Thursday, August 17, 2017

What Am I Reading "Thursday" (8/17/2017)

Welcome to a special edition of What Am I Reading Wednesday, aka: What Am I Reading Thursday!

Today's book is one that I've been looking forward to for a while now:

 Title: “Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover”

Author: Anthony Summers 

First Reading: Yes!

Initial Impression: Finally getting to dive into this one after it sat on my shelf for a few years.

Final Thoughts: Wow. I can only imagine the amount of research required to write a novel like this.

As seen on my Instagram page!

The level of detail in this novel is incredible.

I've always had a love for biographies, (there's a whole list of them waiting on the 2017 TBR!), and I was incredibly impressed with the amount of research Anthony Summers conducted to write this biography on one of our government's most infamous figures.

A young J. Edgar Hoover.
J. Edgar Hoover was appointed Director of the Bureau of Investigation in 1924, which later became the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935, and he remained director until his death in 1972. That's nearly fifty years spent in one of the most powerful positions in the United States. Hoover is largely credited with transforming the FBI from a small government body into the massive agency that it is today.

It would be expected for rumors to circulate about someone who spent the majority of his life in the public eye, but in Hoover's case those rumors were considered particularly outlandish for the time. The biggest of these scandals, of course, being that Hoover was a closet homosexual and possible cross-dresser. Hence, his seeming obsession with the sexual indiscretions of others. The man had files upon files filled with personal details on everyone, from government officials, to celebrities, to sitting US presidents. (It has been alleged in more than one book that each woman who "visited" JFK in the White House was recorded in an official log.) While no solid proof (and when I say "solid", I mean something along the lines of existing, verified photographic evidence, etc.) has been nailed down that I am aware of, Summers does site interview sources who claim to have witnessed Hoover's proclivities.

Of course, this is just a small part of the life of J. Edgar Hoover, and whether he was loved or hated, his name and position have lived on in movies, television shows, books, and numerous pop culture references.

As always, I won't go into any further detail, but there is one quote from the book I wanted to share:

"'American society has a strangely polarized attitude toward its heroes. On the one hand people love to discover the idol has clay feet, to find the flaw in the famous man. On the other hand, thousands of people seem to have a need to identify with a hero, to increase their own sense of strength by believing in someone who presents himself as wiser or more powerful than themselves. And they are reluctant to take the hero off his pedestal, even when they discover that he was not what he seemed. This is a curious contradiction in our society, and sometimes a dangerous one.' (quoted from Dr. Harold Lief)" (Summers (1993) Official & Confidential).

I've also learned that an updated version  of the book has been released, and I absolutely recommend Summers' account of Hoover's life. If nothing else for the depth of information now available about a very secretive man.

About the Author:

In addition to an extensive career as a journalist, covering events from the Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations, to the Vietnam War, to the events leading up to 9/11 and its aftermath, Anthony Summers has also proven to be a prolific biographer.

Besides J. Edgar Hoover, his subjects include Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Richard Nixon, and most recently, an account of the fight to clear the name of Admiral Husband Kimmel (who served during the Pearl Harbor attack of WWII) by his sons and grandsons.

I leave you now with a more lighthearted reference to J. Edgar Hoover. If you've seen the 2007 film version of the musical Hairspray, you'll know what I'm talking about! I tried to find a video clip of this scene, but no such luck. If anyone knows where it is online, let me know and I'll be sure to link it here.

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