineered the World

Laton McCartney, Author Free Press $19.45 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-47415-7

The title reflects the author's characterization of the 80-year-old Bechtel Group, America's largest private company, which has incalculable resources and influences not only on U.S. foreign policy but on world events as well. Starting with its founder, entrepreneur Warren Bechtel, who built roads, railroads and other major projects like the Boulder Dam (constructed in alliance with Henry J. Kaiser), this engrossing account by freelance journalist McCartney traces the growth of the engineering firm's international operations under the leadership of the son and grandson during WW II and after, when the company won contracts for ships, planes, the Alaska Pipeline and nuclear plants. The group's executives, McCartney contends, have filled or still occupy key posts in the White House, State Department, Pentagon and CIA, or have become CEOs of companies ready to further or protect Bechtel interests. The author also provides behind-the-scenes insights as to how the group covers up, if needed, questionable enterprises and conflicts of interest. (March)