A fascinating and timely biography of J. Edgar Hoover from a Sibert Medalist. "King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. . . . You better take it before your filthy, abnormal, fraudulent self is bared to the nation." Dr. Martin Luther King received this demand in an anonymous letter in 1964. He believed that the letter was telling him to commit suicide. Who wrote this anonymous letter? The FBI. And the man behind it all was J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI's first director. In this unsparing exploration of one of the most powerful Americans of the twentieth century, accomplished historian Marc Aronson unmasks the man behind the Bureau- his tangled family history and personal relationships; his own need for secrecy, deceit, and control; and the broad trends in American society that shaped his world. Hoover may have given America the security it wanted, but the secrets he knew gave him- and the Bureau - all the power he wanted. Using photographs, cartoons, movie posters, and FBI transcripts, Master of Deceit gives readers the necessary evidence to make their own conclusions. Here is a book about the twentieth century that blazes with questions and insights about our choices in the twenty-first.
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 ( 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.