J. Edgar Hoover (Gentry)

Title:                     J. Edgar Hoover (Gentry)

Author:                Curt Gentry

Gentry, Curt (1991). J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets. New York: Plume

LOC:       92053539

HV7911.H6 G46 1992

Date Posted:      April 25, 2013

In a richly textured biography of the former FBI director who died in 1972, Gentry, coauthor of Helter Skelter, takes a decidedly unfriendly look at the man and his career, revealing how Hoover found his niche in life as a “hunter of men,” served under 10 presidents over a period of five decades, creating what Eleanor Roosevelt characterized as an American Gestapo.

We’re shown Hoover scheming to help Thomas Dewey replace Harry Truman in the White House in return for a promise that he would be appointed attorney general; making use of secret information on Senator Joseph McCarthy while at the same time contributing significantly to “McCarthyism”; stalking John F. Kennedy even before he went into politics; covertly helping Richard Nixon become president, then virtually forcing the Nixon administration to embark on the road to Watergate.

Hoover believed that America’s morality was very much his business and, as Gentry demonstrates, the director equated morality with sexual abstinence. His horrified fascination with homosexuality (mixed with a strong streak of misogyny) are masterfully depicted here, as well as his virulent racism, disclosed in fresh material on Hoover’s efforts to destroy Martin Luther King Jr.

It is hard to imagine another portrait of Hoover that could surpass this one for detail, depth and sheer vitriol. Gentry makes clearer than previous biographers how J. Edgar Hoover became and, for the greater part of his tenure, remained the most powerful man in Washington.

J. Edgar Hoover

Title:                      J. Edgar Hoover

Author:                  Ralph de Toledano

de Toledano, Ralph (1973). J. Edgar Hoover: The Man in His Time. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House

LOC:       72091217

HV7911.H6 D48

Date Posted:      April 17, 2013


Ralph de Toledano has written a biography which aims to disentangle Hoover from a plethora of unfair criticisms of which the author perceives the late FBI chief to be the victim. By the casuistic logic of the idolatrous Toledano, Hoover’s faults are excused as the quirks of human nature, whereas his achievements are rendered nearly superhuman. So, ironically, Hoover’s legitimate accomplishments seem vitiated by the effort to magnify them and his failings are all the more blatant for the feckless manner in which they are dismissed.

Toledano’s technique is to bombard the reader with putative facts, irresponsibly selected and documented data, and questionable hearsay—much of which is, one suspects, apocryphal—and an endless series of prejudices that are, if offered ingenuously, venal. He repeatedly fails to disambiguate between those sources he cites as favorable or antagonistic toward Hoover, and it requires little discernment to recognize the author’s own right wing sympathies. Consequently Hoover’s critics are invariably described as unreliable either for their being seditious, criminal, or ignorant, irresponsible, dishonorably calculating—into these latter categories Toledano places his bete noire, Robert Kennedy. The shoddiness of the writing in general and the proliferating flow of banalities (e.g., “crystal clear” and “pinpoint precision,” passim) finally preclude any reason for putting up with this reckless book.