The Secret History
Of the FBI

Ronald Kessler
(St. Martin's)
J. Edgar Hoover collared some of the star crooks from the 1930s like "Lepke" Buchalter and Alvin Karpis. Hoover titled Karpis "Public Enemy Number One" (as if the public could have a Number One enemy). Karpis said later it was FBI agent Clarence Hurt who grabbed him --- Hoover was hidden away until #1 could be peacefully disarmed.

Hoover collected lurid memos on the Washington power elite, with especial attention to their night life. Even Nixon was afraid to can him because the FBI chief knew about his affair with Marianna Liu of Hong Kong.

William Sullivan who worked with him for years said, "The moment Hoover would get something on a senator he would send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that

    'we're in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter. But we wanted you to know this. We realize you'd want to know it.' Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator. From that time on, the senator's right in his pocket.

At one point in later years, Hoover demanded that his agents stop drinking coffee (not manly enough), and once wrote a memo: "Watch the borders." Since nothing more was specified, agents watched the Mexican and Canadian borders.

The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, reported that a former wife of the chairman of Schenley Industries said that she saw Hoover at a party, "wearing a fluffy black dress, very fluffy, with flounces and lace stocking and high heels, and a black curly wig. He had makeup on and false eyelashes." She said that Roy Cohn was there, and introduced Hoover as "Mary," and that later he retired to a bedroom with "young blond boys."

Kessler's response: The director of the FBI simply could not have engaged in such activity at the Plaza, with a number of witnesses present, without having it leak out. He expresses surprise that this story has gone as far as it did: "That Hoover was a cross-dresser is now largely presumed to be a fact even by sophisticated people."

§     §     §

Hoover's secretary Helen Gandy worked for him from 1919 until his death in 1972. When he finally, thank god, died --- we thought he never would --- she took his Personal and Confidential files up to his house, all thirty-two cartons, and tore up each and every one of the files, and gave the pieces to the Washington Field office to shred. Kessler reports that it was "blackmail material on everyone from the Kennedys and Mickey Mantle to Supreme Court justices, twelve of whom had been overheard on FBI wiretaps."

L. Patrick Grey followed Hoover in office. He was called "three-day Grey" because he only worked Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. When it was discovered that he burned some key Watergate documents in his fireplace, his days were also numbered. John Ehrlichman quoted Aldous Huxley in discussing Grey's future: "I think we ought to let him hang there. Let him twist slowly, slowly in the wind." He did. Very slowly.

Clarence M. Kelley added some professionalism to the office, but later, there were the likes of Louis Freeh and William Sessions. The latter's wife told the author that her phones were being tapped by the bureau, and that there was a bug in their bedroom. Sessions liked wearing his FBI badge on his shirt: "If I go to an embassy party tonight," he said, "I'll be on bureau business."

There's more here than you would ever want to know about the FBI --- down to and including their work on 9/11. Since Mueller is an experienced journalist, The Bureau is fast-paced and thorough, but the earliest chapters dealing with J. Edgar Hoover are the best. They are cohesive, appalling, and impossible to put down.

--- G. S. Wentworth

The Death of
Sweet Mister

Daniel Woodrell
There's ex-con Red who craves uppers and downers --- what he calls "yellowjackets," "reds," and "punch." He likes beating up on people, too, especially his lady and her plump son. His friend Basil likes uppers, downers, and, like Red, gin and beer.

Red's lady is Glenda --- she's thirty-something, and is nipping on her own booze all day. She maintains the town graveyard, and her son, Shug, is telling the story of their lives. Shug is thirteen.

Red calls him "fat boy." When Red wants uppers and downers, he drives him around town to sneak into doctor's offices. He also leaves him off at houses where people are sick and dying of cancer and have lots of pills. Shug pretends to be selling "Grit" and once he gets in the door, he fills up the magazine bag with the pills, all the while talking up "Grit."

This takes place in Ozark country, and the dialogue is filled with countryisms. When he's cold, Shug says, "I guess my arms did shiver and pull." About his parentage, he says,

    This fella the Baron was a fella of legend Glenda came to know, or so I got told, at some stretch of time when Red did not stand at her side twisting her arm. She never said that man was my actual founding daddy, but pounded it at me that I carried his front name, which I did not care for and was Morris.

When Shug and his mother cuddle together, and they do, often, he says, "But I did see she smiled." When Red goes into a temper-tantrum, he pounds on Shug and Glenda, and after they are lying on the floor of the graveyard house, bruised and bleeding, Shug says, "I hated him solid that night."

Unfortunately, Glenda gets a hankering for a cook by the name of Jimmy Vin and when Jimmy and Red cross paths, there is a battle royal. We don't get to see the fight, but we do see the house afterward as Shug is cleaning it up:

    Somebody bleeding had whirled and whirled in the kitchen. Dishes had crashed about and made a mess. The blood had whirled odd spots and streaks onto the stove, the walls, the floor, the ceiling.

§     §     §

This is knockabout stuff, and it's expertly played. It's hard to like any of the characters, and yet the story drags us along with it in its gory Tobacco Road/Sanctuary fashion. There are the overtones --- the Black Angel in the graveyard; the hints of lust between thirteen-year-old Shug and the woman he sees as most lovely and protective. Woodrell plays them (and the reader) like a mountain dulcimer and after awhile you stop fighting the down-home awfulness of their miserable lives and get caught up in the drama of mother and son finally getting rid of the others, no more distractions, and as we used to say, "Well, perhaps they're right; perhaps incest is best," there in the graveyard, under the dark wings of the Black Angel, where

    I stroked her legs all up and down. She did not move. I couldn't see a thing except a total blur of light. She did not move as my hands stroked higher.

--- Susan Rodebacker

The Compact Peters
World Atlas

The Earth in
True Proportion

Kömmerly & Bern
Oxford Cartographers

Remember the Mercator Projection? All those softly rounded countries: bulging West Africa, lardlike Brazil, pregnant China, fat California, squat Australia. That was what we grew up with --- countries chubby and cuddly like Santa Claus.

Well --- it was wrong. Arno Peters says it was "the embodiment of Europe's geographical conception of the world in an age of colonialism." Furthermore, Terry Hardaker of the Oxford Cartographers opines here that it was "the equivalent of peering at Europe and North America through a magnifying glass and then surveying the rest of the world through the wrong end of a telescope." Thus the new Peters Projection.

In this "compact" Atlas, we are given the world in 43 maps, and a fascinating assemblage of almost 250 thematic maps: Urbanization, World Trade, Religions, Sun and Climate, Fishing, Mineral Resources, Poor Nations/Rich Nations. There is one whole section devoted to Unemployment. If you want a job, you don't want to be in Mongolia, Libya, Algeria, the Ukraine, and the former Yugoslavia. Child Labor? The least "per thousand head of population" are Canada, Australia, the USA, the Ukraine, Libya, Kazakstan.

Prostitution? It's a full house (if not a home) in South Korea, the Philippines, Brazil, Russia, and the central West coast of Africa. Polygamy? Permitted in most of Africa, India, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Burma.

Want to hunt roe deer? Go to Russia, China and Europe. There's jackal in Africa and India and Yugoslavia, and opossum in the U.S.A., South and Central America, Australia, and the Fiji Islands. Have you ever had 'possum stew? Awful.

Where are there more newspapers per 1,000 population? Japan and Norway. Where is the most illiteracy in the world? Nigeria and Angola. Where is the least? Russia, the former USSR countries, Poland, and Australia.

The best teacher/pupil ratio? Russia, Greenland, Libya, and Mauritania. Definitely not New York nor Mississippi. Which language is spoken by more people as mother tongue? #1: Chinese. #2: Spanish. #3: English. #4? I'm not going to tell you.

§     §     §

This one is just chock-a-block full of facts, but I still miss the round soft languorous curves of my beloved Mercator, that worked so well with the doodlings of my child imagination back there so many score years ago. My mother had the bright idea of wall-papering my bedroom with world maps. As I studied it in the mornings, Norway and Sweden looked to be a wild beast bearing down to eat up Denmark, Italy appeared as if it was going to kick Sicily into Spain's backside, and Florida looked like some obscene thing hanging down, all those keys like drippings. Mexico had an erection, and Japan was a crusty sea creature, hanging off the balloon of China.

The Peters Projection has foreshortened these fantasy pictures. South America and Africa and India (and even Florida) are droopy and famished, Russia and Alaska and Greenland so flattened out that they look like a squashed Michelin Man. It's the price we pay for the truth. Language #4, by the way, is Bengali. #5? Hindi. And the most popular religion in the world? It's an obscure one. It's known as "No religion." 43%.

--- W. A. Wellington

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