J.Edgar Hoover, Author
J. Edgar Hoover was FBI director for forty-eight years, and he was also an author--a bestselling author. His Masters of Deceit, published in 1958 by Henry Holt, spent thirty-one weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and sold more than 250,000 copies. In paperback it sold more than 2 million. But dealing with the director presented unique challenges for Holt. The special relationship is documented in the FBI's 234-page Henry Holt file, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Claire Culleton, who writes about it in her new book Modernism on File: Writers, Artists, and the FBI, 1920-1950 (edited with Karen Leick).
The FBI's Holt file is unique among the millions of files at bureau
headquarters: it does not contain the usual reports on an individual's
left-wing sympathies and activism but rather information about the firm and its
efforts to woo Hoover as an author. The company began courting Hoover when he
was known to be agitated about the 1950 publication of the first book critical
of the FBI: The Federal Bureau of Investigation by Max Lowenthal. A senior Holt
official--his name is blacked out--knew how to get Hoover's attention. The
Lowenthal book"makes me a little sick," he wrote to the director."This book
should not have been published.... when we are fighting for survival, as God
knows we are today, there are certain irresponsible views that need not and
should not be expressed." Because of the Lowenthal book,"it is of the utmost
importance that an accurate, considered book evaluating the importance of one
of our last strongholds against Communism (the FBI) be presented to the public
by a responsible publisher." He modestly suggested that Holt fit the bill. He
also suggested that the author should be Hoover.
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