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. Back matter includes an epilogue, an author's note, source notes, a bibliography, and an index.
Grades 9-12. This biography is an unflinching portrait of an insecure, scheming zealot who conflated communism, civil rights, and the antiwar movement into a singular, immeasurable menace and dedicated himself to eradicating it. The author looks at and behind the historical record, examining Hoover’s public conduct and peering into the murky corners of his personal life, finding motivation for his fierce exertion of control in the suspicions about his sexuality and his race. Large black-and-white reproductions of photos, internal memos, and cultural artifacts document a troubled man on a mission. For all of his respect for his subject’s complexity, Aronson’s contempt is unmistakable. He draws overt parallels between Hoover’s particular brand of fearmongering and the intractable contemporary polarity of American government. A full 30 pages of back matter include an epilogue, copious source notes, and an index (not seen). Most compelling is the afterword, wherein the author expresses the challenges and fears he faced exposing the underbelly of the FBI under Hoover, making this both a gripping historical investigation and an instructive example of the researched communication of ideas.