Most helpful positive review
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A thoroughly detailed, fascinating, and shocking account of a complex man
on February 28, 2006
A fascinating and comprehensive look at a complex, powerful, and manipulative man. Gentry brings to life the power that Hoover held, power bestowed on him by virtue of the secrets he held in the massive volumes of FBI files he collected over his 48 year tenure.
Hoover's far reach and influence are stunning. Most people probably have a cursory idea of Hoover's god-like legacy, but Gentry brings out the jaw dropping, scandalous details in vivid candor. Hoover had leverage over his superiors - the president and the attorney general - as well as his subordinates, Congress, Hollywood, local police jurisdictions, and civil rights leaders. His sway only increased with every year his held his office.
Gentry's account is exhaustively researched and probably the most extensive and authoritative history of Hoover in existence. He delves into the paradox that Hoover was, a rigid, aggravating, unlikeable, and deeply vindictive man to many, yet to a few close associates, he was engaging and affable, if not warm, and to him they were 100% loyal.
Hoover was no doubt a product of his time. For the calculating personality he possessed, who could ask for better career advancement opportunities than to serve in a time of the depression, bootleggers, gansters, the mafia, the Communist red scare, and the Kennedy assasinations successively. All during Hoover's time at the FBI, there was a valid argument to be made that he was simply indispensible. The desire of many in government to end his tenure was thwarted time after time, almost to a comical degree. Hoover was saved by the skin of his teeth more than once by fortuitous turns of events.
Beyond just Hoover, this book explores the dark side of politics in general. The horse trading, the double dealing, the secret deals, the blacklisting, blackmailing, break-ins, cover-ups, set-ups, take-downs, paybacks, payoffs, and the vindictiveness. It's ugly, ugly work. Most would have no idea their own government operates in such a shameful, despicable manner.
Gentry writes in an engaging narrative style that's easy to read and compelling. The book is well paced and very cohesive despite covering a wide time period and a diverse range of incidents. The book is lengthy and comprehensive. It does not skimp on details. I'm hard pressed to imagine a more thorough account.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in this period of contemporary American history or the fascinating personality that was J. Edgar Hoover.