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The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate's Deep Throat Hardcover – July 6, 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars 98 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Bob Woodward's secret man is no longer a secret, now that former FBI assistant director W. Mark Felt and his family have revealed that he was Deep Throat, Woodward's legendary anonymous source for his Watergate reporting. Soon after Felt made his identity known, Woodward, who "is prone to complete his homework before it is due or even assigned," according to the afterword by his reporting partner Carl Bernstein, himself revealed that he had been working on a manuscript in preparation for that moment, one that would after 30 years tell the inside story of their mysterious, and history-changing, relationship.

Certainly you get in The Secret Man the cloak-and-dagger details you'd expect--and are likely already familiar with from both the book and the superb movie of All the President's Men: the late-night garage meetings, the red flag in the flower pot, the whispered warning that lives were in danger. Woodward retells the still-riveting story of his and Bernstein's unearthing of the scandal with efficiency and with the last puzzle piece in place. And he is able both to explain some of Felt's motivations, as an FBI loyalist disgusted by Nixon staffers trying to run roughshod over his agency, and to trace some of his remarkable bureaucratic tactics, including commissioning an FBI leak inquiry and deflecting it away from himself. Most fascinatingly, he gives a warts-and-all account of his shameless youthful cultivation of Felt, beginning with their first encounter when Woodward was a bored Navy lieutenant on the make, just three years before being assigned to cover the arraignment of five men in business suits arrested in the offices of the Democratic National Committee. But in a crucial way this doesn't seem to be the book that Woodward had wanted to write, for Felt remains a mystery. A shadowy father figure during the Watergate period, Felt soon distanced himself from Woodward after running into legal trouble of his own, and they fell out of touch in the intervening years. When Woodward finally reestablished contact in 2000, Felt had lost most of his memory, and any understanding with his former source, with whom he was so closely tied in both his private and public lives, remained poignantly but frustratingly unreachable. --Tom Nissley

From Publishers Weekly

Rushed into print after former FBI second-in-command W. Mark Felt was unmasked as Watergate's enigmatic arch-informant, this memoir reminds us that the scandal's lasting impact was less on politics than on journalism. Woodward recounts his cultivation of the avuncular Felt as mentor and source during his days as a cub reporter, the cloak-and-dagger parking garage meetings where Felt leaked conclusions from the FBI's Watergate investigation, Felt's ambivalence about his actions and the chilling of their post-Watergate relationship. The narrative drags in later years as the author showily wrestles with the ethics of revealing his source, even after a senile Felt begins blurting out the secret and his family pesters Woodward to confirm his identity. Woodward portrays Felt as a conflicted man with situational principles (he was convicted of authorizing the FBI's own Watergate-style illegal break-ins), motivated possibly by his resentment of White House pressure on the FBI for a cover-up, possibly by pique at being passed over for FBI chief. Unfortunately, Felt doesn't remember Watergate, so his reasons remain a mystery; Woodward's disappointment at the drying up of his oracle is palpable. What's clear is that Deep Throat laid the template for Woodward's career; his later reporting on cloistered institutions-the Supreme Court, the CIA, the Fed, various administrations-relied on highly-place, often unnamed insiders to unveil their secrets. It gave his reporting its omniscient tone, but, critics complain, drained it of perspective and made it a captive of his sources and their agendas. Woodward doesn't probe these issues very deeply, but he does open a window on the fraught relationships at the heart of journalism.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (July 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743287150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743287159
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,046,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
To say that The Secret Man is laconic is like saying Phoenix is somewhat warm. For one of the biggest secrets of our times, Woodward had surprisingly little to say. The book is short! Short on information. Short on revelations. Short on words (about 40,000 I`d guess). Short on interest. Short, Short, Short. That`s not to say the book is totally without merit. Woodward continues to write in his `aw shucks`, `down home' style of writing and he does manage to give Deep Throat a face. A face of a kindly old befuddled gentleman now and the proud, confident, mildly ruthless, extremely secretive informer of the seventies.

Much to the authors chagrin he was unable to ascertain Felt`s true motive`s behind his secretive revelations before his dementia and we are subjected to his rehashing of all that has been said by his contemporaries in the past. However, we do get to see a side of Woodard that I had never suspected. That of a pushy, prodding, sometimes demanding but not ungrateful recipient of Felt's largess. As Woodward recites the events, it seems that Felt, whatever his motives, be it personal, or resentment of the Nixon team for compromising his beloved FBI, was recalcitrant and events would not have moved forward, without Woodward's persistence. This ultimately led to a split of these unlikely friends where Felt wouldn`t take Woodward`s calls and they did not talk for a period of some twenty years.

My feeling is that although Woodward had his book ready to go in draft form, he was taken by surprise by the sudden surprise announcement from Felt's family and was rushed to come up with the finished manuscript. As short as the book is, it seems it was stretched by repeating things in the last third of the book. I found this repetition annoying.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a surprisingly good book. Woodward is honest and reflective about whether he met the high standards Deep Throat set for him, and that he set for himself. And he grapples with whether Deep Throat was a hero or villain or a little of both -- and concludes, convincingly, that Deep Throat was more hero than villain.

Deep Throat's identity sheds entirely new light on the Watergate scandal. That he was the number 2 man in the FBI whose motive was to protect the agency from Nixon's politicization and subversion of law enforcement goes a long way in explaining Nixon's downfall. Yet, Woodward does not shy away from the sordid doings of Hoover and others, including Deep Throat himself. There is a curious resonance between the FBI and the White House plumbers. Is Deep Throat protecting some idealized view of his agency or just his beloved turf?

Woodward is reflective and self-critical. This is the best book he has written and is quite moving.
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Format: Hardcover
Secret Man is an interesting but ultimately unsatisfying review of Bob Woodward's dealings with Mark Felt, the "Deep Throat" of All the President's Men (ATPM) fame. While Woodward does a reasonable job of filling in many of the remaining blanks, it would have been better to release the new material as an additional 100 pages or so in a revised edition of ATPM. Part of this comes from the feeling that most of the truly gripping material here has already been released, part comes from admitted hasty editing, but the biggest disappointment is that what should be the heart of this story - the relationship between Woodward and Felt - isn't compelling as it becomes sadly clear Woodward didn't know Felt all that well. Instead, what Woodward ends up producing is a fairly unflattering autobiographical sketch of himself before and during Watergate. Still, it's worth a read both for political junkies and as the standalone historical footnote it is, but could and should have been a lot more after all these years. One star off for the rehash, and one half each for the results of essentially working without an editor and the poor value proposition here leave this at three stars.

Any retelling of Watergate with Woodward, Bernstein, and Deep Throat is going to have problems living up to the monumental thriller that was ATPM. Love them or hate them for their role in bringing down Nixon and what some view as their unintentional fathering of today's "gotcha" journalism, the movie version of ATPM vaulted all three men to superstardom. In fairness, there's an additional hurdle of trying to make the facts live up to the incredible scenes between Hal Holbrook and Robert Redford. Not an easy task for even one of the principals.
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Format: Hardcover
It's hard to believe that this book was spawned by a "book length draft of the Deep Throat story" that Woodward had prepared in advance. It reads like a Memorandum of Findings, with scattered episodes thrown in that contribute incidents of minimal revelation or all too lengthy confirmations of Felt's later senility.

One would expect more of a co-author of "All The President's Men." Woodward seems bored, writing obligatorily so as to rush something out at the time of the announcement. While he tries to force in some emotion, he fails to convey it to the reader. Woodward would have done history a favor by taking some time with this to reveal the real intensity and drama that took place, rather than rushing and doing it so superficially.
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