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The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA Paperback – January 15, 2001
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More About the Author
After a rousing undergraduate career at Harvard, during which he won the History and Literature Prize, the top Bowdoin Prize, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Burton Hersh pushed off into a life as a professional writer animated by occasional triumphs and more or less constant controversy. After college he spent a year in the Black Forest as a Fulbright student, then a stint in the military as a radio operator along the Czech border and a high-clearance German translator and intelligence specialist for the Seventh Army. Then, newly married, he moved to the Austrian Alps and wrote his still - fortunately - unpublished first novel.
He returned to the United States in 1961 just as John F. Kennedy was taking over the presidency. Throughout the subsequent decade he specialized in well-paid magazine articles on skiing, culture and politics for a variety of magazines from Horizon to Esquire. After four years in New York and New Haven he wrote his first published novel, The Ski People, and the widely anthologized Esquire piece on the fledgling Senator Kennedy, whose life would generate three books by Hersh over the next four decades.
The first, The Education of Edward Kennedy, with its moment-to-moment breakdown of the events surrounding the Chappaquiddick cookout, was regarded by right-wingers as a whitewash of Kennedy's stumbling performance that terrible evening. The book was followed up by the bestselling The Mellon Family and, in 1992, after a decade of massive interviewing and research, The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA. Bitterly resented inside the Agency for spilling all its secrets though cherished by the likes of John Le Carre, the group biography is now required reading for every incoming officer and in evidence on most desks at Langley, its institutional history.
In 1997 Hersh published The Shadow President, a treatment of Kennedy's subsequent twenty-five years that drew raves from critics from Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. to Tom Wicker to Daniel Schorr. A novel, The Nature of the Beast, that explored the ethical substructure of the CIA and was widely praised by critics up to the Agency's own Inspector General, came out in 2003. In 2007 a book that came out of a whole career of journalistic, social, and at times political involvement with the Kennedys and explored the secret family connections to the underworld that undoubtedly led to Jack Kennedy's assassination, Bobby and J. Edgar, brought down a tsunami of attacks from both the left and the right. Insults - but nothing specific ever to refute the details of who killed JFK and how - have poured in ever since from ignorant commentators.
In 2010 a thoroughly edited and much expanded and updated version of the two previous books on Edward Kennedy came out, Edward Kennedy: An Intimate Biography, and was generally hailed as definitive on Kennedy's life and career. It contained the ins and outs of the very nearly lethal vendetta between Kennedy and Richard Nixon and the reminiscences of the woman who had been Kennedy's great love during the most trying years of his middle life.
Much additional detail is available on Burton Hersh's website, www.treefarmbooks.com. He vents his opinions on a more or less weekly blog, What's Left Out: http://burtonhersh.blogspot.com/ Keep reading!
Top Customer Reviews
Hersh himself clearly did vast independent primary research and interview work for the book. His anatomy of the Dulles brothers, Frank Wisner, Wild Bill Donovan, Bill Casey,and the creepy but omnipresent Carmel Offie is superb. Wall Street staffed the US intelligence elite, in 1941 as in 2001---and oil and high finance were and still are that world's elixir. Lastly, the index and notes are a boon to future researchers. [Interestingly, none of the Dulles-adoring biographies published of late cites any of Hersh's work. Hmmmm.]
Hersh has a novelist's skill in bringing this cast of real characters to life: the descriptions are unforgettable, but the research, especially to me, a fellow digger in contemporary intelligence history, is awe-inspiring. Hersh has not written a book predicated on others' books: there is a treasure trove here of original research, especially in relation to the Wall Street connections to Nazi business and, critically, to the SAFEHAVEN investigation, rediscovery of which of course broke the Holocaust gold story some years back.
But most of all, this book is hugely entertaining and not a little amusing, told in a confidingly baroque language, it's true, but imagine you're hearing these stories in a clubland chair, from someone Who Knows Stuff, of a long and fascinating evening. Listen carefully: your attention'll be rewarded.
This is nuanced, detailed writing about complicated history: one's reading effort, I found, rewards---this is an important book laying open the defining people and defining events of the US intelligence empire. It's no surprise Hersh is in high demand as an intelligence expert since Sept 11th, as the CIA and its watchers look for answers.
Negatives: Tens of thousands of pages of information redacted, sanitized, and recently released to the public (through 2014) will substantially change some of the "base line" conclusions Hersh formed, logically (...and reasonably, with regard to Hersh's scholarly credit), suffer to a degree in the absence of proof (...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I am a student of the Dulles brothers and CIA and there is much well documented in this book that other books on this topic do not cover. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Brad Rockwell
I stopped reading in the middle of the WWII chapters. This guy got every name in Germany, and I mean every single name wrong. Read morePublished 13 months ago by evaclaudia
Meh...Was this written by an adoring fan? No dates. Just a rambling mess. My head still hurts from the memory of reading this POS. Hey what do I know? Who am I? No one. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Will Sync
While Burton Hersh's work does contain some interesting facts, as a history it is little more than the author's opinions. Read morePublished on April 16, 2007 by C. W.
This work by Mr. Hersh is a mind boggeling attempt at history. Unfortunately, I think the reader should do some follow up research. Read morePublished on November 29, 2006 by William A. Darst
The trouble with Burton Hersh is that he never bothered to read what he wrote. If he had he'd have realized that it is uncomprehensible. Read morePublished on July 1, 2002 by Sheridan Peterson