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Puppetmaster: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover Paperback – Bargain Price, August 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As in his smart biographies of Howard Hughes (Hughes) and Ted Turner/Rupert Murdoch (Clash of the Titans), Hack brings a novelist's flair for drama and a journalist's nose for truth to the life of another controversial figure. With unsourced renditions of Hoover's and others' internal monologues, Hack creates some transparency for the legendary FBI chief's tantalizingly opaque psyche. His most controversial conclusion about Hoover's private life is that, despite his weird intimacy with sidekick Clyde Tolson and his household collections of male nudes and Chinese ceramics, Hoover was not gay. Rather, he was dependent for sexual excitement on furtive perusal of smut from the FBI's Obscene Files and was enamored of certain Hollywood stars, named here. Hack's account of Hoover's public life, meanwhile, zings. He covers Hoover's career from his initial exploits tracking down dissidents through his headline-grabbing pursuit of Depression-era outlaws to his postwar crusade against left-wing subversion, one increasingly out of step with the country during his Vietnam-era decline. Hack's balanced but quite critical treatment details the brilliant self-promotion, which made Hoover a national hero, as well as the paranoid anticommunism, the secret files on presidents and pinkos alike, the illegal surveillance and wiretaps and the racist antagonism to the Civil Rights movement that later made him a villain in many eyes. Hack says too little about the FBI as an institution or its crime-fighting methods, treating it mainly as an extension of Hoover's personal and political agenda. But he does offer a live-wire biography of a determined, energetic, lonely and insecure man who comes off here as much a puppet as master, a consummate bureaucratic infighter all too pathetically aware of his vulnerability to shifts in political power. 6 pages of b&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Hack has been an investigative writer for 20 years, covering Hollywood and the media for much of that time. He frequently appears on television as a commentator.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 455 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix Books (August 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597775126
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,234,579 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Maloney on May 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Puppetmaster chronicles the life and career of J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI for over fifty years that lasted continuously across the landscape of eight different U.S. presidents.

Author Richard Hack brings us an engaging look at Hoover's career and his enormous influence in structuring the FBI as an important and powerful law enforcement agency concerned with many of the homeland security issues of the time.

Hoover is an ultimate icon of how one human being can do so much good and yet, at the same time, resort to some of the most corrupt immoral and un-American tactics to achieve his goals.

His life is an example of a highly organized and determined American who believed he was doing what was best for America during his fifty year directorship, He accomplished a tremendous amount in building a strong and stable agency that was truly valuable, and continues to be so, in assisting criminal investigations and apprehensions throughout the country.

Unfortunately, J. Edgar Hoover was a human being who became a bit too impressed with the aura he had created about himself and his very profound human insecurity made him a dangerous person. He was the living embodiment of the axiom that 'power corrurpts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.'

In the interests of national security, Hoover perpetrated some oif the most heinous acts of immorality witnessed in American history. Don't forget, he was in charge for fifty years! Hoover ruined lives, invaded good people's privacy, blackmailed politicians and presidents and believed that he was more important than the very Presidents of the United States he served.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Edward P. Matos on July 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Richard Hack's book, "Puppetmaster: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover", is well documented, concise, and well presented, but I had to ask myself "where's the beef". There is simply nothing new in this biography of America's number one policeman. The book is 407 pages long. I read to page 357 and finally had to put it down for keeps - there was simply nothing new in this book to entice me to keep reading. The book is well suited for individuals that have very little to no knowledge of the life of J. Edgar Hoover.

I must admit that I was surprised by what I did not find in this new book on Hoover's life. Hoover has always been referred to as the "keeper of secrets". I would have thought that with so many reputed secrets, Richard Hack would have uncovered something new, never-presented material, but such was not the case with Hack's book. I look forward to the day when some of Hoover's well kept secrets are uncovered and brought to life in a new book. But until then there are no new discoveries to be found in "Puppetmaster: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover". I would like to recommend Curt Centry's book, J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets as an alternative to "Puppetmaster".
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Any mention of J. Edgar Hoover these days conjures up images of a cross-dresser in a hotel room and secret files worthy of any blackmailer. While this new biography on Hoover does cover those rumors and hundreds more, that is not the reason to rush immediately to buy this book.
In "Puppetmaster," author Richard Hack unfolds a psychological study of a man as errie as he was fascinating, as powerful as he was corrupt, and as fundamentally patriotic as any man since George Washington.
The book is written like a novel--full of description that flows the reader through tales of gangsters, kidnappings, Communism, wiretaps, and murder. I throughly enjoyed this book, which I absolutely recommend to anyone who wants a wonderful read about a fascinating man.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Maureen Jacobs on December 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I knew nothing about Hoover before reading this book, but Hack does a comprehensive job in this bio. Hoover is portrayed as a higly intelligent, organized man, who had too much power for his (or the country's) good.

Hoover's need for fame was a double edged sword: It helped promote the FBI and it's intentions, but it also put public image over real substance. The most interesting parts of the book were Hoover tracking down old-time mobsters, and his obsession with Martin Luther King Jr. and his ties to the communist party.

The biggest problems with the book were lack of technical details (Hack throughout mentions illegal wire taps and "black bag jobs", but never goes into details of how they were implemented), and apparent embellishment of the truth. For example, Hack goes into detail in converstaions between 2 people which there are no sources for. This is confusing and detracts from the overall authenticity of the book.

Overall, this was a great book to learn about this unusual leader. I think it paints a farily balanced picture of him, not as an evil man, but of a smart control freak and media hound that was given too much power for too long.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Upstate New Yorker on May 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The author's resort to writing descriptive passages of entirely private moments in Hoover's life detracts from the supposed factual nature of this biography. For example, in describing Hoover's actions immediately after his aged mother's death he pictures Hoover standing " naked at the bathroom window, his fleshy body chubby as a bar mizvah boy." Say what? These little flights of literary embellishment diminish what is otherwise an interesting, popular biography of Hoover.
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