Customer Reviews: Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover
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on January 21, 2008
Anthony Summers presents J. Edgar Hoover as a man who insisted his agents lead a monastic life style while he enjoyed good whisky, gambling, and free vacations. He vilified homosexuals while himself involved with a male partner and he was capable of cross-dressing at private parties. He portrayed himself as the bulwark against crime yet coddled the Mafia and resisted any attempt at stopping their illegal activities. Ranted against communism but diverted resources to concentrate on building files on U.S. Congressmen and politicians without effectively stopping the Soviet intelligence attack throughout the cold war.

It is a frightening story of political maneuvering, blackmailing and excesses solely to maintain power. Summer's book includes extensive notes and bibliography. Written in 1993 it does not deal with the great failures that have been revealed in the past fifteen years such as the Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames cases. It does imply that Hoover's emphasis of show and power could have resulted in the FBI functioning to fit his image and maintain his power base at the expense of protecting American Security.
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on October 17, 2007
A truly interesting book. I have to say that it changed my view on the legendary man, and opens my eyes to how power corrupts. It's a bit long, but I'd recommend this to anyone interested in American politics in the 20th century.
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on August 17, 2013
A fascinating expose of Hoover's personal and professional life, with lots of tantalizing anecdotes like this one:

Billy Byars Sr., Humble Oil millionaire from Tyler, Texas, was very close to Hoover. Phone logs show that Hoover called only three people the afternoon President Kennedy was shot: Robert Kennedy, the head of the Secret Service, and Byars. Byars Sr., is dead. His son, Billy Jr., told Summers in 1988 how close his father was to Hoover. Hoover would talk constantly about his bad relations with the Kennedys. He says he once asked him about the assassination. "I asked him, 'Do you think Lee Harvey Oswald did it?' And he stopped and he looked at me for quite a long time. Then he said, 'If I told you what I really know, it would be very dangerous to this country. Our whole political system could be disrupted.' That's all he said, and I could see he wasn't about to say any more."

Being a supporter of gay rights, Hoover's personal life would normally be of no interest to me. But his public hypocrisy and persecution of anyone who didn't fit the Boy Scout ideal he had in his head (and his obvious inability to live up to that ideal) makes for a fascinating psycho-history, and helps us to understand many of his actions as FBI Director.

This book is also a warning to Americans to stop focusing so much time and energy on elected partisan officials, and to more closely examine the vast unelected government that continues no matter which party is in power.
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on November 12, 2012
I can't say I "enjoyed" this book. Rather, it was very disturbing. The level of corruption on display, throughout the government but within the FBI hierarchy in particular, was stunning. The author seems to have documented even his most salacious allegations, though I could have done without a good deal of the seamy detail he wrapped into the narrative. The obvious conclusion is the J. Edgar Hoover was a deeply disturbed individual who probably should have been fired from the FBI early in his career, and should never have been placed in charge.

The other obvious conclusion is the America does a lousy job of vetting its leaders. Every single president Hoover served, from Coolidge through Nixon, had some sort of sleazy behavior, one or a dozen skeletons hidden in the closet, that Hoover managed to uncover and hold against them to Hoover's advantage. No president was ever willing to fire him, no matter how badly he needed firing. This lesson should serve as stark warning to those who think it's not important to know the backgrounds of those who would serve us in high offices. Skeletons are fodder for extortion from sources within and without the government, to the great loss of the people of this country.
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on November 24, 1999
Once I had begun to read this book, it took everything I had to put it down in order to get some sleep and do my schoolwork. The power that Hoover possessed and how he fed on the fears of government officials who tried to kick him out, is absolutly fantastic to read about. To learn how corrupt the man who was considered by many to be an American hero was proved to be among the many elements of this book that keeps you wanting to read it. I had no idea that Hoover was a closet transvestite until I read this book, but now I enjoy reading this book, both for pleasure and research. I recommend it to anyone who wants to read some interesting stuff!
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on December 7, 2011
This book is must read for all those who are interested in the theory of a "shadow government" in America. It also ties in well with many of the books written about the JFK administration and political assassination. Nevertheless the book seems to be well researched with lots of notes in the back section. It is also a good companion book to another Anthony Summers book, "Not in Your Lifetime".
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on February 2, 2015
This story was fairly long and detailed. It chronicles his life and, if the author is to be believed, Hoover was just as, if not more powerful than, the president.

Hoover wielded his power to his own benefit, making enemies high and low. Owing to his control of things, Pearl Harbor, it is hinted at, could have been prevented based on knowledge Hoover had from a Soviet spy.

More pictures other than documents would have been appreciated and have helped not only make the book go faster but tie things together.
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on March 3, 2015
Couldn't get through this. Between the author referring to his subject as "Edgar" (a big no-no for biographers, according to my high school history teacher) and the salacious accusations that ooze from every page (Bobby Kennedy was involved in the murder of Marilyn Monroe?), I couldn't take it seriously. When you find yourself wondering after every sentence whether that particular fact is true, it's time to find a new nonfiction book. It's too bad, because Hoover was an exceptionally powerful and controversial figure, and it would be interesting to know more about his life. Some day I'll try to track down a better biography.
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on October 7, 1999
"Official And Confidential" is a great work that serves as a document about the abuses of power due to one man's private perversions. Summers writes an incredibly powerful book that explores many, many subjects. Never did I think one man could have so much control, I was proven wrong by this great work. J.Edgar Hoover was a man with mental problems that were secret perversions, he used it to his use. This book is like watching a great movie. It has all the elements of a great dramatic thriller. We explore the shadowy truths behind the assassinations of JFK, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Even the death of John Dillinger is questioned here. "Official & Confidential" can also serve as a study of the perversions of power and government. The myth of the conservative 50s and 60s is shattered here. There was more going on behind the curtain of power than we knew. This is a masterpiece.
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on May 8, 2016
This book is a fire cracker. The author uncovers new material about the same excesses of Hoover and then is able to make a balanced condemnation of his gestapo reign. He was no better than the secret police in a tinpot dictatorship. He destroyed innocent lives. He ruined good people. He was a two bit thief. US History needs to purge him the way that soviet history purged Stalin ....... TERRIFIC READ.
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