The Director: My Years Assisting J. Edgar Hoover

Scribner. Jul. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781982164706. $28. BIOG
Don’t expect scandal-mongering in this reflection on legendary FBI director J. Edgar Hoover who served with—not under—eight U.S. presidents from 1924 until his death in 1972. In this conversational, favorable evaluation of Hoover, written for non-specialists, former FBI agent Letersky (criminal justice, Tillamook Bay Community Coll.) draws on his eight years in the agency (1965–73): three as a civilian clerk, often in the front office with Hoover and the devoted senior assistant Helen Gandy; and five as an agent in the field. In addition to his personal observations and experiences, Letersky uses contemporary newspapers, histories of the FBI, and declassified official FBI files. Regarding rumors of Hoover’s sexual relationships with men, Letersky maintains that Hoover’s personal values and control make it unlikely that anyone knew real details of his personal life. The author argues that Hoover, a closed-minded, often vindictive bureaucrat, strongly objected to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans, and that he treated domestic radicals, whether of the right or the left, equally harshly; these claims call for more investigation and verification.
VERDICT Readers should compare Letersky’s book with Hoover’s FBI by Cartha DeLoach, a 25-year FBI veteran who became number three in the agency (outranked only by Clyde Tolson); The Real J. Edgar Hoover by former assistant FBI director Ray Wannall; and the controversial book J. Edgar Hoover by Curt Gentry.
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