Marc Aronson has written a powerful and thought-provoking book. His devastating, but nuanced portrait of the life and career of J. Edgar Hoover captures the impact of the long-term FBI director on American politics and thought. His is a cautionary tale of the costs of secrecy and of the fears engendered by blind fears over hyped security threats.
—Athan Theoharis, professor emeritus at Marquette University, expert on J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI
MASTER OF DECEIT is simply outstanding. Marc Aronson explores the intersection of personality and history in a way that not only records the times and events, but actually illuminates them.
—Walker Dean Myers, a three-time finalist for the National Book Award and author of MONSTER, winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award
A powerful book that serves its title well. Aronson untangles the complex history of a master (J. Edgar Hoover) who created, manipulated, and guarded the nation’s "truth." This is an important book, not just for its subject matter but also for its approach. Aronson skillfully shows that history is more than fact; history is a location: it’s where the reader positions himself or herself and what the "masters" do with the facts. A riveting read.
—Susan Campbell Bartoletti, author of HITLER YOUTH, a Newbery Honor Book and a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book
MASTER OF DECEIT is a masterpiece of historical narrative, with the momentum of a thrilling novel and the historical detail of the best nonfiction... This is as much about how history is written as it is about Hoover and his times... Written with the authority of a fine writer with an inquiring mind, this dramatic story is history writing at its best.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Aronson’s stimulating questions and his occasional use of first- and second-person, will wake up readers accustomed to less in-your-face historical narratives. The book does an excellent job of creating parallels between America’s anticommunist efforts and the current fight against terrorism as it questions the price of security and the media’s roles in keeping secrets. Period photographs, movie posters, cartoons, and FBI documents supplement a biography abounding in historical context.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Relying on wide reading and vast research, Aronson paints a nuanced and evenhanded portrait of a man who was complicated, almost certainly neurotic, and who had an iron will to control–both himself and others. Thoroughly discussing the FBI’s role in law enforcement, the McCarthy witch hunts and HUAC, campaigns against Dr. King and civil rights, and comparing the egregious violations of individual rights and due process committed by the agency to the conduct of post-9/11 containment and treatment of Arab Americans, this book is a must for high school students.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
It is clear from the opening of Aronson’s chronicle of the life, career, and death of first FBI director J. Edgar Hoover that he considers the director’s 48-year reign to be a dark time for American civil liberties. Part 1 of the book begins, “Nothing in this book matters until you care about Communism,” offering some background for the modern (teen) reader who may require a refresher as to the whys behind the man’s rise to power. Aronson does not refrain from digging at Hoover’s secrets, sharing photographic evidence to support speculation about his sexuality and racial heritage. For readers (like myself) who agree with the author’s editorial position, the story serves as a cautionary tale about the evils that can be done to U.S. citizens by individuals whose mission it is to protect us. A fascinating portrait of a flawed and not altogether likable historical figure.
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In fascinating detail, Aronson tells the story of America during J. Edgar Hoover's reign as head of the FBI and "the nearly fifty years of criminal activity that was his legacy." For today's students, Communism and anti-Communism are "just terms that appear on tests, like the Whig, Greenback, or Know-Nothing parties," but this volume brings alive the drama of the Cold War period and demonstrates its significance for readers now. Taking his title from Hoover's 1958 work on the dangers of Communism, Aronson writes about the dangers of a "security at all costs" mentality during the Cold War and, by extension, our post-9/11 world. He covers a large slice of history--the Palmer raids of 1919, the gangster era, the Scottsboro case, World War II, the Rosenbergs, Joseph McCarthy, the civil rights movement and Watergate--but this is no mere recitation of the facts; it's a masterpiece of historical narrative, with the momentum of a thrilling novel and the historical detail of the best nonfiction. With references as far-flung as Karl Marx, Stalin, Wordsworth, American Idol, The Hunger Games and The Lord of the Rings, this is as much about how history is written as it is about Hoover and his times. Extensive backmatter includes fascinating comments on the research, thorough source notes that are actually interesting to read and a lengthy bibliography. Written with the authority of a fine writer with an inquiring mind, this dramatic story is history writing at its best. (Nonfiction. 14 & up)